Since joining the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Reef Guardian Program in 2008, Cairns Regional Council has invested heavily in water quality improvements, most notably, the $188 million Cleaner Seas upgrade of wastewater treatment plants that has improved the quality of wastewater discharge by 80%.
In 2016, the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership began pooling decades of scientific data to produce the first annual report card on the health of wet tropic river systems, including the Barron, Mulgrave and Russell Rivers. In 2018, Council also produced a Litter and Illegal Dumping Action Plan aimed at reducing the impacts of marine debris and has commenced reducing single-use plastics in its operations, events and facilities.
Between 2016 and 2018, Council increased its solar pv capacity from less than 100kw to just over 1,000kw. This ten-fold increase will avoid 1,500 tonnes of co2 emissions annually.
By 2020, Council aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. This ambitious target is on-track through landfill gas management, energy and fuel efficiency and renewable energy installations.
In 2016 Council also established a Nature-based Learning Grant to help fund school excursions into the local environment.
These are just some of the actions contained within Council's Reef Guardian Action Plan ( PDF, 3.15 MB ). It aligns education, catchment management and urban water cycle initiatives with the 35 local government actions identified in the Reef 2050 Plan.
As a Reef Guardian Council, Cairns Regional Council is working to reduce the impacts on the Great Barrier Reef of land-based run-off, with a particular focus on:
- wastewater treatment and reuse
- stormwater quality
- waterway revegetation
- land use planning
- erosion and sediment control
- clean-up days
Council has also established a Workplace Giving Program to raise funds for the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Staff make fortnightly donations from their own pay and Council matches these donations dollar for dollar. Through workplace giving, Council is to provide much needed financial support for turtle food, medicine and facility upkeep.