- Most of the estuaries in New South Wales are under intense urban development pressure with approximately 80% of the State's population living near an estuary.
- Some 60% of the State's estuaries are intermittently closed and open lakes and lagoons with ecosystems that are sensitive to catchment land use activities and competing estuary uses.
- The NSW Estuary Management Program and Estuary Management Manual were introduced in 1992 to help resolve conflict within local communities over use of estuaries and provide technical and financial assistance to local governments. Under the program, local councils can prepare and implement sustainable estuarine management plans for the protection and where necessary the rehabilitation of degraded estuaries.
- Significant gaps in estuarine data have meant that complex natural biophysical processes are poorly understood, making the selection of the optimal management solution difficult. A higher level of investment in estuaries to fill key estuary data gaps, provide coordinated long-term monitoring and research focused on high priority management issues is required to address these problems.
- Statutory planning processes in catchments have historically focused on land capability without adequately addressing aquatic and estuarine effects. A high level of strategic integrated planning is required in coastal catchments to ensure that estuarine environments are protected in the future. The health of an estuary provides a good indicator of catchment health.
- Filling estuary data gaps and refinement of key estuary health indicators for estuary types as well as improved data accessibility would enhance estuary management outcomes. Important estuary information is generally not available to decision makers.
- Guidelines for considering integrated environment and socioeconomic issues in the management of estuaries are important to assist with investment decisions by local communities.
The NSW Coastal Council coordinates and reports on the implementation of the NSW Coastal Policy to State Cabinet. The management of the State's estuaries is an important component in the implementation of the policy. In New South Wales, estuaries are managed by a number of key agencies and local government. Key State agencies include:
- Department of Land and Water Conservation (responsible for land, water and vegetation natural resource management);
- Environment Protection Authority (responsible for environmental pollution control);
- Department of Fisheries (responsible for the management of State fisheries resources);
- Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (responsible for State planning development policies);
- National Parks and Wildlife Service (responsible for the management of national parks and reserves); and
- Waterways Authority (responsible for managing boating and navigation).
Local councils develop and implement sustainable estuarine management plans with technical and financial assistance from the State Government:
- over 25 estuarine management plans in place.;
- 75 community-based steering committees are preparing and implementing the plans.
The State Government provides some $1.4 m (matching council contribution) annually to assist councils to prepare and implement the plans.
NSW Coastal Policy
- provides the key strategic direction for the sustainable management of the New South Wales coastal zone
- policy implementation and achievement of policy outcomes are assessed by the Coastal Council of New South Wales
- key deliverable is the implementation of the NSW Estuary Management Program
NSW Estuary Management Program
Under the policy the New South Wales Government's Estuary Management Program will continue to be implemented by providing technical and financial assistance to local government and agencies for the purposes of preparing and implementing estuary management plans, undertaking activities to rehabilitate the estuarine environment, and improving the recreational amenity of estuarine foreshores.
The policy is implemented through the preparation and implementation of sustainable estuary management plans involving significant community consultation through local councils.
Estuaries management in New South Wales has recently been strengthened with the introduction of coastal management; and water, vegetation and catchment management reforms.
- The Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) protects of water quality and quantity, including estuaries, by preparing water management plans and stressed rivers classification.
- The Native Vegetation Conservation Act 1997 (NSW) affords greater protection of native vegetation in rural areas.
- Amendment of the Catchment Management Act 1989 (NSW) has provided for catchment management boards, and a greater level of integration and efficiency in management of natural resources.
- Sensitive estuarine wetlands are protected through the New South Wales Wetlands Policy and the declaration of State Environment Protection Policy 14 wetland protection through planning legislation.
- Canal estate developments have been prohibited to protect remaining wetlands.
- Amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW) provide greater protection for marine flora and fauna in estuaries affected by development proposals.
- The introduction of recreation fishing areas and reduction of some commercial fishing in threatened estuaries is under discussion in local communities.
Community initiatives include Coastcare, Streamwatch, Landcare and Rivercare. Community representation is provided for on a number of natural resource management committees that are supported by the State Government and include catchment management boards; and estuary, vegetation, water management and groundwater management committees.
- Improve understanding of estuary processes affecting coastal lakes and lagoons (ICOLLs), the management of which is of significant concern to the New South Wales Coastal Council and New South Wales Healthy Rivers Commission.
- Fill key data gaps; and refine estuary health indicators, process models, management and monitoring tools for estuary types and condition to improve state of the environment reporting, assess estuary management strategies and to facilitate informed planning decisions by local communities.
- Improve understanding and quantification of catchment nutrient loads and environmental flows to estuaries to better understand catchment influences on estuary condition.
- Strategies and incentives to promote community participation in the adoption and implementation of best estuary management practices.
Far North Coast
Estuaries from the Tweed River at the Queensland border, south to the Sandon River near Grafton are facing increasing pressures from urbanisation and development that is contributing to the degradation of estuarine ecosystems.
Characteristics of this area include coastal strip development, competition for the use of limited estuarine natural resource, decline in seagrass beds, acidification from acid sulfate soils, sand and gravel extraction, and eutrophication of coastal lakes. The New South Wales sugar cane industry and a growing tea-tree industry are based in this area. Other key characteristics include the cultivation of a large proportion of the floodplains (including improved pastures) and associated constructed drainage channels, floodgates and levees.
These estuaries are important for tourism. There remain extensive areas of wetland habitat for aquatic and terrestrial fauna, and significant national park reserves have been established.
Many of these estuaries support commercial fishing, prawn and oyster production. Boating and recreational fishing are popular. Many estuary entrances have been trained with breakwaters and limited dredging occurs to provide navigation channels for commercial fishing vessels.
Mid North Coast
Estuaries from Wooli Wooli River (near Grafton) south to the Hastings River at Port Macquarie support important tourist industries based on their high scenic and recreational values. There are significant national parks and nature reserves including the Solitary Isle Marine Park.
These estuaries are important for oyster production particularly spat catching, and provide good amateur and commercial fishing as well as prawning. There are increasing pressures from the tourism and aquaculture industry as well as urban and rural residential developments.
The Macleay and Hastings estuaries are significantly impacted by acidic discharge from high risk acid sulfate soil areas on their coastal floodplains. Flood mitigation structures, bank protection works, drains, floodgates and levees have had a profound impact on the Macleay estuary.
There is considerable local debate over entrances management options for coastal lakes and lagoons (e.g. Arrawarra, Deep and Saltwater Creeks). Numerous floodgate management, wetland restoration and acid soil remediation projects have been initiated on the larger coastal floodplains.
Estuaries from Lake Cathie/Lake Innes near Port Macquarie south to the Hunter River near Maitland are characterised by pressures from tourism, intense urban and industrial development (e.g. Newcastle).
These estuaries have significant areas of estuarine wetlands renowned for aquatic bird habitat. Kooragang Island (Hunter River) is a significant international Ramsar wetland site providing key migratory bird habitat. Other unique areas include Lake Innes that is fully surrounded by a national park.
These estuaries are popular for recreational swimming and fishing and support a commercial fishing and prawn industry. There is considerable local debate over the management of entrances of small coastal lakes such as Lake Cathie.
Newcastle is a major commercial port incorporating coal exporting with port facilities capable of loading very large vessels.
Estuaries from Lake Macquarie extending south to the Minnamurra River near Wollongong are affected by intense urban and industrial development at Gosford/Wyong, Sydney and Wollongong. Estuaries in these areas are characterised by large waterways; intense urban development; and competing natural resource use, commercial ports and related infrastructure.
Rapid population growth has resulted in the degradation of many estuaries from declining water quality, eutrophication of coastal lakes, sewage overflows (especially Sydney), and the poor state of swimming beaches and tidal baths particularly after storms (pollution and litter). Stormwater run-off containing high nutrient loads contributes to toxic algal blooms in poorly flushed estuaries. Many small coastal lagoon ecosystems are threatened as a result of elevated nutrient loads from urban run-off (e.g. Curl Curl Lagoon). Localised pollution from vessel sewage and industrial discharges (heavy metal, tributyl tin, organochlorine, petroleum, and microorganisms) are causing problems in some areas.
There are a number of large coastal lakes in this area including Lake Macquarie, Tuggerah Lakes and Lake Illawarra. There is continuing community concern over the deterioration of these valuable estuarine ecosystems that has resulted in the implementation of significant estuary restoration projects combining local government, State and Commonwealth resources to provide integrated management solutions.
Botany Bay, Sydney Harbour and Port Kembla are commercial ports. Significant areas of coastal wetlands have been lost in the past to provide land for expanding urban and industrial development.
Sydney Harbour is internationally acclaimed as one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. This area and adjacent large estuaries are an important holidaying area and recreational centre for the population of Sydney, and interstate and international tourists. It is popular for amenity values, recreational fishing, boating, waterskiing and swimming.
Estuaries in this region support a large estuarine fishing industry, and commercial catches of crustacea and molluscs. Large and competing recreational and commercial fisheries have caused some concern in local estuarine communities. The oyster industry has been adversely affected by a virus infection decimating stocks (e.g. Georges River). Exotic aquatic weed infestation (Caulerpa taxifolia) is threatening a number of estuaries in this region.
The estuaries from Werri Lagoon south of Wollongong to Tuross Lake near Narooma are characterised by coastal strip development, competing natural resource uses, ports, marinas and tourist development, eutrophication of coastal lakes, and Indigenous fishing rights.
The area is a popular tourist destination for residents from Canberra and Victoria. Increasing development pressure on the catchments of small vulnerable coastal lagoons has generated intense local debate and a call for improved planning practices.
Far South Coast
Estuaries from Lake Brunderee (near Potato Point) south to the Merrica River near the Victorian border are characterised by limited development compared to other areas of the State. Large expanses of national parks surround many estuaries in this area with limited public access.
The large fishing ports of Bermagui and Eden are popular holiday destinations.
For further information about the Australia-wide assessment, please contact: National Land and Water Resources Audit Phone: 02 6263 6035 Email: email@example.com
CRC Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management
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