Update July 2019

After a fairly quiet period, SOMR is again attending to several issues affecting the health of the Macleay River:

Report on Nulla Creek and Styx River State Forests Logging inspection 29 – 30 June 2019 by Arthur Bain
How does logging impact our waterways? SOMR’s approach is to go out and take a look, which is what we did in the last weekend in June.
We explored a Nulla Creek resident’s concerns regarding “devastating” logging in Nulla Five Day State Forest. We found no evidence of Forestry Corporation logging activity in the Nulla Creek area.
We then investigated recent, proposed and current logging operations of compartments in the Styx River State Forest, with harvest plans provided by Forestry Corporation of NSW. We were able to get a good picture of the impacts in the Styx. It’s not pretty. With our brief being focussed on impacts to waterways, we have concerns about logging into gullies, from both past and current operations. – We will be bringing this to the attention of relevant agencies.

Logging a “Non-Regrowth” compartment at Styx River State Forest – photo by Rupert Milne Home

In early April SOMR committee members were guided to sites selected by Forestry Corporation officers In Tamban State Forest.  They were shown recent recent intensive operations and regenration sites. For more details go to http://biz197.inmotionhosting.com/~saveou17/

Report on Comara Station intensive farming inspection, 29 – 30 June 2019 by Christa Schwoebel.
During recent months, the SOMR committee had been told of residents’ concerns about sudden stock increases on a cattle station upriver. Overstocking, especially during drought conditions, can lead to land degradation, soil erosion, damage to watercourses and water pollution.
We had also heard about high mortality rates of stock. Carcasses had reportedly been seen in a creek bed.
So, on the weekend we went upriver, we stopped to have a look at herds grazing near the road, which looked in reasonably good condition although there is hardly any feed on the ground. At first glance, we couldn’t see dead animals, but at a closer look we found a carcass in a creek bed, another one top of a ridge with crows feeding on it, several others in dry shallow watercourses. Overall, a very upsetting and unacceptable situation.
We are now gathering further information and have contacted authorities with our photographic evidence. There are a number of agencies involved in the registration and monitoring of livestock, such as Kempsey Shire Council (KSC), Local Land Services (LLS), Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and not least RSPCA.

Carcass in the creek bed near Five Day Creek Bridge – photo by Christa Schwoebel

SOMR is also looking into the legalities of clearing on steep slopes and irrigation near the Macleay River.

Hillgrove Mine News
While in care and maintenance for 2½ years, the Hillgrove Mine was up for sale. 
On 3 July 2019, Peter Hosking who has been liaising with SOMR over the years informed us about the completion of the sale.

On the same day Australian Mining reported:
“Red River Resources will acquire the shuttered Hillgrove gold-antimony project in New South Wales from Bracken Resources for $4 million in shares.
Hillgrove has received more than $180 million in investment since 2004 from previous owner Straits Resources and Bracken, which acquired Hillgrove from Straits for $33.2 million in 2013.
Red River managing director Mel Palancian said  (…)
“We love gold and bringing mining assets back to life cheaply,”Palancian said. “It’s rare to find a high-grade gold asset that is close to production with quality resources and infrastructure.”
https://www.australianmining.com.au/news/red-river-to-restart-hillgrove-gold-site-following-acquistion/
Further information coming soon.

Paddle on the Macleay 2019
The committee is currently discussing this year’s Paddle.  We are planning to hold the event in late September.  With water levels in the Upper Macleay being unreliable, we are considering the section from Nelsons Wharf to Kempsey Riverside Park.  The suitability of the launch side needs to be investigated before a final decision can be made at the general meeting following the AGM.

SOMR Annual General Meeting
The AGM will be held on Saturday 3 August 10.30at the Kempsey RSL Boardroom.  All members are welcome.  

Forest Visit

Concerns were raised with SOMR about the impact of the new Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) system on water quality in the Macleay Catchment. In line with SOMR’s mode of operation, we contacted Forestry Corporation NSW to get boots on the ground and get perspective on the issues.
On Tuesday 2nd April; Christa, Denise, John and Rupert attended a site visit to selected Forestry Corporation NSW recent intensive operations and regeneration sites, with Peter Walsh (Soil and Water), Justin (Forest Operations Planner) and Reece (Field Manager).
It is important to understand that FCNSW manages 4% of the Macleay catchment, significantly less than our southern neighbours in the Hastings, and the Nambucca and Bellinger catchments to the north.
SOMR was informed that improved mapping software and improved “walk over” machinery allows for the selective harvesting of timber, with minimal damage to the immediate environment.
The Environmental Protection Authority has a team dedicated to monitoring forestry operations, every machine operated by FCNSW is GPS tracked in “real time”, allowing the EPA to access precise data on the location of operations.

SOMR members with Forestry Corporation officers in Tamban State Forest

It was explained that the reduction in riparian buffer zones from 10 m to 5 m will also have little impact on sediment in waterways. There is a 10 m “No Go” zone as well as the buffer and use of the “Walk Over” machine minimises soil disturbance. Operating distances from waterways vary according to stream ratings.
Forestry operations are planned to minimise erosion, snig tracks and access roads are stabilised using cross bank constructions (up to 0.5 m) when operations are concluded. The extent of erosion control is based on the analysis of slope and soil type.
There are concerns regarding the impact of private logging, connectivity for wildlife corridors and the development of monoculture plantations, however these are not under SOMR’s remit, which is exclusively on water quality in the catchment.

Viewing cross bank construction

Future directions include FCNSW use of drones in field management, the inclusion of FCNSW representation on the Macleay Contamination Working Group and SOMR plans taking a look at the ‘Non-Regrowth’ operations in the Styx River area, scheduled for this year.

Paddle 2018 – Experiencing the Yarrahapinni Wetlands

Braving cool showery squalls, about 20 intrepid paddlers formed a small flotilla of kayaks and canoes to enjoy the SOMR ‘Paddle on the Macleay’, to see the results of the restoration of Yarrahapinni Wetlands.

Save Our Macleay River Inc. (SOMR) were delighted to host and organise interesting stories from stakeholders about the return of the Yarrahapinni Wetlands to its natural state as a salt-water fish-nursery with regenerating mangroves. Almost 50 years of blockage of salt water and drainage, which released frequent and extreme pollution events, resulted in frequent oyster damage and fish-kill events. The return of the Wetlands being “alive again”, was found interesting and much appreciated by these hardy paddlers.

Congregating in light rain at the Golden Hole, Elder Uncle Neville Donovan welcomed the paddlers to this significant Aboriginal area.

Oyster grower Todd Graham greeted the paddlers and described the positive effects of the natural salt water flow in the Wetlands on the health of the river. Besides using improved breeding stock in recent times, the clean water has greatly contributed to oysters maturing very quickly. Unfortunately, black water events from the adjacent Clybucca Wetlands are still occurring with lethal effects on the oysters. The restoration of the Clybucca Wetlands is eagerly awaited.

Launching the boats at the Golden Hole

When entering the wetlands, with the almost high tide carrying them, the paddlers saw salt water pouring in, two to three-metre high mangroves establishing, an abundance of pelicans, cormorants, herons and other birds feeding on fish and even the regeneration of ‘sea-grass’ on the margins of Middle Island.

Paddeling into the Wetlands

Going up into The Broadwater, the real expanse of now established fish nursery habitat unfolded. The edges and low islands are strongly tinged with the light green of regenerating mangroves. To the east with a steeper bank is the coastal rainforest, believed to be on top of a part of one the largest recorded ‘Middens’ in Australia.

Going further up, young mangroves were seen in what used to be fresh-water reed ‘side-swamps’, now covered in salt water. After about 1.5 to 2km up, the mangrove regeneration became patchy, but there was one mature mangrove that had surprisingly survived the 45 years of fresh-water!

At a distance of 2-3 km from tidal salt water in flow, the paddlers could see that significant rehabilitation in this area will take time. Small areas of ‘Salt-Marsh’ regeneration are develop ing on the edges of the old and dug ‘channel’, but the dead fresh-water vegetation looked like a bomb zone!

The intrepid paddlers stopped for a ‘lunch-break’ at the site of ‘The Scalds’, some 3.5km up the Wetlands before returning. As the name suggests, this was a large area of Acid Sulphate surface soil scalds, releasing sulphuric acid and pollutants into the Macleay River Estuary every time it dried out and rained again – destroying fish, oysters and tourism.

Relaxing at the lunch break, listening to Matt Wills from NPWNSW

During the lunch break, paddlers were interested to hear from National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Matt Wills, of the next steps in the Yarrahapinni Wetlands rehabilitation. It is planned to remove further parts of the ‘levee’, fill-in the remnant ‘flood gates’ and undertake revegetation and bank stabilisation activities; thus restoring the wetlands close to its prior culturally significant and natural state.

Returning to the Golden Hole, most participants just let their boats drift, a most peaceful experience.

It was generally agreed by the paddlers, that this was one of the few ‘success stories’ for rehabilitation of a significant wetland and a boost to the reduction in damage to the environment, economy and tourism from past practices.