Mining, Feedlots and Urban
Irrigated Cropping
Dryland Cropping
Grazing Landscapes
Natural Environments

Land Use

Current land use across the basin is 86% for grazing; 7% for cropping; 6% for natural land uses; 5% for forestry; and 1% for urban, mining and feedlots (Queensland Land Use Mapping Program, 2009).

Rockhampton has a population of 60 000 and is the Fitzroy Basin's largest urban centre, situated near the mouth of the river. A further 60 000 people populate the Basin, residing in smaller rural and mining towns and on agricultural properties. The average agricultural property size within the basin is 4000 ha.

Generally speaking the more intensive a land use the greater potential for contaminants in runoff. For example, after taking seasonal variability into consideration, clearing of the Comet river catchment that reduced the amount of remnant vegetation from 83% to 38% of the land area, resulted in a 40% increase in runoff. It is also fair to assume this level of land clearing would have corresponded with an increase in sediment loads.

Grazing for beef cattle production is the dominant land use by area and occurs in all areas of the basin. Dryland cropping is predominantly in the west of the catchment on the basalt derived Open Downs with Bluegrass land type. The main irrigation areas are the Emerald Irrigation Area and Theodore Irrigation Area, other more scattered areas of irrigation occur along all of the major river streams in association with weirs and water harvesting. Mining currently covers a relatively small area (0.38%) however it has been rapidly expanding in recent years and has the potential for very large impacts on water quality due to mine water discharge, water harvesting, stream diversions and unstable landforms from mining spoil and slumping.

The Fitzroy Basin's rich natural resources provided for a healthy Aboriginal society for up to 60 000 years. Ludwig Leichardt explored the region in 1844 and pastoral settlement quickly followed. Over the next 10 years pastoral properties were established along the Dawson River, from present day Taroom to Moura. The Archer brothers followed Leichardt's advice and traced the Dawson along to its junction with the Fitzroy and down onto the coastal plain where they established Gracemere station in 1855. This is now the location of the city of Rockhampton. Other settlers followed and a series of large stations covered the basin, providing the pastoral basis of the present regional social and economic setting. From these humble beginnings land use and its resultant impact on water quality has intensified. Localised clearing was carried out during the first 100 years of settlement to make way for sheep and cattle grazing, cultivation and mining activities. Rates of land clearing increased dramatically under the Brigalow Development Scheme from the 1960s to 1980s, which resulted in some of the fastest rates of clearing recorded in the world.
Source: Fitzroy Basin Water Quality Improvement Report 2009 (PDF, 160MB)
Data Source: Queensland Land Use Mapping Program
© The State of Queensland (Department of Natural Resources and Mines) 2013