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40 Robust Oyster Baskets (ROBs) have been installed in the upper reaches of the Pine River, downstream of Unitywater’s Murrumba Downs Wastewater Treatment Plant, as part of the Oyster Reef Restoration project. 

The project aims to determine the effectiveness and value of oysters to filter nutrients in waterways over the next five years and could reshape the future of shellfish reef restoration and wastewater treatment practices with Unitywater’s contribution (innovation funding) of $464,000 over the next five years.

Delivered by Unitywater, OzFish, the University of Sunshine Coast and Healthy Land and Water, the Australian-first initiative is a recognised nutrient offset method under the Queensland Water Quality Offset Policy.

Each 400sqmm triangular ‘reef’ basket is filled with 18kg of recycled oyster shells sourced from Brisbane restaurants and commercial shucking operations and will host many different species such as oysters, mussels and other molluscs.

The pre-seeded baskets are ‘soaked’ in Moreton Bay for about a year before being placed in the Pine River. As they grow the collective effects of the reef increase.

Unitywater Acting Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, Ivan Beirne, said that it was this innovative thinking that will help the water utility reach its environmental sustainability goals. 

“Unitywater’s commitment to net zero includes an ambitious goal of ensuring all nutrients from wastewater are diverted or offset from waterways by 2040,” Mr Beirne said. 

“By looking for ways to reduce our operating footprint and support the natural environment to beneficially reuse water, Unitywater is committed to sustainability while enhancing water and wastewater services for our local communities.

“South East Queensland is one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia and we need to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of residents and businesses now and in the future.”

OzFish senior project officer for shellfish reef restoration, Robbie Porter, said that they are thrilled to be part of this ground-breaking initiative.

“By joining forces with Unitywater, The University of Sunshine Coast, and Healthy Land and Water, we have a unique opportunity to explore the potential of shellfish reefs in restoring our aquatic ecosystems, improving wastewater treatment practices, and the possibility of supporting sustainable aquaculture,” Mr Porter said.

“This collaborative effort brings together each partner’s expertise, resources, and passion to drive meaningful change in marine conservation and environmental stewardship.

“This research is going to be very exciting; it will open up opportunities for restoration and has the potential to look at shellfish reef restoration as a meaningful path for offset.

“It will paint a bigger picture about how important shellfish reefs are to our ecosystem and give real data to showcase the work they do in filtering nutrients.”

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