Safeguarding the Minnamurra River: count us all in

Landcare IllawarraAt its July meeting, Kiama Council approved a Coastal Zone Management Plan for the Minnamurra River Estuary.

The Plan seeks to protect the existing natural character and beauty of the area and maintain the highly valued recreational opportunities.

The zone encompasses the tidal waterways, foreshore and adjacent land of the Minnamurra River Estuary, including the entrance.
The scope of the plan is wide, as the catchment ranges from extensive conservation areas, agricultural land and public reserves, to urban developments, industrial land with waste depots, sand mines and quarries.

It identifies management issues that have arisen since the original Estuary Management Plan was adopted in 1995 and addresses new state government requirements for coastal zone management introduced in 2013. The implementation of the ten year, $2.6 million plan depends largely on funding being obtained from various bodies charged with improving the health of Australia’s rivers.

The key management issues in the upper estuary and alluvial plain relate to the draining of Terragong Swamp and the artificial straightening of the river for ease of dairy farming in the late 19th century. This has resulted in a chain of events leading to serious bank slumping. Creating a stock exclusion and river bank buffer zone across the swamp is an aspirational goal to manage this problem.

In the upper and mid estuary, there is the need to guard against pollution from urban, mining and waste management activity.

The water quality in the upstream freshwater catchment is good and the lower reaches are well flushed by tides and generally exhibit good water quality, but vigilance is needed.

The threat of a rising sea level is also addressed in the Plan, as it has the potential to increase the extent and/or severity of bank erosion, affect water quality (particularly through leaching from waste depots) and result in tidal intrusion in the upper estuary and Terragong Swamp, which could potentially affect agricultural productivity.

Rising sea levels also have the potential to impact saltmarsh and mangrove communities as well as seagrass beds.

The Plan proposes a more strategic and coordinated approach from the various bodies responsible for, or using, the river to assist with knowledge sharing, improved access to funding and increased understanding of management issues to maximise outcomes.

To this end, an Implementation Committee is to be established to ensure a coordinated and holistic approach to the delivery and evaluation of the various management actions.

Importantly, the Plan recommends the establishment of an Estuary Health Officer position to focus on moving the Plan forward.

This new position would also strengthen collaboration between the stakeholders and assist with securing grant and other funding for the various actions.

The management actions recommended by the Plan fall under six key strategies:

  • Administration and delivery of management actions: through the establishment of an Implementation Committee and the appointment of a Estuary Health Officer (perhaps with other councils or government agencies)
  • Water quality management: including water quality monitoring, stormwater management, monitoring for potential groundwater contamination from the waste depots, facilitating sustainable agriculture initiatives and rubbish removal
  • Control of bank erosion: including rehabilitating priority erosion sites and keeping watch for new damage, a hydrographic survey of Terragong Swamp, excluding livestock from the banks and weed removal
  • Protection of estuarine and foreshore habitat: including managing mangrove encroachment along foreshores, seagrass protection, rehabilitation of identified bank areas, weed management and improving fish habitat
  • Recreational facilities: including an assessment of infrastructure requirements, a review of the plans of management for foreshore reserves and the development of a masterplan for all of the river’s reserves, resident and visitor education programs and the installation of kayak launching facilities
  • Floodplain management: including developing flood studies and a floodplain management plan (taking into account rising sea levels) and investigating ways to manage salt water extending further upstream.

Details: The full Plan is available from this page of the Council’s website.

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