Simone Howard

Project Pioneer

Simone and Mark Howard
Grazing Land Caretakers
Burnett Mary, Fitzroy, Burdekin and Cape York catchments, Queensland, Australia

The Howards’ business has grown to include over 68,000 acres across 3 cattles stations, with their latest acquisition Woontonvale Station neighbouring the Great Barrier Reef. They practice rotational grazing, frequently moving cattle in order to rest the land, which strengthens soil and vegetation structure rather than causing destruction. This also maintains a symbiotic relationship between the land, natural vegetation and wildlife that co-exist on their properties. They believe that a healthy property is one that is in balance with farming, wildlife and nature.

The issue

Catchment runoff and the associated decline in marine water quality has been identified as the second most significant pressure on the Reef, with these negative effects expected to worsen under the influence of climate change. Management of water quality starts on land. But unsustainable agricultural practices like overgrazing have led to erosion, land degradation, and increased marine pollution through runoff, which flows down rivers and streams through the catchment, all the way to the Reef.

Impact on the Reef

The Reef receives runoff from 35 major catchments that drain 424,000 km2 of Queensland’s coast. Sediments, nutrients and pesticides flow into the Reef from coastal properties and nearby catchments, with serious impacts on Reef biodiversity and health. Without improved agricultural practices, the Reef will become more polluted, posing a serious threat to its future. The effects of higher concentrations of pollutants and degradation in water quality include:

  • increased growth of macroalgae, leaving less room for coral to grow and thrive
  • increase of diseases and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks
  • reduced ability of corals to recover from bleaching.

Action being taken

Project Pioneer works with graziers in GBR catchments along the length of the Reef to reduce sediment runoff flowing into the Reef, in turn improving Reef health and longevity. Graziers also benefit – these new, more sustainable management practices help to improve the production and profitability of their land. The project, which commenced in May 2016, run by Resource Consulting Services (RCS), has worked with graziers to improve farm management capacity and profitability, rehabilitate land, showcase sustainable grazing businesses, and help reduce sediment from broad-scale land use entering the Reef. To assist their efforts, they have been awarded funds through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Phase Three Investment Programme.

  • 878,000+
    hectares currently being sustainably managed
  • 50
    graziers participating in the project

The project urgently needs support to:

  • Prevent 191,000 tonnes of polluting runoff entering the Reef
  • Grow the number of graziers improving their management practices through participating in training and education like that offered through Project Pioneer
  • Exclude stock from areas prone to erosion on 100% of participating properties
  • Help graziers run profitable businesses, while protecting the Reef
Simone Howard
It is often misconstrued that hardworking farmers ruin the land that they touch by over-spraying harsh chemicals, excessive land clearing, and overgrazing. This is simply not true. Our Managers on all the properties are all educated through the Regenerative Grazing Programmes with RCS, and practice these principles in our day-to-day business operation... it is our responsibility not to impoverish the land, but to improve it for the future generations. We are caretakers, not takers.
Simone Howard, Grazing Land Caretakers

Related actions

Unite for the reef.

Together, we can ease the pressures that the reef faces - but we need your support to do it. Because it’s only when we’re united as Citizens, that our individual actions can come together to make a real, physical impact on the Great Barrier Reef.