Sarina Inlet, the receiving waters of Plane Creek. Upstream activities from agriculture, sugar cane milling and urban development have placed pressure on the water quality and habitat value of Plane Creek and Sarina Inlet and the adjacent near shore marine environment.
Summary of progress
The Plane Creek catchment area is a small coastal catchment situated around the town of Sarina. The major water course of the catchment is Plane Creek which flows east from the Connors Range towards Sarina, draining the coastal floodplain before entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon at Sarina Inlet. Middle Creek Dam is situated at the headwaters in the upper catchment. The catchment is dominated by intensive cropping and grazing with 65% of land under cane production and 21% under grazing. In addition to agricultural impacts Plane Creek has also experienced a high degree of flow modification and point source pollution. Riparian vegetation has been extensively cleared in the lower reaches, while the upper reaches have maintained moderate quality riparian zones.
In 2007 the ecological condition of the Plane Creek catchment area was rated as one of the poorest in the region. The estuary of Sarina Inlet was rated as supporting low ecological condition compared to other catchment areas in the Mackay Whitsunday region. Between 2007 and 2013 there have been considerable efforts by agriculture and industry to improve management practices for water quality benefits.
To ensure ongoing improvement in water quality the reduction in filterable reactive phosphorus is the highest priority in the Plane Creek catchment. With marine
risk exposure from pesticide and nutrient loads rated as high for the estuarine near shore environment, management practices that reduce other nutrients and residual herbicides, particularly diuron, are also a high priority.
All system repair actions that improve fish habitat and species diversity and abundance are critical to improving the poor ecological health rating for Plane Creek. Riparian vegetation restoration and connectivity is also a high priority to support fish communities and stabilise stream bed and banks for improved water quality. Prioritisation and investment in mangrove and saltmarsh rehabilitation are also crucial to protect these coastal systems for fisheries’ productivity.