More than 2700 exotic plant and 73 exotic animal species have been introduced into Australia, severely impacting agriculture systems, urban areas and the natural environment.

To combat the invasion, and to prevent new pest incursions in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac Region, Reef Catchments continues to maintain a strong commitment towards Regional Pest Management and works closely with the Mackay Regional Pest Management Group to implement Strategic Pest Management Projects across the region

Reef Catchments aims to:

  • Develop key strategic pest management projects
  • Promote community involvement in pest management activities
  • Provide stakeholders across the region with tools for successful pest management
  • Provide the community with accurate and up to date information through our pest management website


Feral cat.Predation by feral cats is listed as a key threatening process under the EPBC Act 1999. Cats kill a wide range of native wildlife and spread disease and parasites, and for this reason are thought to reduce the distribution and abundance of many native species. In collaboration with Mackay Regional Council, Department of National Parks, Sport and Recreation and North Queensland Bulk Ports, Reef Catchments commissioned a cat monitoring study over 250ha of coastal reserve within Slade Point.

The proposal was designed to

  • Increase community understanding around the impacts of cats on wildlife throughout Mackay (particularly urban regions that interface areas of high ecological value (HEV)
  • assist Mackay Regional Council in determining the impact of feral/domestic cats within the region
  • influence the development of a region-wide control program.

Feral cats are reported to be present in large numbers within Slade Point and its surrounding reserves (Slade Point Reserve, Keeley’s Road Wetland, Keeley’s Wetland Walkabout and North Queensland Bulk Ports land), however abundance and the rate of occupancy of feral cats within these areas is relatively unknown. A monitoring program lasting 15 days and nights was executed using baited traps and remote cameras in 10 target areas. Six semi-domestic cats (i.e. roaming however ‘owned’) were recorded in this time, with some being recorded multiple times. Two cats were collared.

This project achieved its aims to engage and inform the community about cats’ impact on HEV and responsible pet ownership. The report and survey findings have been submitted to Council for consideration in order to elicit future programs/contribution. Further information can be found on Mackay Regional Councils Connecting Mackay website.


Feral Pigs

Feral pig.As a result of the extensive amount of damage caused by feral pigs Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsunday Isaac) Limited in partnership with the Whitsunday and Mackay Regional Councils, Whitsunday Catchment Landcare Inc. and Sarina Landcare and Catchment Management Association Inc. under the direction of the Mackay Regional Pest Management Strategy 2011- 2014 developed a project proposal to facilitate the formation of feral pig control groups to create strategic control plans on a sub-catchment scale. Read more about this current project..

Giant rat’s tail grass

Giant Rat's Tail grass, discussed by Reef Catchments in Mackay as a major pestNative to central and southern Africa, Giant rat’s tail (GRT) grass is a robust, upright perennial grass that grows in large tussocks. GRT grass can produce approximately 80,000 seeds per square meter with 90% seed viability (Bray and Officer 2007). Seed is produced all year around, but mostly in summer and autumn. A large soil seed bank forms quickly and seeds can live dormant in the soil for approximately 8 years.
Giant rat’s tail grass (GRT) grows to an average maximum height of between 1.7-2m, with the seed head growing to 45cm long and 3cm wide. These seed heads are often darker coloured and change from a rats tail shape to an elongated pyramid shape. They can be difficult to differentiate from other pasture grasses before maturity. Giant rats tail leaves are noticeably tougher than other sporobolus grasses.
Native sporobolus grasses tend to be shorter, softer and have less dense seed heads than GRT grass.

Seed germination and emergence requires an area of low competition, where pasture and other plants have been disturbed and a gap exists. Good pasture cover reduces emergence. Seeds can germinate all year round, but mostly in spring and summer.

The survival of early seedlings is sensitive to competition. Seedlings can flower within 3 months. Read more about this current project.

Gregory Rubber Vine Project

Rubber Vine.The Gregory River Rubber Vine Project was a Reef Catchments initiative to develop an awareness and control program for the management of Rubber Vine and help maintain the Queensland State Rubber Vine containment line. Read more about this past project..


Hymenachne.The project was designed around the needs of Sugar Cane growers, with emphasis on delivery of management strategies that individual farmers could employ for Hymenachne infestations. The project included a number of partners including Pioneer Catchment Landcare, Pioneer Catchment Conservation Volunteers & Mackay Whitsunday Natural Resource Management Group now known as Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsunday Isaac) Limited. This report details the findings of a six month, farm scale research project designed to establish an effective eradication strategy for Hymenachne infestations of various sizes. Read more about this past project..

Itch Grass

Itchgrass.Itch grass is vigorous annual, cane-like grass with an average maximum height of 3m.  The plants ‘aerial’ prop roots help to distinguish the stem from other common grasses in the region. Itch grass has a single stem that is cylindrical, hollow and branches into sheaths at upper nodes. The stem and leaves are covered in stiff hairs that can cause irritation to skin. Itch-grass leaves are blue-green in colour in good conditions but often yellowish, flat, 5-20 mm wide with round edges and a conspicuous pale mid-vein. Flower heads are borne in pairs that branch out from the upper nodes and form green spikes about 10cm long. As the heads mature, the cylindrical rice sized seeds progressively break free from the end and fall to the ground. Itch grass seed is known to germinate after the first significant rain in summer. Read more about this current project.


Leucaena.The Mackay Regional Pest Management Group received $20,000.00 from Blueprint for the Bush to Plan for the Management of Leucaena in the Mackay Whitsunday Region. The goal of the project was to prevent the further spread of the species and begin eradication in key areas. A working group was established to manage the project and liaise with stakeholders. Read more about this past project..

Mimosa Pigra

Mimosa pigra.As a result of the extensive damage that Mimosa pigra can have on the natural environment the Mimosa pigra Stakeholder Group was formed in 2001 and aims to stop the invasion of our waterways by Mimosa pigra. Through a collaborative effort between the members of the Stakeholder group Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsunday Isaac) Limited has secured ongoing funding to ensure the continuation of successful containment and eradication activities. Read more about this current project.


Peri-Urban Pest Management

A paddock.The Peri Urban project was a Mackay Regional Pest Management Group initiative with the aim of providing extension services to land managers who manage land ranging from urban residential to rural lots and raise awareness of peri-urban pests and best management practices. The project was delivered in partnership by Reef Catchments, Sarina Landcare Catchment Management Association, Pioneer Catchment & Landcare Group and Whitsunday Catchment Landcare. Read more about this past project..

Pond Apple

Pond apple.As a result of the damage Pond Apple will do, replacing the native vegetation. The current 3 year program “Eradication of pond apple outlier infestations in the Mackay-Whitsunday Region,” was developed and has been funded through the Australian Government’ Caring for our Country Initiative. This program aims to eradicate the Mackay Infestation of pond apple, a weed of national significance. Combining on-ground removal and monitoring of the outlier infestation with education and awareness raising, particularly in high risk areas where incursions are likely. Read more about this current program.


Tilapia.In 2014 the presence of the noxious tilapia species Oreochromus mossambicus was identified at a number of locations within the Gooseponds Lagoons. Further sampling using electrofishing and environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques has confirmed the distribution throughout the Gooseponds and at a number of sites in the the McCreadys Creek Catchment. Tilapia were not found at other sites in the lower Pioneer Catchment, however there is a threat that fish from the Gooseponds and McCreadys will move when creeks flow during the wet season. Control trials and community awareness activities are continuing in an attempt to limit the impact of tilapia on our native fish and reduce the likelihood of people moving these unwanted pests between waterways. This work was delivered by Catchment Solutions as part of the RCL tilapia project. MRC provided additional funding to undertake the eDNA post wet season sampling. More information on this current project, Lower Pioneer Tilapia Report (pdf), Predator Control Update June 2015 (pdf), Predator Control Update January 2016 (pdf), Gooseponds Log Hotel Feasibility (pdf).


There are a number of high priority weeds and feral animals within our region.


Chris Barbeler
M: 448 016 158