Geographe and Leschenault waterways benefit from garden education programs

Close to 22 general waste wheelie bins full of fertiliser were not applied to gardens in Busselton and Australind last year, as part of the Bay OK and Love the Leschenault programs to improve waterway health. Image supplied.
Close to 22 general waste wheelie bins full of fertiliser were not applied to gardens in Busselton and Australind last year, as part of the Bay OK and Love the Leschenault programs to improve waterway health. Image supplied.

A new report has revealed fertiliser pollution in Geographe Bay waterways and Leschenault Estuary has been reduced by close to 3,200 kilograms.

About 22 general waste wheelie bins full of fertiliser were not applied to gardens in Busselton and Australind last year, as part of the Bay OK and Love the Leschenault programs.

More than 480 householders in Australind, Bovell and Yalyalup received personalised garden advice as part of the state government funded programs.

This included over-the-phone coaching, in-home garden consultations, feedback letters and community garden workshops.

After being surveyed about their fertiliser and irrigation habits, residents were offered tips from garden experts on small changes to lessen nutrient run-off into local waterways – such as avoiding the use of manures, using soil improvers to increase water retention, and cutting irrigation times by a couple of minutes.

Fertiliser run-off can cause excessive algal growth, which with declining rainfall and higher temperatures from climate change leads to algal blooms.

Water Minister Dave Kelly said the state government’s Regional Estuaries Initiative aimed to improve the long-term water quality and biodiversity of catchment areas while enhancing public amenity and productivity of primary industries and communities.

"The Love the Leschenault and Bay OK were excellent examples of how local communities can make small changes to contribute towards improving the health of our high-value coastal waterways," he said.

"About 80 per cent of Western Australians live around estuaries that are central to our way of life, regional jobs, and the state’s economy by supporting businesses, recreation and tourism.

“As climate change continues to have a profound impact on our waterways in the south west of WA, it’s important everyone plays a part in protecting our beautiful water environments."

An independent evaluation of the programs for the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation showed a commitment by participants to changing fertiliser and irrigation regimes to reduce fertiliser run-off.

The review showed 40 per cent of participants in the targeted communities avoided fertilising during winter, while 44 per cent switched to controlled-release fertiliser.

Bunbury MLA Don Punch applauded the house-holds who had been involved in the project.

“Leschenault Estuary is widely used for recreational and commercial purposes - from fishing and crabbing for fun to supporting local jobs in tourism and hospitality, and enhancing the value of surrounding real estate.

“I know just how much the communities of Greater Bunbury value the Leschenault Estuary so we all owe a great deal of thanks to the people who are changing their gardening habits and helping improve the health of the estuary for all of us.

“Less fertiliser means healthier waterways and fewer fish kills.”

Love the Leschenault is part of the State Government’s $20 million Regional Estuaries Initiative, and GeoCatch’s Bay OK project is supported by the State Government’s Revitalising Geographe Waterways program.