THIS year is set to be a big one for the Tweed River, as Tweed Shire Council finalises a major 10-year plan for river use, and the NSW Government decides on whether boating will continue to be allowed in the system.
The Tweed River Estuary Management Plan, set to be released for public exhibition in March, will balance environmental, recreational and economic uses of the river, setting out a 10-year plan of council works.
The final river plan may have "character zones” to support the continuation of active and passive recreational use, and river rehabilitation. The character zones acknowledge the key issues of bank erosion and usage conflicts, and is based on a study of the river which recommended a restriction on towing activities in environmentally sensitive areas.
Those areas are upstream of the Commercial Rd boat ramp in Murwillumbah and adjacent to Stott's Island and the Tweed Broadwater.
Council waterways program leader Tom Alletson said a new study of the river would provide a detailed snapshot of the river system, including serious cases of erosion in the upper catchment.
"It's difficult to summarise the whole estuary's condition with a single rating as conditions vary considerably across differing attributes and along its length,” Mr Alletson said.
"Overall we can say it is in good condition in its lower reaches with poor conditions upstream, particularly upstream of Condong and in the Rous River.
"There has also been a huge amount of non-natural debris washed out of Murwillumbah which is now sitting on the bottom of the river.”
The Tweed River plan will be finalised with a decision from the NSW Roads and Maritime Service on a review of its Tweed River Boating Plan, which controls vessel use on the river.
"All decisions about vessel management on the river are in the hands of the NSW Department of Roads and Maritime Services,” Mr Alletson said.
"It is hoped that by highlighting different areas where passive uses such as kayaking and towing sports such as water skiing are most suitable, a balanced and enjoyable river experienced can be achieved for recreational uses sometimes seen as incompatible.”
Land owners in the upper estuary will also be encouraged to rehabilitate bankside vegetation and improve agricultural best practice.
"This would then benefit downstream reaches and could lead to long-term improvements in water quality and seagrass, with benefits for uses such as swimming and fishing,” Mr Alletson said.
Mr Alletson said the best way farmers and landholders can help is to restore natural vegetation along riverbanks.
"This is the single most important factor in improving the banks upstream,” he said.
"Cattle should be kept away from riverbanks wherever possible to prevent erosion and to prevent their effluent from running off into the river.”
The Terranora Inlet and Cobaki Broadwater are covered by a separate existing plan of management, and testing in the Cobaki Broadwater suggests PFAS contamination is not present in the ecosystem.
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