Study leads to Macleay waterways being given a C minus for health

Baseline: Representatives of the bodies involved with the waterways study at the official unveiling of the report card in early May. Photo: Supplied.

Baseline: Representatives of the bodies involved with the waterways study at the official unveiling of the report card in early May. Photo: Supplied.

A new report card, showing a snapshot of the health of waterways in the Macleay Catchment, has seen the region ranked with a C minus – or fair – rating.

The Ecohealth program was undertaken by the University of New England’s aquatic ecology and restoration research group and was co-ordinated by Kempsey Shire Council, North Coast Local Land Services, Northern Table Lands, Local Land Services and the Office of Environment and Heritage.

The program measured key indicators of aquatic ecosystem health and compares results against national guidelines to determine how healthy rivers and estuaries are for the plants and animals that live in them.

The scoring system is based on the traditional format of a school report, with ‘A’ representing the highest possible score and ‘F’ the lowest.  

A C minus is towards the bottom of the intermediate range.

The assessment covered 44 sites across the Macleay Catchment which included areas within Walcha, Armidale Dumaresq and Kempsey Local Government Areas. The study covered 32 freshwater and 12 estuarine sites and reflects the average health of those systems over a 12-month period.

It found that waterways ranged from those in good condition with very high biodiversity to tableland and estuary sites in poor condition.

The study found that the condition of riparian zones (the area between rivers/creeks and the land) was poor across the 44 sites. The main issues impacting these zones were invasive weeds, vegetation clearing and damage from livestock. 

Water quality, geomorphic condition, aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish life were the other categories assessed. 

Council’s senior natural resources officer, Ron Kemsley, said the findings would provide a baseline for future studies on Macleay water systems. 

“While the results highlight there is work to be done, it also shows that there are valuable areas of biodiversity in the mid-reaches of the Macleay.”

Mr Kemsley said council would look to improve the Macleay’s waterways through a range of estuary management plans and environmental programs.

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