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GIS-based property planning as a tool for improved community engagement at the sub-catchment level

Peter Crawford

Special Projects, North East Downs Landcare Goup, Oakey, Qld 4401 Email


Integrated area wide management (IAWM) is being recognised as a strategic and efficient process for achieving priorities in Regional Plans. In 2004, The Condamine Alliance funded several IAWM projects through Priority Action Project (PAP) funding. One of these projects was commissioned by and contracted to North East Downs (NED) Landcare to conduct a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based property planning program in the Jondaryan-Malu-Bowenville sub-catchment of Oakey Creek (see Figure 1).

The objective of the project was to trial the effectiveness of a group GIS-based property planning program as a tool for a more effective sub-catchment implementation of works identified in the Regional Investment Strategy (RIS). If successful, this project could be used as a model for future implementation of on-ground projects in specific areas of the Condamine catchment.

Media summary

Computer based mapping is leading to a greater involvement of landholders in property management planning in sub-catchments of the Condamine River in the North East Darling Downs region.


The project focussed on developing, adopting and implementing an integrated approach to natural resource management (NRM) in the Jondaryan-Malu-Bowenville sub-catchment of Oakey Creek. The area has a significant area of upland country to the north-east of the railway line, changing to the very low slope of floodplains to the south-west.

Figure 1 – project location

The area was chosen as a pilot area due to –

The range of environmental issues –

  • areas of salinity expression both on the floodplains and uplands
  • soil erosion on cultivation country on steeper slopes of the uplands
  • cross road drainage problems associated with highway and railway infrastructure
  • potential flooding associated with irrigation infrastructure
  • incomplete and uncoordinated strip farming programs
  • the presence of endangered grassland ecosystems

The large number of stakeholders groups and the breadth of industry represented – including irrigation and dryland farmers, graziers, two local government authorities, Queensland Rail, Queensland Main Roads and three major industrial businesses

The engagement of the diverse number of stakeholders was recognised as essential to the success of a fully integrated approach.

Project objectives

Phase one objectives

  • Identify and map project areas using GIS technology.
  • Review the Upper Condamine Floodplain Project (UCFP) as pre-existing information with a strong scientific base.
  • Discussions with key stakeholders re engagement and commitment to project.
  • Develop a workshop program based on improving skills and knowledge through action learning. Linkage to accredited training competencies to enhance the rigor of the program will be pursued.
  • Develop a workbook to include formatted sections on each stage of property planning, including land capability recognition, self-assessment, objectives and targets, and action plans and budgets.
  • Hold an introductory workshop.

Phase two objectives

Phase two of the project was to implement the planning of Phase one through a series of three to four workshops. Information from each participating property would be collated to the broader sub-catchment scale, with the aim of producing a sub-catchment map and plan. A sub-catchment investment plan would be developed to assist with funding submissions for on-ground works.


Engagement of stakeholders

Meetings were held with Main Roads, shire councils and key landholders to gauge interest in an integrated approach to addressing NRM issues in the project area. The initial meeting between Main Roads, Jondaryan Shire Council and Department of Natural Resources staff was to look at getting some action on the roads issues identified in the UCFP. This has led to a further meeting between this group and some key landholders adjoining an area where there are specific problems of overland flow in relation to road infrastructure

Development of workshop program

A workshop program involving four 21/2 hour workshops was developed involving a broad environmental management systems (EMS) approach to identifying issues, developing objectives and action plans, and development of an investment strategy to implement on-ground works. To assist landholders through the process, a Property Planning workbook was developed and printed. Each landholder was given a workbook to assist them through the process, and a property mapping program was a key component of the process. Each landholder completing the program will be presented with a GIS developed property map which will show infrastructure, land and water features, NRM issues and proposed changes.

Introductory meeting

All owners of land in the proposed project area were written a letter explaining the objectives of the project and the proposed outcomes in relation to improved land management and the development of an investment strategy for implementation of priority issues identified by the group through the workshop process. They were invited to attend an informal introductory meeting with a barbecue tea, followed by a short presentation and question and answer session.

Workshop series

Participating landholders were split into two groups for ease of facilitation. At the time of writing the program is almost completed with landholders shaving worked through the workbook, and submitted their 2nd draft maps for printing. It is envisaged that large (A1) size maps will be plotted and presented to landholders in October 2005.

GIS-based property mapping

The advent of improved computer technology accompanied by the improving availability of data such as aerial and satellite imagery is causing a small revolution in property planning programs. We are fortunate that the Condamine Alliance, in a partnership with Landcare and other key stakeholders in the catchment, has made a commitment to purchasing and providing Spot 5 satellite imagery and other data, which is an ideal platform for property mapping.

In the past groups and individuals have relied on hard copy maps with plastic overlays as the main resource for mapping infrastructure and resource issues on their properties. Apart from being an unwieldy and at times an untidy exercise, it was also difficult to expand individual property issues out to the sub-catchment level, without a large amount of work. Computer mapping makes this process very easy, as each property’s natural resource issues can be very simply included with adjoining or neighbouring property issues, making it an easy process to zoom out to the sub-catchment level. This of course needs the trust and willingness of participants to map a whole range of issues, which can then be included in a larger sub-catchment view of NRM issues.

Landholders involved in the project have been offered their data layers in digital form to continue their property planning on their own computers after the completion of the project.

Adult learning principles

The workshop series has been developed around strong principles of adult learning. This involves action-learning by doing, with minimal talking by the facilitator. Participants are given a range of tasks and exercises, involving interaction and discussion with peers. “Homework” is an important aspect of the workshops, and although this has been a new concept to participants, most have been able to keep up with the work. This includes mapping exercises and completion of sections of the workbook.

On-ground action

It is hoped that a range of on-ground works will be implemented with funding assistance from the Condamine Alliance over the next two years. Activities that the two groups have identified include several priorities from the UCFP and new issues, particularly in the upland area. Activities could include

  • Overland flow improvement by removal of fences, levelling of fence ridges, and land levelling in specified areas
  • Fencing and stock watering layouts to improve grazing management, associated with grazing land management workshops and field days
  • Assistance to change to reduced tillage operations
  • Fencing of riparian areas to reduce stock access


The Upper Condamine Floodplain Project is a valuable resource in the Condamine catchment

The Upper Condamine Floodplain Project (UCFP) was a Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) funded project undertaken by Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, and provides a detailed integrated plan and recommendations for floodplain management across the Condamine catchment. Some recommendations have been implemented but the majority of priorities are yet to transpose into action. The UCFP provide a solid base for this project to begin and enabled quick action following engagement.

Landholders, particularly in the upland areas, are interested in working together to achieve an integrated approach to management of the natural resource

Landholder interest and subsequent engagement outweighed expectations. Initially three subgroups have been formed with commitment from 50 landholders to be involved in the IAWM approach. Over time this has reduced to two groups consisting mainly of farmers in the upland areas.

The investment in detailed mapping was crucial for dealing with multiple stakeholders

The energies invested in preparing detailed and accurate mapping was worthwhile, providing an invaluable visual tool for the engagement process. The acquisition of SPOT5 imagery by the Condamine catchment community is expected to secure existing interest.

Local Governments and service authorities are willing investors in NRM and are pivotal to maintaining landholder engagement, however timeframe for investment is governed by other pressures

Both local government authorities, Queensland Main Roads and Queensland Rail demonstrated a willingness to invest in an integrated approach with indicative commitment being made in future budgets. Conflicting budgetary requirements on all groups makes a ‘quick’ commitment to invest difficult. Continued engagement of these players to commit to works identified in the UCFP is very important for continuing participation of landholders on the floodplain

Landholders are interested in receiving recognition for work undertaken through the vocational training avenue

The Diploma of Conservation and Land Management provides an opportunity for landholders to gain credit for work undertaken in the process of managing their natural resources. Being involved in the IAWM Oakey Creek Project from inception to completion links in with the units of competence and associated elements within the Diploma. It is also encourages rigour in the process and ensures the application of knowledge.


The GIS-based property planning process is proving to be an excellent tool for development of sub-catchment plans and implementation of priority issues. Landholders are very receptive to high quality property mapping, especially when maps are compiled from accurate data layers, and the provision of an up to date property map is a good incentive for involvement.

At the time of writing, the workshop program is almost completed, and the results have been promising as far as engagement of landholders for a cooperative approach on natural resource management issues.

In an area that has had little or no exposure to Landcare group activities in the past, it is pleasing to note the interest in forming a Landcare group to continue the interaction and learning into the future. Already there have been a number of capacity building exercises identified by participants, so the challenge will be for NED Landcare to continue to provide support for Landcare activities in this area in the future.


Condamine Alliance (2005). Regional Investment Strategy 2004 – 2007

Clive Knowles-Jackson and John McLatchey, QDNR&M (2002). Report of the Upper Condamine Floodplain Management Project – NHT 972976.

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