Farmers can protect the Karuah River and the Port Stephens estuary by joining a project showcased during Landcare Week (3-9 August).

The Karuah-Borland Landcare Program is a partnership between local farmers, Midcoast Council, Hunter Local Land Services, Landcare Australia and Karuah Great Lakes Landcare.

The health of a river is generally the culmination of the surrounding impacts that occur throughout its catchment,” said MidCoast Council’s Catchment Management Coordinator, Louise Duff.

Things like unsealed roads, or impacts from clearing or agriculture, allow nutrients and sediment to slowly make their way across the land when it rains or through little creeks and drains down into the main trunk of the river – and in the case of the Branch and Karuah Rivers, into Port Stephens

Healthy wetlands and native vegetation are essential for healthy rivers. Wetlands and vegetation corridors along riverbanks operate like the river’s kidneys, filtering out these nutrients and sediment from the land, while also providing habitat for native species and serving as connecting corridors for these species to move through. Protecting these remaining wetlands and riparian corridors is a key part of restoring the health of the overall river.”

Partnering agencies contributing over $500,000 to the project is being matched by eight landholders through their own labour and cash contributions.

The photo shows vegetation fringing the River on the right, surrounded by a saltmarsh wetland and with mangrove trees on the left on Bryan Royce’s property. This is an example of the type of ‘buffer’ land which protects the health of the River and is being secured through the Project.

Habitats on their properties are part of over 270 hectares of wetlands and 50 hectares of riparian vegetation that will be secured on The Branch and Karuah Rivers.

Bryan Royce is putting the final touches on a fencing project that will protect some 50-odd hectares of wetlands on his property ‘La Grande Lande’.

Bryan said that the cattle get into the wetlands and pug the soil, generally making a mess particularly when it’s wet. The new internal fence allows him to manage the cattle and keep them out of the wetlands for most of the year. Along with the installation of new water points for the cattle, he’s able to get the most out of the good pasture.

This is a great example of multiple public agencies, non-profit organisations and the community coming together to solve big complex problems,” says Geoff Le Messurier, Senior Land Services Officer with Hunter Local Land Services who worked with the farmers to get these projects across the line.  

Water quality and associated catchment health is too big a problem for the farmers to solve by themselves – they’re busy enough running their own farms and businesses after all. Likewise, being private land, there’s only so much government agencies can do.

The only way to address these issues and develop landscape-scale projects is by working together and sharing resources. For instance, on this project Hunter Local Land Services is committing funding from the NSW State Government’s Marine Estate Management Strategy to reduce impacts from land on our marine estate.

The projects associated with these eight neighbouring properties were bigger than our available budget so rather than reducing the scope of our project, we’ve partnered with Midcoast Council and through them Landcare Australia to really make a difference”.

Rowan Ewing, Head of Landcare Services for Landcare Australia, said this was the second major project Landcare Australia has supported in the region to improve wildlife habitat, water quality and agricultural productivity

It is a first step, and there will be more projects getting underway in the Karuah catchment to build on this successful collaboration.

Farmers within the Karuah River Catchment are welcome to join this project and can contact MidCoast Council’s Catchment Management Officer, Drew Morris on 0429 220 493, or email him at andrew.morris@midcoast.nsw.gov.au.

To watch the video on the project, and for more information, visit midcoast.nsw.gov.au/ProtectKaruahRiver.