Recently Rous County Council voted unanimously to prepare a proposal for a $150 million bid to the State’s Snowy Hyrdo Legacy Fund to ensure long term water security, natural flood mitigation and improved river health for the Northern Rivers region.
Rous County Council Chair, Cr Keith Williams, said the idea for the Northern Rivers Watershed Initiative was born with the realisation that flood risk and river health are interrelated. ‘Slowing water flow in strategically selected streams by revegetating and fencing off stream banks, can reduce downstream flood peaks, improve water quality and provide habitat,’ said Cr Williams after the vote. ‘Similarly, by better understanding ground water flows and recharge zones, we can target efforts to revegetate and increase soil moisture retention and improve infiltration rates in important ground water source areas.
‘By having a wholistic view of water within the combined Northern Rivers catchments the Initiative can deliver multiple benefits from the same dollar of investment.’
‘It would be a fitting legacy of the Snowy River Scheme to restore some of the natural function of the Northern Rivers of NSW and ensure a sustainable water supply for the region.’
Cr Williams says that the Initiative will need the support of the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation to progress and the first step of this process is to formalise the proposal and engage with all Councils in the region. ‘I think most people are aware of the dire state of the Richmond River. The loss of nearly every wild oyster in the estuary more than two years ago has been a catalyst for action.’
Cr Williams says the solutions to the problems besetting our rivers are known. ‘There are lessons to be learnt from the successes of the Tweed River. But piecemeal funding has meant that existing plans, such as the Coastal Zone Management Plan for the Richmond River Estuary have failed to halt the obvious decline in the river.
‘The Northern Rivers Watershed Initiative aims to turn this around.’