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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Ballina council to send damning Richmond River report to ministers

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Duck Creek, part of the Richmond River estuary. Image supplied by Rous County Council

A majority of Ballina Shire Councillors has voted to send a damning report on the Richmond River catchment to relevant state and federal ministers.

Independent Rodney Bruem has called out the need for improved management of the catchment repeatedly in recent years and brought the matter to the council again last week.

Cr Bruem shared a report called From Pristine to Polluted by Dr Matt Landos, described by OzFish volunteer group as an expert in aquatic contaminants, and how they enter and impact aquatic ecosystems

Dr Landos is said to have had a veterinary career in a mixed dairy cattle practice on the mid-north coast in 1995 before shifting toa full-time focus onaquatic animals for NSW Fisheries at Wollongbar Agriculture Institute.

His work at the Fisheries included field investigations, research, laboratory reviews and providing biosecurity policy advice.

Helaunched the Future Fisheries Veterinary Service Pty Ltd In 2005.

30 years, 26 reports later, Richmond River quality still poor

Who is responsible for cleaning up the rubbish in the Richmond River? Photo Graeme Gibson

Dr Landos’ report on the Richmond River is summed up in the title and is one of three catchment areas detailed.

‘The degraded water quality of the Richmond River has been under the spotlight for over 30 years,’ Dr Landos writes in the report, referring to ‘at least 26 reports’ from different government and research agencies in that time identifying the condition of the Richmond River as poor’.

The reports have also included plans to improve the catchment but Dr Landos says to a large extent, the plans are ‘yet to translate into sustained improvements in water quality’.

Some small-scale useful catchment restoration activities have started in the past 10 years, he says.

Some of the main issues detailed in the report include impacts on the catchment of animal containments, chemicals and general environmental degradation.

Cr Bruem noted in his motion ‘many of the approaches to improve catchment health identified in the paper, such as broad scale land use management change and “polluter pays” initiatives’, were areas of state and federal government responsibility.

‘The paper provides an information platform to engage with state and federal ministers with catchment related responsibilities to raise awareness about the Richmond catchment and management needs,’ Cr Bruem said.

Staff defend government projects in Richmond catchment

Richmond River catchment from the air. Photo supplied.

But staff said the council already working with other councils in the catchment through the development of the Richmond River – Coastal Management Program (CMP).

‘This CMP, being prepared in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders and state agencies, is the mechanism to document and advance Council lead,’ staff noted, ‘as well as State and Federal Government, projects and initiatives’.

Significant monitoring was being undertaken and information being gathered through the Ballina Shire Council – Coast and Estuary CMP, staff noted.

The Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) had also identified the Richmond River as a case study, with ‘significant investment and projects’ happening in the catchment, staff said.

The Department Primary Industry was due to carry out a Riparian Bank Condition Assessment for the Richmond River Catchment and Marine Vegetation Strategy under MEMS, ‘for the tidal component of the estuary’, staff said.

Staff said they would incorporate reference to the MEMA program, ‘as well as local initiatives that are underway’, when writing to state and federal ministers.

Richmond River ‘an absolute sewer’, says Bruem

Ballina Cr Rod Bruem. Photo David Lowe.

Speaking at last week’s ordinary council meeting for May, Cr Bruem said the river was an ‘absolute sewer’ in some parts.

‘The sewer part includes sewerage,’ Cr Bruem said, before referring to the flood damaged Lismore Wastewater Treatment Plant and issues with rain at Ballina’s plant.

‘It’s my feeling that we have a responsibility to the people of the LGA to begin to address it in a more substantive way,’ Cr Bruem said of the state of the catchment.

‘The health of waterways is tied to community health,’ Cr Bruem said.

Independent Cr Phillip Meehan moved an amendment that the council forward a copy of the report to the Rous County Council, ‘as the leader of the CMP process for the Richmond River catchment’.

But the amendment lapsed and Cr Bruem’s motion was carried with Crs Sharon Cadwallader, Kiri Dicker, Simon Chate, Eoin Johnston, Stephen McCarthy, Eva Ramsey and Rodney Bruem voting in favour.

Only Cr Phillip Meehan voted against, with Crs Jeff Johnson and Nigel Buchanan both absent.

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  1. Rod brief is not an independent but a member of team cadwalleder, nats in disguise. Must be election time for councils coming up. Hate to sound cynical but every time he has opposition he calls them greens. It’s a shame over such an important issue this is raised just before council elections.

  2. All of a sudden Bruem gives a stuff about the environment. Did I miss something, is there an election on the way. Bruem appears to be doing a little green washing.


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