WITH clouds of fat, grey cumulonimbus swirling about a rippling Lake Macdonald outside Cooroy, the setting on Tuesday was perfect for the launch of the region's eighth Noosa Festival of Water on Sunday June 24.
And this heavy humidity was a perfect environment for the giant barred frog to help headline an event to be staged amid the impressive botanic gardens and their alluring amphitheatre.
The festival will be a combination of a fun family day out and an annual wake up call, courtesy of the Lake Macdonald Catchment Care Group under the auspices of the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee, which is playing a vital role in preserving one of Australia's environmental gems.
"This is one of the headwaters of the Mary here at Lake Macdonald and it goes all the way up to Hervey Bay," said Phil Moran, who is Mr Noosa District Landcare.
"It's an incredibly majestic river - it's the home of Dala (the lung fish)."
Debbie Seal of MRCCC added: "Dr Tim Flannery (of Two On The Great Divide TV series) thinks that the Mary is one of the most important rivers on the east coast of Australia because of those threatened species."
An in-character MCCC threatened species project officer Eva Ford - who makes a striking giant barred frog - knows the worth of rare amphibians, the Mary lung fish, the bum-breathing turtle and the Mary cod.
"There's plenty of other species that hang off them," she said after slipping off her costume head.
"If it wasn't for those three or four species, stopping the Traveston Crossing dam would not have happened."
Phil has worked as hard as anyone to help establish a balance between restoring some of the natural values and buffering the water system from ongoing human settlement.
"It's always a constant battle," Phil said. "There's been terrific work done - the stopping of the Traveston Crossing dam was a huge fillip for the Mary Valley, which was a real psychological win as much as an environmental win. And as you know people are still recovering from that."
And Debbie said thanks to a Federal Government grant of $2.4 million over six years to rehabilitate riparian areas in the Mary, there were plenty of positives to dwell on at this Festival of Water.
"After (former Federal Minister) Peter Garrett stopped the dam, he said he was going to look at the development plan for the recovery of the threatened species of the Mary and that's actually happening through the MCCC," Debbie said.
Phil said this river bank tree coverage restored the local "connectivity" - "they become a wildlife corridor and a water quality measure acting as buffers to the creeks".
"The Noosa is a much smaller river system to the Mary, but has very good water quality - the healthy rivers measuring does not occur in the Mary, so it's hard running the measuring ruler over it.
"It's the highest recreational usage of any river in Queensland and yet it's all down there - what we've got to do to protect its water quality is all up here because it's linked."
He said Noosa water carers had been in the thick of a landmark nitrogen study up at Lake Cootharaba into why this shallow body of water had enough dissolved nitrogen as a sewage system handling a city of 800,000. Turns out it's there as a result of natural outcomes and old farming practices that Noosa Landcare and others are working to help correct, but the lake soaks up the massive amounts of nitrogen which is stirred up by wind forces on the water body.
Debbie said: "We'd like people just to appreciate what they've got.
"I think it's the only place in the world where there's two adjacent biospheres - the Noosa and the Great Sandy and to us that makes this place really, really special.
"We'd like people to come to the festival and learn some things." Phil added: "The politicians understand the need to preserve these areas - but they need to talk to us, because we have the information to help them make the decisions."
The Festival of Water offers a range of entertaining and educational activities such as free boat trips to the Gerry Cook Hatchery to see tours of the Mary River cod breeding facility. Festival goers can inspect the water treatment, learn to sail with crew from the Noosa Yacht Club, while at the boat ramp the Lake Borumba Fish Stocking group will be holding kids fishing clinics. All fishing gear and bait is supplied.
The hatchery has been at the forefront of bringing the Mary cod back from the brink of extinction. Phil said the weather conditions in recent years had not been conducive to increasing the Mary stock.
"We've had a number of years when no fingerlings have been produced at all because we can't trigger the breeding."
Phil summed up the festival setting:
"This is one of the best keep secrets - it's an opportunity to showcase the gardens and the lake with local community groups coming together with an environmental message. I think it's fantastic."
For a full rundown of an amazing day out go to facebook.com/noosa