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Click to enlarge - Bridge over Mundy Creek, at Rowes Bay
Human Settlement

Theme Summary

Creek enters onto Shelley Beach
Click image to enlarge - Creek enters onto Shelley Beach


As with most other cities and towns across Australia, the impacts of human settlement pose the most serious threat to the quality of Townsville’s environment. The impact of human settlements relate to seven main areas: energy, water, urban design, transport and accessibility, demographics, noise, and waste. Stormwater is acknowledged as an important issue and is discussed further under the section Inland waters. Current information about Townsville’s demographics can be found in the Townsville 2001 Census data.

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Beach almond dry season leaves
Click image to enlarge - Beach almond dry season leaves


Industrial emissions of polluting substances
to Air, Land and Water

What pressures do people place on Townsville’s environment? (i.e. impacts on environmental health; biodiversity; land management; and water) population growth; demographics; urban design; transport; noise and water management all affect the quality of our environment. The size and distribution of human population is cited by the National Strategy for Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity as being an “underlying cause” of loss of biodiversity.

Loss of biodiversity as a result of population growth impacts and land management/planning decisions are discussed in this section. Other biodiversity issues are addressed under the section titled ‘Biodiversity’.

Backyard female urban Sunbird
Click image to enlarge - Backyard female urban Sunbird

There are a number of specific pressures associated with human settlement that Council must consider when formulating environmental management plans. These include:

  • Drinking water quality, the sources of drinking water, and demand by the local population for water (Paluma, Ross Dam, Burdekin, bore and rainwater);

  • Recreation activities, location, impacts and opportunities;

  • Total energy use, comprising energy used in industry, transport, commercial, domestic and other activities. What are energy sources, and percentage of each source used?;

  • Population and housing growth rates and associated impacts of land clearing and land/water catchment physical modification and deteriorating water quality (i.e. Creeks/wetlands/estuaries and flora fauna habitats);

  • The annual number of visitors  to Townsville City and surrounding islands and their environmental impacts both positive and negative;

  • The condition of waste disposal sites, compliance with EPA licences, and the projected longevity of the Vantassel Street waste disposal site. This also includes the amount of solid waste produced, the quantity of waste disposed, quantity of waste reused, recycled or reprocessed and to classify solid waste into municipal, commercial and industrial, building and demolition;

  • Number of sewage treatment plants, volume of wastewater received and released, level of treatment of wastewater;

  • Community attitudes and actions toward their local environment;

  • Noise Pollution is another important human settlement pressure, particularly given the trend towards higher density residential development in close proximity to the commercial heart of Townsville. Growth in industrial activity – e.g. in the Townsville Port – exacerbates the inevitable tension;

  • Environmental impacts associated with growth in the local transport sector – incorporating all contributing areas -- motor vehicles, rail, air and shipping.

Industrial emissions of polluting substances
to Air, Land and Water

Larger industrial facilities are required to submit returns each year detailing their releases of 90 different polluting substances. Emissions to air (which are the most common and substantial) by Townsville NPI reporting facilities are detailed in the Atmosphere chapter of this report in respect of the 12 top NPI Risk Ranked substances. Residents are encouraged to refer to for additional information on emissions to water and land in the Townsville LGA.

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Bush Turkey
Click image to enlarge - Bush Turkey


Recreational opportunities and open areas
Community attitudes and actions
Water, Waste and Wastewater
Roads and Drainage
Transport Sector


The City of Townsville covers some 1,866 km2 (Office of Economic and Statistical Research 2000). It ranges from the Reid and Haughton Rivers in the south to Cape Cleveland, Cape Pallarenda and Magnetic Island in the north, and from the Ross River in the west to the eastern margin of Mount Elliott uplands and mouth of Haughton River in the east. Townsville is Australia's largest tropical city, and is the administrative, commercial, industrial, sporting and cultural capital of Northern Australia. Townsville has a population of approximately 160,000 people who live in a place of considerable scenic beauty. Less than one third of the area is subject to intensive urbanisation, the remaining land uses are natural and rural grazing, agriculture and horticulture).

Townsville City Council has produced a Social Atlas (being updated at present) since 1990 and has recently produced an updated Atlas based on 2001 census data. The Social Atlas describes current and future development trends; community and social arrangements, and broad scale environmental conditions (climate, geography and Landcare).

Population predictions and suburb by suburb densities are shown, the highest density being as expected in inner suburbs and adjacent to the sea (varying from 1200-2000 people per km2 to a low of less than 300 people per km2). According to the Townsville-Thuringowa Regional Strategy Plan the region’s population is expected to grow by some 50,000 over the next decade with up to 18,000 new households added. This will place significant pressure on the local environment if not managed effectively. Falling average household occupancy rates in Townsville (from 3.1 persons to 2.5 persons between 1986-1996) are potentially exacerbating this pressure.

Townsville’s economy is also evolving in important ways. We remain an important administrative centre, defence base and the role of education and research institutions is also becoming more important. The services sector of the local economy has increasingly become the dominant provider of employment and opportunity.

Nonetheless our role as a transport hub for agricultural and mining exports remains very important. Major industrial infrastructure like the Townsville Port and the Townsville Airport continue to underpin a growing volume of economic activity, and major industrial processing developments like the Yabula Nickel Refinery, the Sun Metals Zinc Refinery also provide an important basis for a great deal of local economic activity and employment. 

As mentioned in the Atmosphere chapter, Townsville is an important freight node for road, rail, air and shipping transport. More than twice as much freight is moved per capita in the Townsville region than in the south east corner of the State. This will increase further in the decades ahead.

Similarly, the Townsville Port is projected to continue to grow strongly. After 12 successive years of record growth in tonnages the Port is expected to achieve 14m tonnes of throughput by 2025 – up from 1.5 million tonnes in 1988. This is associated with significant increases in environmental pressures including atmospheric pollution. Major expansion measures are planned in the short, medium and long terms. Along with implications for air quality, this has the potential to raise important environmental concerns given proximity of the port to the Great Barrier Reef, and to Dugong Protection areas, Seagrass beds and mangrove forests in Cleveland Bay.

Townsville Airport is also projected to grow strongly in line with growth in the city and local economy. In 1999-2000 Townsville airport handled 781,700 passengers making it Australia’s thirteenth busiest airport – just over 1% of the nation’s total throughput. International aircraft movements are forecast to increase from 10 in 1998 to about 480 in 2018. The number of domestic/regional aircraft movements are forecast to increase from 18,700 in 1998 to approximately 34,000 in 2018 representing an average annual increase of just over 3% and 41% of total aircraft movements. Military fixed wing movements are forecast to increase at an annual rate of 0.9% from a 1998 base of 6,500 to about 7,800 at the end of the planning period. Domestic/regional freight has declined marginally from 2,613 tonnes in 1996/97 to 2,334 tonnes in 1999/2000, whereas mail freight increased from 890 tonnes to 1,103 tonnes over the same period. Domestic/regional freight is expected to reach 3,512 tonnes by 2018. It is anticipated that International Freight will increase from 45 tonnes in 1998 to 560 in 2018.

However, as indicated above, the local economy is increasingly dominated by sectors other than the agriculture, mining and manufacturing. In considering what sectors are driving human settlement in Townsville, it is important to appreciate the growing employment significance of Tourism, Health, Education, Defence and Government administration, Financial Services, Property, as well as Wholesale and Retail Trade. While diversification away from resource intensive industries potentially reduces industrial pollution pressures on the environment, the expansion of labour-intensive service industries can, if not managed effectively by planners, result in additional pressures on the environment with additional urban sprawl and added waste management challenges. 

The Townsville Chamber of Commerce has estimated requirements for available land for subdivision and urban development for the next five to ten years. The "Townsville Thuringowa Strategy Plan" estimated land requirements in both cities for future development. The TCC Statement of Proposals for the new City Plan highlights commercial, development and environmental aspirations.

A simple observational review of the maps associated with these documents indicates that if estimated growth patterns are followed, then Townsville has the potential to maintain a populated urban fabric well integrated into a broad and sustainable natural landscape from now and into the future. This is primarily due to the large areas of steep hills (more natural/less disturbed) and ample low land areas (less natural/ disturbed) which are available for appropriate development/growth options.

These low lying and scenic features (including wetlands and native grassland hills) offer excellent opportunities for Townsville to demonstrate a high level of commitment to a sustainable landscape with fauna and flora retained at levels not possible in Southern areas or States. There is no reason that these characteristics cannot be maintained, with careful planning and consideration of habitat retention and wildlife corridors which also present ecotourism opportunities (see media article).

Castle Hill and Magnetic Island from the top of Mt. Stuart
Click image to enlarge - Castle Hill and Magnetic Island from the top of Mt. Stuart

Recreational opportunities
and open areas are vital for maintaining a prosperous, vibrant, tropical city where people enjoy living and working. Council understands the need for these areas to provide the community with healthy ecosystems (TCC Web Site).

Such recreational opportunities include mountain bike riding, trail bike riding, horseback riding, jogging and four wheel driving. However, associated with these activities there is some evidence of localised impacts and broad scale impacts of track and gully erosion in specific areas at Castle Hill; Mt. Louisa; Douglas/Riverside Gardens and Mt. Stuart. At Cungulla and in some estuarine areas there are also occasional but variable impacts from recreational fishers (mainly as a result of unlawful access to protected mangroves ) and off-road bikes/cars accessing dune systems.

Currently there is still a low level of mountain bike use and other recreational activities with the potential to impact more heavily on the environment (off-road vehicles). However with the rising popularity of these types of recreational pursuits some impacts are likely to increase, unless managed appropriately.

Community attitudes and actions

ANZECC Core Indicators (2000) notes that the attitudes and actions of individual residents are important factors in their impact on the environment.  Surveying community attitudes is therefore an important feedback mechanism for analysing the effectiveness of environmental policies, programs and education.

In a 1999 Townsville Community Attitude Survey (AEC) 52% of Townsville residents rated TCC as an effective environmental manager. Some 94% of respondents expressed support for the Ross River Parkway initiative and 91% supported the Council’s financial contribution to the Strand development.

With regard to environmental issues 48 % consider that water pollution is their highest environmental issue, 16 % air pollution, 13 % voted for conservation of wildlife, and 5 % for conservation of native plant life. The remainder voted their highest environmental concern being for either land (9%) or noise (7%) pollution. Of note is the contrast between public opinion on air pollution in Townsville relative to Australian communities in general where air pollution is generally considered the environmental problem of greatest public concern. It is believed that this lower level of concern in Townsville is a reflection of two factors:

  • The better ambient air quality in Townsville relative to other cities; and
  • An appreciation by residents that Townsville is an industrial centre and there is a trade-off between the economic benefits and some air pollution.

Creek in Bluerwater Gorge
Creek in Bluewater Gorge

There are now a number of major environmental groups in the area engaged in strategic or on-ground Landcare, Bushcare and Coastcare community work. These include:

Ongoing interest in Coastcare projects is maintained at West Point; Horseshoe Bay and Geoffrey Bay on Magnetic Island, Pallarenda, and at Cungulla.

In addition to five groups doing on-ground revegetation (listed above) there are also 11 local revegetation groups along Ross River and other groups keenly expressing views and interest in the management of the environment (e.g. MIRRA - Magnetic Island Residents and Ratepayers Association).

Visit out Sustainable Schools
Click image to visit the schools

Schools have also been active in the local area with a wide variety of activities and environmental projects being undertaken in some cases in association with Council (e.g. Community Flora and Fauna for Council Reserves program with Belgian Gardens, West End and Townsville Junior Grammar Schools). With sponsorship from Delfin, Council coordinates a National Schools Tree Day (this year will be the fourth year it is run) where local native trees are provided to schools to be planted in school grounds and promote flora and fauna conservation. Eleven schools participated in 2000 and twenty in 2001 demonstrating the success of the program. (Click to see Townsville Sustainable Schools).

There are also active community groups such as Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), Sunfish, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland – Townsville Branch, and the Society for Growing Australian Plants Inc. Conservation Volunteers Australia provide travelling conservation volunteer teams, Green Corps and Green Reserves programs

Two wildlife care groups are active in Townsville area and provide a valuable free service to save and rehabilitate injured animals. The two main groups are:

  • Independent Wildlife Carers Association, and
  • North Queensland Wildlife Carers.

There are also individuals who care for injured animals but are not necessarily part of a wildlife carer network.

Water, Waste and Wastewater

Some of the most important major environmental activities required to manage the current urban population include; solid and liquid waste disposal, wastewater (greywater), and water supply allocations and reuse.

Water Use. Townsville relies on the Ross River Dam for fresh water. With the construction of the Burdekin Dam, the Townsville region has been effectively drought-proofed.  However, consumption of water remains a serious environmental concern in Townsville as it is elsewhere in Australia. There are approximately 133,000 people in the Townsville LGA. According to Citiwater, the average Townsville household uses about 600 kl of water per annum. Of this, more than 60% is used to water gardens (Source: Cleveland Bay Consortium). Total water consumption for the Townsville LGA is in about 30,000 ML. Water efficiency is therefore an ongoing environmental imperative for the whole community. Current TCC Citiwater water conservation initiatives "Watersmart" are discussed under Human Settlement Response.

Citiwater (a business unit of Council) operates both water allocation and wastewater treatment plants and minimises waste.

Wastewater. Townsville has three major wastewater treatment systems located at Cleveland Bay (Sandfly Creek), Mt. St. John and Horseshoe Bay. Two small temporary plants exist at the Bohle and in Nelly Bay both of which are to be decommissioned at some point in the future.

A fourth treatment plant is being constructed at Picnic Bay which will treat effluent to tertiary standard and use water recycling technology. The other three existing treatment plants treat to secondary treatment only. EPA regulations and TCC licence conditions require upgrading to full tertiary treatment or reuse by 2008.

TCC is also engaged in a commercial partnership project with Gough Plastics and James Cook University to manufacture the Hybrid Toilet.

Solid Waste Management. Citiwaste, also a business unit of Council, operates waste collection and the Vantassel Street Landfill. There are also land-fills at Picnic Bay (on Magnetic Island) and at Cungulla and Majors Creek. Cungulla is in the process of being closed down. Ex-landfills or municipal dumps are located along either side of Ross Creek and in Bicentennial Park at Ross River. These former dumps formed part of the recognised and then accepted management and use of “wastelands” (now known as wetlands and fish habitat).These ex-landfills subsequently require varying levels of ongoing monitoring and pollutant management. In places where the environmental impacts of past land fill activity are known and there is a desire in urban renewal to renovate the CBD and associated waterways then remediation actions will be required (CBD Urban Renewal Taskforce).

Council has adopted a policy of reducing waste to landfill and is committed to waste minimisation strategies such as recycling.

Roads and Drainage

Citiworks (a business unit of Council) conducts all road and drainage construction, maintenance and management. Stormwater management is discussed under the section ’'Inland waters’. The State government Department of Transport considers transport issues/corridors in collaboration with Townsville City Council staff and other Government departments.

Transport Sector

A significant component of the impact of human settlement on the environment is linked to the transport sector. As mentioned previously in the Atmosphere chapter, the Transport sector is a significant contributor to urban air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is has other environmental impacts ranging from noise pollution to loss of urban amenity.

For the reasons mentioned previously motor vehicles dominate the transport sector in Townsville. According to the 1999 census of motor vehicles in the Townsville local government area there were 45,096 passenger cars and motor cycles, 11,506 light commercials, and 2,144 prime movers and busses. This number is growing each year with another 2,916 new registrations in the year 1999-2000. Growth in the Townsville motor vehicle fleet is projected to grow despite efforts to increase public transport and bicycle use in the city.

As mentioned previously, projected growth in highway, railway, port and aviation traffic will further add to this pressure. This rapid growth in the transport sector requires policymakers and to balance freight competitiveness (and associated economic benefits) with environmental and social objectives.

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Native Fig on Mt. Stuart
Native Fig on Mt. Stuart


In response to the pressures identified above and in order to manage population growth in a ecologically sustainable manner, Townsville City Council has developed or participated in various  strategic activities (often in conjunction with the State Government  and community organisations). This will help to ensure that current and future development balances Townsville’s environmental, economic, and social aspirations.

Specific response activities include:

  • Townsville-Thuringowa Strategy Plan (was commissioned in partnership with State Government and City of Thuringowa) which sets out plans and guidelines to allow for and manage population growth taking social, economic and environmental aspirations into account;

  • Townsville Transport Plan - Draft version of Plan here (.pdf 565kb) - and the Ross River Bikeway. The increasingly thorough network of bikeways in Townsville will help to raise Townsville’s already high relative use of bicycles and reduce the rate of pressure on the city’s road transport networks;

  • Providing support to NQ Water for development of a Strategic Plan; a Dam Catchment Management Plan; and management & research of the Ross River

  • Developing Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) for urban land-fills, water treatment/recycling plants, roads, and drainage (Drainage and Waterway Management Plan). Such EMPs incorporate the appropriate multiple agency permits and recognition of current environmental requirements/guidelines. (e.g. Citiworks Drainage and Waterway Management Plan);

  • Townsville Industrial Land Project, including purchase of land at Woodstock for consideration as future industrial development specifically intended to be developed away from the coast and meet stringent environmental management and nature conservation requirements (refer TILP Report 2000);

  • Conducting a Growth Options Study and finalise the Rocky Springs Urban Master Plan Project;

  • South Bank Conservation Study and subsequent Port Access Studies and consultation (formal and informal);

  • Community Plan for Natural Resources Management (NRM) and Environmental Conservation in the Townsville-Thuringowa Coastal Plains 2000 (with Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Inc ).

  • TCC has a history of working closely with community NRM initiatives and working closely with Landcare and the community on workshops relating to this particular Community NRM Plan as well as:
    1. Catchment Management;
    2. Rural Fire Management;
    3. Soil Erosion and Sediment Control,and
    4. Revegetation.

Community PLan for NRM Townsville Thuringowa WebSite

Community Plan for Natural Resources Management in

Download the whole report (.pdf)
Produced by Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Inc.

TCC  also initiated the RIKES Report workshops in 1990 to identify important ecological and cultural environmental areas in Townsville's LGA of the time. This was a benchmark Council-community initiative that remains a foundation of conservation planning in the city today.

Delivering and continuing to implement the first Environmental Conservation Strategy in Queensland  -“Living Today for Tomorrow”.

TCC - 1993 Environmental Strategy Living today for


Conducting two community Ecotourism Workshops, which lead directly to the development of the Townsville Ecotourism Strategy 2000 and promotion of the Townsville Experience (R.Burns 2001) and slide presentation.

Council works with Townsville Enterprise on it’s Ecotourism Sub-Committee and has participated in a joint on-line Ecotourism Web Site and associated Natural Assets Database (currently being populated with information to be accessible to eco-tourists; visitors and schools). TCC also runs ecotour familiarisations of Townsville's environs and natural assets (e.g.. Cromarty, Mt. Stuart, Serpentine Lagoon, Ross Dam, and Billabong Sanctuary).

TCC has recently participated in an Energy Audit with the Townsville Enterprise, and is planning a joint TCC/EPA (Sustainable Industries) partnership project “Sustainable Townsville”. One of Sustainable Townsville initiatives was the Sustainability Today presentation delivered to council staff.

Mapping and Conservation Significance and Priorities for Wetlands and Vegetation Communities (ATCFR 1996). This mapping and assessment has been a major input to regional development and growth planning including TTSP; Port Access and TILP.

Recently completed Planning to Protect Biodiversity (Environment North) which collates all previous data and information on Biodiversity for the new City Plan and provides an SOE Framework for future management (Pressure-Condition-Response). This project is discussed further under the section ‘Biodiversity’ but is a major input to Landscape Planning and urban growth and population management.

Community Partnerships
Click image to enlarge - Community Partnerships

Council supports community Landcare, Bushcare and Coastcare on-ground activities via innovative and cooperative partnership agreements with the various community groups (eg: TUPALG, TThLA, CVA & DTBG) within the Natural Resources & Environmental Forum (NaREF) network.

TCC has implemented a Creekwatch and Drainwatch program in partnership with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) to help curb illegal discharges to stormwater drains. See media story attached (note: Policy 2000 commitment).

Cultural Plan

The diverse ethnic makeup of the Townsville community puts a focus on culture as an important feature of the City.

While not an easy concept to define, Council recognises that the culture of Townsville is a reflection and celebration of what our community is, where it has come from and where it is going. Our culture is its identity and memory. It is also our future.

With this in mind the Council initiated a consultation process in 2000 with local professional and community-based cultural organisations and the wider community to seek out future directions for cultural facilities and projects.

A Cultural Plan for Townsville is the outcome of this work. It represents a synopsis of our fascinating cultural history. The document also opens up opportunities for more intense dialogue with other spheres of Government, artists and community organisations. Click here to see Cultural Plan.

The Cultural Plan - Artwork by Robert Preston - Strand Mosaic
Click to read the Cultural Plan
Artwork by Robert Preston - "Lagoon of Mythic Origins" 1999

Healthy Cities Plan

TCC Health Services are currently developing a Healthy Cities Plan. This plan seeks to determine what the Townsville community feels are the main issues associated with Environmental Health. The planning process has to this point identified a number of key themes including Health Environment, Healthy Lifestyles, Healthy Communities and Healthy Partnerships. A draft plan is expected mid 2003, with the final plan completed sometime thereafter. Click here to read more about the Healthy Cities Plan.

Recreation and open areas

The TTSP project investigated Open Space and Recreation management of the twin cities in relationship to the existing situation and future recreational landuse and opportunities. However, there is still no Regional Sport and Open Space Policy Plan for Townsville. Previously plans have been investigated however Council has commenced a bikeway along Ross River from Blacks Weir to Ross Creek along both sides of the river. This is a visionary plan that will meet recreational needs and provides for commuters.

Recently a couple of the local mountain bike clubs (e.g. Townsville Rockwheelers Club) have begun an initiative to address the need to develop a shared track network for recreational use and one that protects the resource itself (i.e. erosion control, drainage and sediment management). A shared network includes multiple use by fitness walkers, nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers, mountain bike riders and horse-riders.

Although the Ross River and Ross Creek are the most significant open space corridors in Townsville, there are also three other important local open space recreation and nature areas. These are:

  1. Mundy Creek Natureway (Garbutt to Rowes Bay walkway and bikeway)
  2. Louisa Creek Waterway, and
  3. Stuart Creek Conservation Area (QR/Landcare)

Birdwatchers on tour at the Serpentine Lagoon
Click to enlarge - Birdwatchers on tour at the Serpentine Lagoon


Townsville City Council understands the need to foster adequate planning policy, and an environmental awareness and appreciation to achieve the long-term security and integrity of its natural resources and its economic well-being. Encompassed in this planning process is the need for sustainable eco-tourism to provide people with economic and environmental benefits compatible with local lifestyles and build on the leading growth industry in Queensland. Many areas of Townsville provide great potential and opportunities for eco-tourism activities, including:

Ecotourism activities currently occur formally at Billabong Sanctuary (environmental education) and informally for visitors at National Parks and LGA conservation areas (e.g. Nelly Bay Habitat Interpretative Facilities).

Dugong calf - Insert from the Nelly Bay habitat murals
Click image to enlarge - Dugong calf - Insert from the Nelly Bay habitat murals

Council's objectives to maximise ecotourism while mitigating impacts are to:

  • Encourage orderly, planned development which recognises the need for conservation of the natural resources and which is environmentally and economically beneficial to local people; and;

  • Promote Townsville as a distinctive Queensland city with relatively unspoilt natural areas and many unique environmental attractions in north Queensland.

The Ross River environs are a major focus for recreational pursuits, ranging from fishing to bird watching and water-skiing, requiring coordinated management to sustain and optimise the values of the area. Previously Council has produced a Ross River Master Plan to guide open space management of this key recreational facility and environmental area.

More recently the Ross River Parkway Plan has been produced to specifically guide recreation and open space management. This plan greatly assists conserving environmental values whilst at the same time providing a range of opportunities to accommodate the community’s recreational needs. The plan develops a flexible, well-balanced spectrum of recreational opportunities to meet current and future needs of the community. The Parkway will also provide a safe off-road bikeway for residents along the Ross River to the CBD.

Council's Fishwatch advisory commitee also has a focus on the Ross River and provides a forum for commitee members to network on both recreational and environmental issues and opportunities affecting Ross River..

The Mundy Creek Natureway was a joint State and TCC project under the Garbutt Urban Renewal Program where TCC Community Services, Citiworks, and Environmental Management Services worked together to promote, rehabilitate and protect the natural area and walkway environs from Garbutt to Rowes Bay. This walk and bikeway retains important social, recreational as well as natural values. The "Natureway" offers lovely scenic views, open spaces and grasslands, wetlands as well as birdwatching and walking/biking and passive recreation opportunities. A kids skate park abuts the waterway, and community revegetation and creekwatch activities are regularly promoted. Importantly Mundy Creek retains to this day social and spiritual linkages for Traditional Owners (Celebrating Aboriginal Environments, 2000). As part of the project two posters about the area were made. One showing the work by the Community Job Plan (CJP) natural area trainees, and one showing Mundy Creek Aboriginal Bush Tucker Plants and uses.

Community Awareness and Understanding

Townsville City Council has developed specific responses which help to build a sense of community ownership of the dry tropical environment and the responsibility for maintaining it. One especially successful response has been the creation of the popular TCC Environmental Excellence Awards. The awards are presented at EcoFiesta, Townsville's own environmental festival Celebrating World Environment Day, annually in June.

See information about the Environmental Excellence Award winners and their achievements for the years 2000, 2001, 2002. See Register of Entries 2000, 2001, 2002.

Council completes regular community surveys incorporating  environmental considerations. Council participates in partnership with the community and business/industry on a number of programs, which raise environmental awareness and understanding.

Council regularly promotes it’s environment programs and our city's natural assets, at Community Fun in the Park Days; Night Markets; special events "Centenary of Federation" and events to mark World Environment Day (Ecofiesta 2000, 2001, 2002 and Townsville Environment Week incorporating sponsored days e.g. Celebrating Aboriginal Environments, Waterways & Wetlands Day; Flora & Fauna Day; Ecotourism Day etc.).

Council actively encourages developers, residents, tourists and visitors to appreciate Townsville’s unique environment to enable sustainable development to be accommodated and promoted. In collaboration with Townsville Enterprise Council has commenced compiling a digitally based Natural Assets Database of information on regional flora and fauna and environmental events and community Landcare and conservation volunteers activities (native tree planting, weed management and habitat protection).

Belgian Gardens School class learns about biodiversity on Castle Hill
Click image to enlarge - Belgian Gardens School class learns about biodiversity on Castle Hill

A key initiative is to enhance engagement with schools and their environmental activities by involving them in mapping and surveying flora and fauna of their local environments. This information will be incorporated onto the TCC Natural Assets Database so that it is available on the Internet for enhanced wildlife awareness and interaction. See Belgian Gardens Schools Townsville Bulletin article on savanna grasses of the school grounds.

Community has also developed their own set of responses including the development of Community Involvement and Education Strategies.

Download the whole report.

Download Section Six (.pdf)

Community Involvement and Education
Produced by Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Inc.

Water, Waste and Wastewater

Townsville City Council has developed a number of strategies for water, wastewater and waste disposal which identify future options to better manage these important activities from an environmental perspective.

Health & Environmental Services Regional Organisation of Councils - North Queensland (HESROC-NQ)

Staff Training

As part of Council’s commitment to enhance staff environmental performance, and in fulfilment of obligations under the multiple licence Integrated Environmental Management Systems (Council and Wastewater STPs), all staff attend environmental awareness training and procedures for handling and managing environmental incidents have been implemented by both Citiwater and Citiwaste.

Solid Waste Management

Vantassel Street landfill was opened in 1989 and is located in an industrial area away from urban residences with appropriate soil/geology for the management of leaching and other contamination. The City Council continuously monitors the site in line with National Pollutant Inventory guidelines to ensure that environmental impacts are minimised. It is believed that there are no emissions from the site to groundwater. Stormwater management plans are being implemented to ensure uncontrolled runoff does not contaminate downstream saltpan wetlands.

TCC is committed to improving efficiency of its landfill operations by implementing key recommendations of the Waste Management Strategy (Sinclair Knight Merz 1998), as well as regional initiatives of the HESROC-NQ Regional Waste Management Strategy (Meinhardt 2000) and regional waste routes map (.pdf 525kb).

A plan has commenced for construction of Stage 1 of the Vantassel Street redevelopment, which will enable maximum opportunity for drop off for commercial recycling.

Cungulla has now been been closed down, and in the medium term it is also planned to review the option of a transfer station at the Majors Creek landfill site to meet both community need and environmental protection requirements. It is also recognised that in the long term it will be necessary to close the Picnic Bay Landfill and operate a transfer station at this site too.

Townsville has implemented best practice kerbside recycling contracts and specific waste minimisation strategies, including:

  • Greenwaste processing
  • C&D waste separation
  • Removing recyclable metals from the landfill
  • Encouraging kerbside recycling

Until 2002 TCC operated a $1.4 million (per annum) recycling contract which has contributed to a significant reduction in the amount of waste going to landfill than would otherwise be the case.

Under the existing program in 2001-2002 some 1,655 tonnes of recyclable material was diverted from Townsville’s landfills including: 1,220 tonnes of paper mix, 170 tonnes of glass, 86 tonnes of steel, 72 tonnes of PET plastic, and 74 tonnes of HDPE.

Kerbside recycling is available for all residents in waste collection areas including Magnetic Island.

About 60% of households support the kerbside recycling by putting out the recycling bins. However, between 14-16% of the bins are significantly contaminated.

While the program has until now met the expectations of the community and been widely supported, the Council has decided that there was significant room for a more eco-efficient and cost-effective program.

To ensure environmental value for money, TCC recently commissioned a review of the kerbside recycling program, including a review of options for lowering costs (see brief and read report).

The previous recycling contract was found to be lacking efficiency because of high levels of contamination, inadequate materials recovery performance, and large amounts of recyclables going to landfill. The conclusion was that with improved recycling services there were savings of up to $17 per household per year in Townsville which were identified.

This figure is lower than the national average of $46 per household (urban areas) due to the greater distance to markets for recyclable commodities and recycled products.

Council has investigated alternative technologies such as SWERF system, incineration, or aerobic processing (Bedminster) but none offer financial benefits over the existing system of kerbside recycling and landfill disposal because of the much greater estimated cost per household per year. Although providing environmental benefits, these options are currently considered cost prohibitive.

The Council recently announced the selection of a new 8 year recycling processing contract to be met by Visy Recycling which commenced in January 2003. This will substantially improve the environmental benefits associated with Townsville’s recycling program and help to foster the development of markets for waste materials and recycled product.

As part of the new contract Visy has constructed a new Materials Recovery facility (MRE) in Townsville. The TCC and Thuringowa City Council will collect waste while Visy will recycle it. Under the new arrangements, more plastics will be recyclable and the system will be more able to provide recycled materials to meet market needs.

An important initiative is to encourage and facilitate private sector involvement in commercial recycling. This initiative is being implemented under a tri-part agreement with Councils recycling contractor.

An important incentive for improved environmental performance exists under the new arrangements in that (Visy) will be paying for the disposal of “waste” (non-recycled recyclables) whereas previously non-recycled recyclables were dumped at Thuringowa for free.

Townsville City Council is now recognised regionally as having one of the best kerbside recycling programs, and has attracted funding under the NPCC Best Practice Kerbside Recycling Program).

Rural Waste Collection

In addition to the above domestic waste collection has been extended to the outlying rural communities of Serene Valley, Cungulla, Alligator Creek and Oak Valley. At this time residents do not support a cost recovery recycling collection service. However a drop off facility is provided for residents to use at the Vantassel Street landfill in order to recycle cardboard & paper, glass, plastic, aluminium and steel are provided to rural residents at the various landfills. There also exists the opportunity to drop off greenwaste at tips for mulching and resale by a contractor.

Waste Education

Community education is a key part of increasing the waste diversion rate (recycling) and a comprehensive public education programme is a key component of the kerbside recycling system. TCC has also endorsed adoption of the new national "Don't Waste Australia" program (based on the Do the Right Thing Campaign). This "Don't Waste Townsville" framework will be applied across the city, for instance "Don't Waste the Strand", as part of a comprehensive waste education and anti-litter campaign.

Other educational activities in waste management include:

  • the LAWMAC Bus (a mobile waste education facility); and
  • Don't Waste Australia/Townsville.

Click to see more information on these TCC waste education initiatives.

There are also some posters relating to the waste management theme. See the Citiworks waste management education and promotional posters.

Waste Management
Waste Management 2

Townsville Satelite image
Click image to enlarge - Townsville Satelite image

Water & Wastewater Management

TCC Citiwater is responsible for implementing Council policy on the management and commercial distribution of treated water and collection of wastewater and subsequent treatment.


Council has previously adopted the Waterwise program which involved bringing Waterwise teachers from Brisbane. They delivered presentations to school students on water conservation. In 1999/2000 Council chose to discontinue this program and to develop our own Watersmart program.

WaterSmart logo

The local "Watersmart" program targets the Townsville community and its specific needs. The program is an educational plan which targets schools, produces brochures, contributes newspaper articles and maintains a library of educational resources.

The program is being developed to integrate with other Council water management programs (e.g.. Louisa Creekwatch, Fishwatch, and Lakes Catchment tours) to ensure a catchment management approach "rainfall to outfall".

The Logo: the frog represents the land and clean fresh water that we all depend on. The butterfly represents clean air and the important role that water has (in vapour form) in the water cycle. The clown fish represents a clean ocean.

Environmental Initiatives in Wastewater Treatment
and Water Reuse.

Citiwater has produced Wastewater Strategies for both the mainland and Magnetic Island (1996). These strategies are being implemented under Council resource allocations, for example:

Construction and commissioning of the Magnetic Island Water Recycling Plant (see brochure .pdf 196kb)to tertiary treatment standards

Upgrading of both the Cleveland Bay and Mt. St John Wastewater Treatment Plant with spending of $8 million under consideration for Cleveland Bay facilities and further funding considerations for Mt. St John ($ 2.75 million for tertiary treatment upgrades by 2003).

Citiwater have recently upgraded Mt. St John Wastewater Treatment Plant (see brochure .pdf 140kb) and the Cleveland Bay Wastewater Treatment Plants (see brochure .pdf 170kb) to include use of gas emissions from the treatment process to run the plants (covering 60% of operating costs for Mt. ST John and 40% for Cleveland Bay).

Both Cleveland Bay and Mt. St John are both using methane gas to power a proportion of their energy needs (refer Atmosphere SOE Section)

TCC has implemented effluent reuse at the RAAF base and the Rowes Bay Golf Course. The facilities currently achieve 90% reuse of all dry-weather effluent.

Water Treatment. Citiwater operate the water treatment plant at Douglas and provide water reticulation to Magnetic Island and the Townsville region.

Reducing Water Use in Parks and Gardens. Parks services have instigated a number of innovations relating to reducing water demand some of these on the Strand and this contributed to the winning in December 2002 of the Resource Conservation Award in the Clean Beach Challenge. There is substantial scope for further improvement.

TCC is currently assessing various options, which may assist the Council to lead by example in reducing water use in the city’s parks and gardens. These initiatives also have the potential to save money in the process for ratepayers whilst at the same time reducing water use. For example, refinements in a centrally controlled system for watering parks could help to optimise the frequency and quality of watering. Replacing sprinklers on median strips with buried dripper tubes could reduce water costs by some 20% whilst at the same time reducing the amount of water on roadways, reducing damage to roads, and also reducing maintenance costs. Click here to see example proposed project.


As mentioned above in the Atmosphere chapter, TCC is contributing to greater uptake of public transport through subsidies to bus and ferry services.

The TCC has also worked to enhance the city’s network of bike paths to increase the use of more environmentally friendly and healthy alternative to cars. As mentioned previously, the bike path network includes some 100km of on road bicycle lanes and 40km of off-road bicycle paths, and 10km of bicycle routes. Continuity and connectivity, lighting, and end-of-trip facilities remain areas of resident concern which the Council is working to improve.

As mentioned previously in the Atmosphere chapter, TCC is leading by example in the uptake of environmentally-friendly transport alternatives through the purchase of low emission vehicles like the Toyota Prius.

TCC is working with other levels of government to improve the road transport network in and around Townsville in order to minimise the environmental impacts of transport sector growth in the city and the region.

TCC is also pursuing the priorities established in the Townsville Transport Plan including:

  • Promoting compact forms of urban development to increase the efficiency of the transport system;

  • Ensuring land use patterns encourage the use of public transport, walking and cycling;

  • Pursuing alternative public transport models which utilise existing infrastructure and offer a viable alternative to car travel;

  • exploring alternatives to restrain heavy vehicle traffic growth, reduce the impact of heavy vehicles on the existing system and improve urban freight efficiency;

  • identifying opportunities to reduce the environmental impacts of transport and promote the environmental, economic and health benefits of public transport, cycling and walking; and

  • ensuring there us adequate infrastructure for viable, convenient and safe walking, cycling and recreational boating.

It is important also to acknowledge that the growth in the transport sector at the Townsville Port and the Townsville Airport have been acknowledged and acted on by both authorities involved.

The Port of Townsville has acknowledged the concerns associated with expansion of the facility including: implications for air quality, oil spills, noise pollution, proximity of the port to the Great Barrier Reef, and to Dugong Protection areas, Seagrass beds and mangrove forests in Cleveland Bay. The Port of  Townsville has developed a comprehensive Environment Management Strategy which is being implemented in conjunction with customers and a wide range of government and community stakeholders. (Click to Port of Townsville environment section).

Similarly, Townsville Airport acknowledges various existing or potential environmental concerns associated with the Townsville Airport including: potential stormwater contamination (especially given proximity to Town Common; contaminated site at airport landfill in non-compliance with EPA regulations; air pollution – though this is believed to be negligible; aircraft noise – (Heatley and Mount Louisa are in non-compliance with three recommendations of the Australian Standard on Noise – AS2021); biodiversity (though the Qld Environment department has indicated little likelihood of endangered species); some AQIS concerns over increased mosquito larvae at the airport; and bird strikes. Townsville Airport is working with its stakeholders to address these and other concerns. (Click for Townsville Airport Environment website)

Pallarenda Beach
Click image to enlarge - Pallarenda Beach

Future Considerations

Continuing to work with developers and business to ensure that landscape design and  development is compatible with the environment and does not conflict with conservation objectives, such as water quality management and biodiversity;

Continuing to develop the natural assets register and database and commence the school biodiversity program;

Preparing an information package covering environmental features and activities for the region for each household to raise environmental awareness and appreciation of our special Tropical Savanna and wetland landscape;

Continue implementing the Townsville Ecotourism Strategy (2000) and providing to protect natural areas with ecotourism and recreation opportunities and to maintain landscape aesthetics;

Seek opportunities to upgrade environmental interpretation facilities and provision of self guided trails and walks in the City and surrounds;

Provide natural history information and field guides to visitor information centres (e.g. Landcare and Environmental Education Centre and Natural Assets Database) to promote natural attractions;

Develop an accurate land use map relating actual land condition to land use activity;

Work with and encourage and provide industry with "Clean and Green" environmental opportunities and market advantage (environmental trading) in association with the Sustainable Townsville program; and

Investigate options and technological solutions for wastewater reuse in conjunction with Sustainable Townsville program.

Australian Heritage Places Inventory

A number of Townsville buildings and places are heritage listed. These include:

White fig in bud against tropical blue sky
Click image to enlarge - White fig in bud against tropical blue sky