Moreton Bay is a 1,500 km-square urbanised estuary adjacent to one of the fastest growing regions in Australia. Rapid population growth creates a challenge for wastewater utilities to deal with the increase in nutrient loads. This includes the single largest asset of Urban Utilities, the Luggage Point Sewage Treatment Plant, at the mouth of the Brisbane River that discharges into the bay. At the same time, on the eastern side of Moreton Bay, the Queensland rock oyster industry faces reduced productivity due to environmental change, disease and algal blooms, and challenges associated with the business risks presented by monoculture.
Here, communities on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) are also investigating new opportunities during their transition away from sand mining, and Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) has Native Title on a large tract of the Moreton Bay Marine Park.
Seaweed production offers a unique and timely solution to address some of the economic, environmental and social challenges in Moreton Bay. Seaweed farming is a “no-feed” form of aquaculture; it is zero waste and compatible with oyster farming and marine park zoning. Seaweeds grow quickly and strip nutrients from the water column, draw down carbon dioxide and can remove pollutants. Because of this, Urban Utilities and USC are evaluating how much nutrient can be extracted from the bay as an offset for their discharge licences to avoid substantial capital investment in sewage treatment whilst delivering better environmental outcomes for each dollar spent.