Paddle on the Macleay 2018

On October 13th, Save Our Macleay River (SOMR) will hold an event to promote awareness of developments and progress of the restoration of Yarrahapinni Wetlands and reduced Acid Sulphate and low dissolved oxygen pollution, as well as create an awareness of Antimony/Arsenic hot spots on the Lower Macleay

Bring your canoe, food and water for an informative, enjoyable day on Saturday October 13th to the Golden Hole 10km south of Stuarts Point by 11.30am.

Paddeling the little known Yarrahapinni Wetlands, participants can witness the restoration from artificial freshwater wetland to its natural salt water one and see the change in vegetation from Swamp-Oak to Mangrove. The re-introduction of tidal salt water has resulted in a massive reduction in Acid Sulphate and low Dissolved Oxygen pollution from the wetlands area and resulted in restoration to a significant fish nursery habitat.

The paddlers will also hear about the proposed Clybucca Wetlands restoration with similar issues, as well as Antimony/Arsenic impacts on the river and ‘hot spots’ in the estuary flood-plain.

The Paddle will go from The Golden Hole launch area, 9km south of Stuarts Point, to the top of the tidal extent of the Yarrahapinni Wetlands National Park and return the same way. The Paddle starts through the ‘Broadwater’, winds up the narrowing Borigalla / Barraganyatti Creek, past the old ‘Scalds’ area and up the old cut drain to the Whalan’s Bridge Area.

  • Paddle is about 5.5km each way, with incoming and outgoing tide, estimate about 1.5 to 2.0 hours each way.
  • Registration Form: Available below (scroll down to end of this post) and on facebook for pre-filling or completion on the day.
  • Registration Fee is $5.00 per person – to cover insurances – payable at registration before launch
  • Paddlers to bring safety equipment of life jacket, hats, sunscreen, insect repellent etc.

Due to inaccessibility

  • Paddlers to also bring: All food, water/drinks, etc as the area is too inaccessible for SOMR to provide same
  • No toilet ‘facilities’ will be available, paddlers need to follow appropriate bush/camping protocols.

Directions to The Golden Hole launch area for the 2018 Paddle

For pdf print version scroll to end of this post

  • Coming north or south on the Pacific Highway (A1) exit at the Stuarts Point Interchange and from the eastern roundabout take the Stuart’s Point exit.
  • Follow the signs to Stuarts Point and at the end of the road though the village, just past the shops, turn right toward Fishermans Reach for approximately 6km on bitumen road to the Boat Ramp area – where the bitumen ends!
  • At this point, there will be SOMR representatives to provide detailed directions. If 4WD drivers’ can; please offer to assist with transfer of those with 2 WDs.

For those with 2WDs or those wishing transport to the Golden Hole – Arrive at Fishermans Reach by 10.30am:

  • Stop here and find a safe parking area, that will not obstruct others or residents.
  • Approach a SOMR representative and ask for transfer to the Golden Hole launch-site.
  • Please ensure you have gathered ALL your ‘necessaries’ for easy loading, as asked by a SOMR representative. (This to include: hat, sunscreen, life jacket, water, food, car keys, $ for registration fee, etc. – And of-course your canoe and paddle!)

For those with 4WDs, directions will include:

  • Continue past some houses on the right and keep going take one of the sand tracks under the powerline for about 3.5km.
  • At the fence-line, take the right-hand track into the Yarrahapinni Wetlands National Park westwards. (Please do not leave this track. – To protect the highly significant ‘middens’ in this area.)
  • Continue along this track until you reach ‘The Golden Hole’ and please park as directed, for assembly prior to launch.

Click for print version of indemnity/registration form with info summary Paddle 2018 Registration/Indemnity and DirectionsMap2018

Revisiting Hillgrove Mine – 30th July 2018

From 620m underground to the Tailings dams on the escarpment, SOMR representatives explored what a mine in Care & Maintenance looks like.
Guided by Peter Hosking, Care & Maintenance manager and metallurgist, with Senior Geologist Mitch Tarrant, SOMR representatives were given an overview of the current operations at Hillgrove, and a tour of Metz Mine Centre, water management facilities and Brackin’s Spur Mine.
Hillgrove Mine ceased production of Antimony in 2016, entering a phase of exploration for gold resources and Care and Maintenance.
There are four main areas of focus in Care and Maintenance; environmental management, maintaining the asset, maintaining licenses and consents for mining and exploration, and promoting future investment.
Hillgrove mine currently employs six staff, Peter, Mitch, a Fitter, an electrician, and two machinery operators. These staff must fulfil multiple roles in the management of the mine.
At various stages of the life of the mine, it has produced both gold and antimony. To be responsive to market forces, they need to be able to balance extraction, and processing of both elements.
Water management is a key process in mining, and the major cause for potential environmental concern. Hillgrove invested significant funding to provide infrastructure to allow improved water management, ventilation of the mine and exploratory drilling. 
Current dam levels are low, and the mine could manage two one in a hundred-year rain events according to the manager Peter Hosking. The investment in new membranes for the Reverse Osmosis water treatment plant, at a cost of around $75,000 is a further step in ensuring contaminated water does not enter the catchment.
Monitoring of the Tailings dams continues to follow the robust procedures in place when the mine was in production – daily visual and detailed weekly inspections, monthly water sampling, monthly piezometer recordings and three-monthly surveying to check for dam wall movement are still implemented.
SOMR would like to see Tailing Storage Facility 1, a dam commissioned in 1982, removed, the contents reprocessed, and the remaining contaminated material stored well away from the escarpment in a modern, well-engineered containment facility, with the current site revegetated. 
Maintaining the mine in care and maintenance is an ongoing expense, with no income, Hillgrove are keen to find investors to allow them to recommence operations.
If investors are not forthcoming, the company is still obliged to care for the site and to protect the river.

Activities May 2018

The last couple of weeks in May brought a flurry of activities.  First, a long expected meeting of numerous agencies concerned with the health of the Macleay River, then the Clybucca Wetlands Paddle.

Click here for a full report of the meeting. Macleay River Working Group 24th May 2018

What to Do on the Clybucca?

At an event hosted by SOMR and sponsored by North Coast Local Land Services, 55 paddlers went up the Clybucca Creek System on 26th May to explore and be informed of the environmental problems and a range of potential solutions.
A research and community engagement project is currently being undertaken on the Clybucca Floodplain, following a successful funding application for $365,000 under the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Flagship Fish Habitat Grants Program. The project, submitted by North Coast Local Land Services (LLS), will deliver a remediation strategy, complete with engineering design options to improve water management across the floodplain.
It will aim to neutralise acidic conditions across a large area of Mayes and Doughboy Swamps, improve freshwater wetland condition, and rehabilitate estuarine habitat. It will also aim to improve the drainage of productive grazing land throughout the Clybucca – Collombatti floodplain.
North Coast Local Land Services – Senior Land Services Officer Max Osborne said a key component of the project is community engagement. The Water Research Laboratory at the University of New South Wales (UNSW-WRL) has been engaged to prepare the strategy and the aim is to ensure all stakeholders’ concerns are addressed.
“Over the next 12 months, North Coast Local Land Services and UNSW-WRL will be working closely with landholders on the Clybucca floodplain, Seven Oaks Drainage Union, Kempsey Shire Council, NSW Government agencies, community groups, the Aboriginal community, industry, and academics to ensure we get the best outcomes for the region,” he said.
What’s the problem?
Over drainage of coastal wetlands has created problems with acid sulfate soils, causing sulfuric acid runoff; and has also increased the frequency and magnitude of “blackwater” events, depleting oxygen in the creeks and river after flooding. This has unfortunately had wider impacts on the estuary, including the loss of fish habitat and impacts to aquatic life, such as fish and oysters in the Lower Macleay. This impacts the environment, the local economy, recreational and commercial fishing, traditional usage and tourism.
What caused this problem?
The Clybucca sub-catchment has undergone hydrological change over time. At one time, it was covered by the sea and had slowly filled in by the sediment eroding from the upper Macleay catchment. In the late 19th century the area was a freshwater wetland. However, the marine mud (high in sulfur) lay below the wetlands sediment.
Tidal restricting barriers, flood gates and extensive drainage networks have lowered surface and groundwater levels and exposed the marine muds (naturally occurring acid sulphate soils) to oxygen—resulting in the acidification of topsoil, groundwater, in-drain water and ultimately, the Macleay estuary. (Osborne 2018)
Over-drainage has allowed flood-intolerant grass species to dominate where previously only wetland-adapted species thrived. During floods, these grasses are inundated for several days. They die and rot—depleting the floodwater of oxygen. This hypoxic (no oxygen) blackwater then drains into the Macleay estuary, which damages the aquatic ecosystem. (Osborne 2018)      Over-drainage has allowed flood-intolerant grass species to dominate where previously only wetland-adapted species thrived. During floods, these grasses are inundated for several days. They die and rot—depleting the floodwater of oxygen. This hypoxic (no oxygen) blackwater then drains into the Macleay estuary, which damages the aquatic ecosystem. (Osborne 2018)
Russell Yerbury, a former beef producer from the Clybucca Floodplain and Max Osborne from North Coast Local Land Services discussed the issues and some of the potential solutions being investigated as part of the remediation strategy project.
SOMR would like to thank Max and Russell for their commitment to improving the health of the Macleay, and for supporting the Clybucca Wetlands Paddle. We would also like to thank the participants in the paddle and encourage community to be informed and participate in this crucial decision impacting the future health of the Macleay River.
Wetlands Australia 2018 https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/b0f30409-2d92-4ec6-a57d-35e59b765be0/files/wa30-full.pdf Pg. 35 – 36 relate to the Clybucca Wetlands
Blackwater Fact Sheet http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/c6a83595-14ef-4d82-8db3-0aec0a172b64/files/cewo-blackwater-factsheet.pdf
Wetland Pasture https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/405696/Water-couch-growth-and-productivity.pdf

Click here for a video created by Elsinor Photography showing the Paddle.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoOsH7G3koY