Nearly $50,000 in newly-announced state funding for coastal environmental restoratation at Ballina’s Shaws Bay will help marine wildlife recover post-floods, the Ballina Shire Council says.
Agencies including the state’s Department of Primary Industries and Environment and community-led OzFish issued warnings to fishers after floods and landslides devastated the Northern Rivers earlier this year, saying contaminants and a lack of oxygen in waterways meant certain fish posed possible health risks to humans if eaten.
Reports elsewhere of dead animals washed up on beaches triggered concerns of significant disaster impacts on marine species, while Ballina Shire’s rivers and ocean remained brown for weeks, even months after Richmond River flooded.
Much of Ballina’s coastline is still a mess of uprooted trees, driftwood and other debris but the scene at Ballina’s Shaws Bay was clean and tranquil on Wednesday when the state’s local government minister visited.
Wendy Tuckerman was in the Ballina Shire to announce an allocation from the NSW Coastal and Estuary Grants Program.
Money for mangroves, marsh and… maybe a big playground
The government said the program was aimed at increasing coastal community resilience and improving the health of estuaries by funding council coastal management at a rate of $2 for every $1 of local government money budgeted.
The calculation meant the Ballina Shire Council should have around $75,000 set aside for improvement works at Shaws Bay, given this week’s funding promise of $49,998.
Mrs Tuckerman said the government would also provide ‘technical support’ to the Ballina Shire Council towards development of its Coastal Management Plan [CMP].
Ballina Shire Council Strategic Planning Manager Matthew Wood said the council’s CMP could take anywhere between four and ten years to roll out but a ‘scoping study’ for Shaws Bay could start soon thanks to this week’s grant and be finished within around twelve months.
Shaws Bay was particularly important as a safety haven for young marine species, Mr Wood said.
‘There’s exchange between the Richmond River and the bay in terms of the movement of fish life,’ Mr Wood said, ‘so this is an opportunity for a great part of the fishery network and the hatchlings to be able to grow’.
Planned restoration work included Shaws Bay’s coastal Cypress, mangroves and salt marshes, which Mr Wood said were crucial for what sounded like a marine-life nursery.
‘It’s all about making sure that habitat is there,’ Mr Wood said.
Other work included in council plans for Shaws Bay included more walking tracks and associated car parking, as well as a proposal for a large expansion of the playground at Pop Denison Park next to the bay.
Ballina Shire Mayor Sharon Cadwallader said the grant meant the council could continue to ‘kick goals’ in coastal management.