Bundaberg: Sprouting a million trees with a data-driven strategy 

Jason Stevens

Data drives survival. As Bundaberg plants toward a Net Zero future, the One Million Trees project grapples with nature’s unpredictability, proving that even well-planned community initiatives must adapt to thrive.

“We didn’t plant some trees last year because success was unlikely,” reveals Carmen Bracken, project officer at Bundaberg Council. The Queensland council is relying on data collection and analytics to maintain a 10 per cent loss rate—relatively low for large-scale tree planting projects. 

“It was a tough spring season—scorching, dry, and windy,” she tells Corrie McLeod during the latest episode of The Loop podcast series, drilling down into the strategic use of data in adapting planting strategies to boost survival rates. 

264,238 trees now sprout across the region: “Each tree planted contributes to our carbon neutrality goals – it enhances the local ecosystem.” 

The Federal Government and Australian states and territories aim to reach Net Zero by 2050, putting local councils like Bundaberg under pressure to solve the challenge creatively.  

The pivotal technological piece aiding civic action is a digital engagement platform provided by Granicus. This platform not only tracks the planting and growth of each tree but also enables the community to actively participate and stay informed about the progress of this green initiative. 

“We capture landowner and tree information through a one-stop shop,” Ms Bracken explains. “The website serves as a community engagement tool consolidating all relevant project details in one place.” 

The ARC GIS program operates behind the scenes with maps and spatial analysis workflows.  

Residents can register for the program by filling out accessible forms. Ms Bracken calls it “a GPS point on the ground for where those trees are going and how many plants are attached to it.” 

She no longer has to fill in spreadsheets or handwrite updates, and website visitors have a fluid, quicker, more accessible experience that requires less form data to fill out.  

Moving from a paper-based to an online platform digitises data collection, from species to spatial location information. It also limits the oversharing of data by residents and landowners.  

The engagement platform and website drove a  22% increase in pageviews within the first 90 days, bringing in over 10,000 visitors and what the council terms “2,200 informed participants”. 

“As the trees go out for planning, it’s all recorded in our automated system – giving me full visibility.” 

The website features a visual online map showing the growing canopy of trees planted since the project began in 2020.  

After distributing the plants, the council follows up with landowners to track how many trees they’ve lost and assess their progress.  

“Surprisingly, despite being only a quarter of our goal, we’re seeing remarkable success,” she says. 

While each landowner can receive up to 250 trees, many need help handling such a large quantity. This slower pace, however, has helped success rates, keeping losses low.   

The concept of Data for Good is a fundamental force at play within these community initiatives. 

“We’re constantly reevaluating our goals and adapting to the insights data gives us,” she explains, giving them new ways to explore how and where trees are planted, what was lost – and what survives. 

While data is the fuel, people are the heart and centre of what she calls a  

“special region” for a council handling standard tasks like rates, roads, and rubbish, overseeing operations such as the airport and the zoo and supporting a vibrant tourism industry. 

Bundaberg, for instance, is known for its prized coastline, where turtles nest and protected species thrive. 

Preserving environmental assets ultimately depends on exploring new relationships and insights from locals, including indigenous or First Nations people. 

“There are so many people in our local network and community who have beneficial histories and knowledge, which is vital to the success of a project like this,” shares Ms Bracken. 

Local First Nations elders and other families with long generational histories in the area are resources that open up valuable knowledge-sharing opportunities to drive practical, sustainable projects like the One Million Trees Project. 

“I’ve been very fortunate to converse with some of our elders here,” she says, “from whom I’ve learned so much: they know the land and are able to tell you that you ‘that tree won’t work over there, but this one will'”. 

The Loop podcast series and accompanying articles are produced by InnovationAus.com in partnership with Granicus. 

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

Leave a Comment

Related stories