The report card is in and Nambucca Shire has been given a C- for the ecohealth* of its estuaries and freshwater river reaches.
The Nambucca Ecohealth Project ran from 2016 to 2018 and was completed in July 2018. It was managed by the University of New England, in association with Department of Industries (fisheries) and funded through the Environmental Levy and an $82,000 grant from the Office of Environment and Heritage.
Carried out across nine sub-catchments, Nambucca River (North Arm), tributaries of the Nambucca North Arm, Taylors Arm, tributaries of Taylors Arm, Warrell Creek and Deep Creek, the results ranged from an F in Tom Maras Creek to a C+ in Warrell Creek.
The report said these grades were consistent among the sub catchments with poor water quality scores driven by high nutrient concentrations and low dissolved oxygen – indicative of the below average stream flow experienced during the study period (drought conditions were recognised as a factor).
It also noted that riparian* and geomorphic* scores were relatively consistent among and within each system, highlighting that issues with physical condition are affecting the long-term condition of the streams.
To put all this in context, the Nambucca LGA results are comparable to other catchments in the region:
Coffs Harbour C-
Bellingen River B-
Kalang River C-
Macleay River C-
Port/Hastings Shire C
The authors recommended a list of activities to improve the ecohealth of shire waterways, including weed monitoring/management, stock exclusion, riparian re-vegetation and bank stabilisation.
Council staff reported that several projects were already planned for this financial year – a number of stabilisation and riparian management projects plus water quality improvements at Dawkins Park, which is primarily about managing the ibis population.
Definition of terms:
* ‘ecohealth’ is an emerging field of study that looks at how changes in the earth’s ecosystems affect human health
* ‘riparian’ refers to wetlands adjacent to rivers and streams.
* ‘geomorphic’ relates to the form of the landscape and other natural features of the earth's surface in an area.