It takes a whole lot of hard work to bounce back from a D-minus report card, but that’s been the focus for the Richmond River catchment after it received the eco-health rating from UNE in 2015.
- Macadamia, beef cattle and tea tree farmers restore 38km of riparian habitat
- Road sealing, bank stabilisation and erosion control works reduce 2,800 tonnes of run-off
- More than 100 “snag hotels” are installed to deflect wave wash and increase aquatic habitat
Over the past three years, 34 farmers on the Alstonville plateau have reduced sediment and nutrient run-off into the Richmond River by restoring habitat, fencing off stock and repairing bank erosion.
Shaun Morris from North Coast Local Land Services said that its $4.25 million Marine Estate Management Strategy Project had prevented at least 2,800 tonnes of run-off.
More than 100 “snag hotels” have been installed as part of the 2.4 kilometres of bank stabilisation works preventing 1,300 tonnes of sediment run-off.
“We’re basically mimicking a natural log jam that would normally occur as a consequence as just natural riverine function, but we’ve spaced these apart and placed them on the bank in such a way as to dissipate boat wave energy as it comes across the bank,” he said.
“With that dissipation of energy we get to develop these small micro-habitats that benefit a range of aquatic animals.”
An additional 1,500 tonnes of run-off has been prevented from Ballina Shire Council sealing 11 kilometres of road.
“We’ve got roads right alongside Emigrant Creek, and as part of the estuary that offers quite an amount of significant aquatic habitat for both recreational and commercially sought fish species,” Mr Morris said.
Farmers restore 38km of riparian habitat
Most of the riparian work on macadamia and beef cattle farms centred on bush regeneration, Mr Morris said.
“Also we’re doing some very highly concentrated intercept plantings using species like lomandra to help capture that overland flow of sediments and nutrients and stopping it before it gets the chance to hit the river.”
Works on the macadamia farm Mick Bell supervises at Teven has included relocating the entrance road 10 metres away from the river, restoring two kilometres of river frontage and installing fish hotels.
“I was starting to get a little bit worried about the erosion under the camphor laurel trees and the lack of mangroves and fish habitats along the river … and our entrance road, the river right next to it, there was no buffer zone, there was no riparian zone, there was nothing,” he said.
“When the floods come through, there’s not a lot there to hold it back.”
While it may take time to clarify how the works have enhanced the water quality, Mr Bell already sees a difference.
“Just in seeing how much mangrove seeds we’ve caught in the bank, how much it has brought the fish life back in the couple of months since they’ve finished the first stage, I do believe they’re on the right path.”