A project to eradicate low-level fish barriers on the Brunswick River is so important to river health and fish breeding it has been dubbed ‘Bringing back the Brunswick’ by Byron Shire Council.
It is described as one of the most significant environmental projects ever undertaken in the Byron Shire, with council receiving grant funding from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to reinstate fish passage in the Brunswick River.
The half-million-dollar program, made possible by a $274,600 grant from the NSW DPI Flagship Fish Habitat Grants Program equally matched by Byron Shire Council, will see two causeways in the mid-reaches of the Brunswick River upgraded.
It complements another grant from the DPI Habitat Action program, which will see the removal of three other low-level fish barriers in the river.
But locals who drive cattle and cycle over the low-level causeways have concerns about their removal.
Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, said the project is ‘a huge win for the environment because opening the upper reaches of the Brunswick River is something that will have long-term positive impacts on native fish populations’.
‘So often the focus is on fish and marine life on the coast and to be able to shine a spotlight on a project that will improve habitat in the Brunswick River is a great outcome for the environment and will be welcomed by our community,’ Mayor Richardson said.
DPI Fisheries Manager, Scott Nichols said the grants will fund restoration works that will open up seven kilometres of upstream habitat and allow 27.4km of fish passage to the estuary mouth. Local residents will also benefit from safer vehicle access.
‘The restoration works will benefit fish species including the iconic Australian Bass, which live in the upper freshwater reaches of the river and migrate to the lower Brunswick Estuary for breeding,’ Mr Nichols said.
90 per cent river access
‘Currently, fish including bass and mullet can only migrate to the upper reaches of the Brunswick River for around ten days every year when high rainfall drowns out the crossings allowing fish to swim up and over them.
‘These grants will ensure that native fish will have access to 90 per cent of the river for 100 per cent of the year,’ Mr Nichols said.
North Coast Parliamentary Secretary Ben Franklin said the remediation of these priority fish passage barriers ‘will produce a permanent, positive outcome for future generations of anglers in the Byron Shire to come.’
Barriers to fish passage include poorly-designed road crossings, weirs and dams, and result in severe implications for native fish populations.
‘The project will directly address these issues in our local area, with long-term environmental impacts expected too,’ Mr Franklin said.
Causeway removal concerns
But locals have told Echonetdaily that they have concerns about the impact the removal of the causeways will have on their ability to move livestock around the area safely.
Echonetdaily understands that while the two major bridges are being replaced, three smaller causeways will not, forcing farmers and cyclists to take longer and potentially more dangerous detours.
Local farmers Garry and Bob Hampson said they need Durrumbul Road to remain with the causeways intact ‘so that we can move cattle from paddock to paddock, without having to drive the cattle along Main Arm Road’.
‘As you can appreciate, driving cattle along any road with an 80km speed limit poses significant dangers for motorists, ourselves, and the cattle,’ they said.
‘The dangers regarding cattle driving are especially heightened for us, given that there is a blind corner at Durrumbul (a notorious accident black spot), and a hill at the Settlement Road/Main Arm road intersection.
‘Keeping Durrumbul Road and its causeways intact will serve two purposes: it will provide a valuable and much needed recreational addition to this area as a bike path, and removes the need for us drive cattle along Main Arm Road, which, should Durrumbul Road and its causeways be removed, will be required in order to keep our family farm of 55 years still a viable business,’ the Hampsons said.
Byron Shire Council said it will work with residents living near the causeways ‘to ensure they are aware of the Bringing Back the Brunswick project and possible short-term disruptions when causeways are being upgraded’.
The Flagship Fish Habitat Grants Program is financed from funds generated through collection of the recreational fishing licence fee and is managed by DPI Fisheries on behalf of the Recreational Fishing Trust.
For more information on the Flagship Fish Habitat Grant Program, visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/habitat/rehabilitating/ahr-grants-program/flagship-fish-eoi