Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef

Our Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Climate Change Mitigation Strategy were developed to guide Council's response to the effects of climate change in the Whitsunday Region.

Find out more about current Council climate projects and reports below. 

  • Background

    The Tourism sector in the Whitsundays has expressed interest in advancing their mitigation and becoming greater stewards of the Reef.  The council is leading the region to become a certified Sustainable Destination. Council worked with the Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) to develop the project plan.


    Council has developed the Whitsundays “Healthy Heart” Project to decarbonise the tourism sector, whilst achieving earthCheck and Sustainable Destination accreditation for the region. The project provides an opportunity for engaged partners within the local tourism sector to set higher and more ambitious targets for climate change mitigation, to improve the health of our reef and lead the way towards our region achieving a zero net emissions target by 2050.


    This project is collaborating with local businesses to assist them in lowering their environmental footprint and support sustainable recovery. The project is currently engaging with marine tourism operators, marinas, and island resorts. The project will upscale and measure the sector's achievements annually and assist with Council’s achievement of a sustainable destination certification. A certification will provide positive marketing opportunities and help build the Whitsundays brand as the Healthy Heart of the Great Barrier Reef.


    The project is made possible via collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation through the Reef Islands Initiative*. The GIFT developed the project plan and provided a review of suitable certification programs for operators as well as opportunities for the Whitsunday destination as a whole. GIFT’s initial project planning was co-funded by Climate Realities and the Whitsunday regional Council.


    The aims of this collaborative four-year project are to:

    • Improve collaboration on climate change mitigation in the region 
    • Build resilience to climate change
    • Recruit tourism operators / related businesses to actively measure and reduce their carbon footprint
    • Make the Whitsundays a certified Sustainable Destination
    • Define barriers to decarbonisation and identify real-life solutions
    • Create green marketing opportunities 
    • Enhance recovery from COVID-19


    Meet our Healthy Heart Partners!

    Watch past webinars and event recordings here

    View project related stories here


    For further information on this project contact Lee Hawkins at or call (07) 4945 0209. To register your business’s interest in joining the project partners, please complete the Whitsunday Healthy Heart Project. registration form!

    *The Reef Islands Initiative is a Great Barrier Reef Foundation program, supported by funding from Lendlease, the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, the Queensland Government and the Fitzgerald Family Foundation.

  • Optimising Water Treatment and Pumping


    Whitsunday Water (WW) historically utilised 60% of the Council’s total electricity consumption. They have since installed a 400kW solar array and a 450 kVa (current) to 500 KVa (near future) generator at the Bowen Water Treatment Plant (WTP) for emergency resilience purposes. The installation of the solar system has resulted in direct savings. In addition, there was considerable savings by using the storage capacity in the systems and optimising pumping in smaller (hourly) timesteps to meet demand.   


    WW has identified that there is still room for improvements in the system to further reduce their electricity consumption, increase cost efficiencies and reduce their carbon footprint. 


    Council has recruited a Masters Student from CQUniversity to optimise the pumping and treatment system to better use the solar with the reservoir space and provide recommendations for further improvements. Results will be published in peer reviewed journals and presented to relevant Queensland Councils. 


    Council has engaged Anam Shourobh, a Master’s Student from CQUniversity’s School of Engineering & Technology to work on  the project for two years.


    This project aims to: 

    • Identify areas where the WW system can be improved to reduce their electricity consumption and increase cost savings
    • Review the operations before and after the initial improvements and identify the benefits of additional “air space” to allow the plant to be programmed for ideal solar energy demand
    • Assess the value of voltage correction equipment and batteries to optimise solar energy performance throughout daylight hours.  
    • Identify the additional requirements necessary to run a water treatment plant and pump station as a solar-first facility 
  • Background

    This research project focuses on identifying better ways to prepare our community and businesses in the lead up to a severe weather event. Modelling undertaken by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO predicts that the Queensland region will experience a greater number of high intensity storms (stronger wind speeds and heavier rainfall systems) in the future. Therefore, it's important for local government to adequately plan and improve recovery from cyclones. Actions taken one to two days before a tropical cyclone hits, and in the days after, can create a significant financial burden on those that undertake them. Yet, last-minute preparation and response forms an integral part of emergency management, enhancing the ability to safeguard both life and assets.


    Modelling predicts that the Queensland region will experience a greater proportion of high intensity storms in the future meaning that local governments need to adequately plan and improve recovery from cyclones. 


    Information will be collected via surveys with members of the community who experienced Cyclone Debbie and felt like they took actions to reduce the impact of the cyclone on their home or business, or who will take different actions when the next tropical storm hits. 


    Council has partnered with James Cook University to undertake this research and propose solutions to local government.  The project is funded by the Monsoon Trough Grant funding.


    This project aims to provide recommendations to:

    • Help communities be more prepared for disaster
    • Enhance cyclone resilience to reduce damage and loss 
    • Assist fast community recovery

    Get Involved

    If everyone takes the right actions in the lead up to storm events it can reduce loss and ensure our community recovery as quick as possible. For information on how to prepare for next cyclone season see Council's Disaster Preparedness information.


    Download Report

    Key messages include:

    1. There is limited literature on small businesses and how to prepare for disasters and often home prep is prioritised over business preparation
    2. Most businesses have building (if owned) and contents insurance and business interruption insurance
    3. Most businesses have asset registers and take photos of stock before events.
    4. Businesses that operate paperless were agile in being able to work from home or set up elsewhere and did not risk losing client and account info
    5. A shift in thinking about preparedness as an activity done outside the immediate lead up to an event, may facilitate the performance of more demanding mitigation activities.
    6. Business owners, as a group, performed non-structural, rather than structural mitigation actions in their preparation for STC Debbie. Of the few that owned their premises being a workshop with large roller doors, they took mitigation action by bracing their roller doors. 
    7. Most business owners did not own their operating premises. This was the most frequently offered reason for not performing structural mitigation activities.
    8. Most business owners reported that non-structural activities such as gutter and drain clearing was not performed by their landlords in the lead up to STC Debbie.
    9. Landlords as a group are not included in investigations of barriers and facilitators of property preparation for extreme events. Investigations of these issues for this group would benefit the design and implementation of future preparedness programs.
    10. Water ingress was a major part of the damage caused by STC Debbie  – here are the key messages for businesses:
      • Make sure gutters and drains are cleared before storm season
      • If you have property or road drains at a similar level and near your doors, sandbagging at the doors may reduce damage to your business.  Get familiar with sandbagging methods before storm season - QFES have details on effective sandbagging methods.
      • Regular maintenance inspections should be made of roofs, flashings and attachments such as vents, air conditioners and solar panels to make sure not degraded by corrosion or UV etc.  Any maintenance, repairs or upgrades should be carried out to meet current building requirements.
      • The most effective method of reducing wind driven rain via windows and doors is to use wind rated cyclone shutters. This has the added benefit of mitigating wind driven debris entering into the building and providing added security to the property.
      • If shutters are not available, use plastic sheeting to reduce water ingress via windows and doors (a strip of plastic sheet taped on the inside of the window sill. This strip of thin plastic increased the height of the window sill, caught the water and allowed it to drain back out of the house via the weep holes. A step by step guide for installation of plastic to reduce wind driven rain ingress through windows and doors is available on JCU's website.


Reef Guardian Council

As a Reef Guardian Council, we are playing our part to support the ongoing health of the Great Barrier Reef. We have endorsed an Action Plan which aims to improve environmental outcomes for the Reef by managing our natural resources and increasing our capacity as a community.

The Reef Guardian Action Plan is reviewed and updated annually.

Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership

We are one of 31 member organisations from across the greater Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac area which form the Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership. The Partnership seeks to deliver a range of objectives which support healthy waterways. Find out more the program on the Health Rivers to Reef Partnership website.

Whitsundays Plan of Management

The Queensland Government and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMPA) have developed a Plan to manage tourist visitation on the reef and island environments. Find out more about the program on the Whitsundays Plan of Management page.

Local Marine Advisory Committees

The Whitsunday Local Marine Advisory Committee (WLMAC) and the Bowen Burdekin Local Marine Advisory Committee are community reference groups which meet regularly to discuss a range of marine and tourist related issues. The LMACs are coordinated by GBRMPA and WRC is represented on both committees.