A report card on the ecological health of the Cobaki and Terranora Broadwater systems has highlighted major concerns about the state of the waterways but also provided valuable information for future improvement.

The report card provides a score between A and F for the health of the system after being compared with established guidelines.

The data was collected from a total of 43 sites in both the tidal and freshwater sections of the waterway between November 2007 and November 2008.

The overall freshwater system received a D+ (poor) while the overall estuarine system was rated as a C (fair).

Individual scores were:

  • Piggabeen Creek C- (fair)
  • Cobaki Creek C- (fair)
  • Bilambil Creek C- (fair)
  • Duroby Creek D (poor)
  • Cobaki Broadwater C (fair)
  • Terranora Creek C+ (fair)
  • Tweed River mouth B-(good)
  • Terranora Broadwater D+ (poor).

Tweed Shire Council’s Director Community and Natural Resources David Oxenham said the Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP) had been driven by the community’s expectation that these waterways are to be protected, and where necessary, rehabilitated, so they will continue to sustain nature and future generations of the Tweed’s human population.

“One of the most important aspects of managing any asset is to know its condition. By knowing the condition of a system, and how well or poorly various aspects of it are performing, threats can be detected, and management actions directed to alleviate pressures,” Mr Oxenham said.

“Another important aspect of this work is to convey to the community, in very clear terms, the condition that their waterways are in.”

Tweed River Committee chairman Cr Kevin Skinner said the damage to our waterways had not happened overnight, and was largely a legacy of our past land management practices, where steep slopes and riverbanks were completely cleared of native vegetation, and cattle were allowed free access to waterways.

“Our old style of building subdivisions, right down to the water’s edge, with large drains down to the estuary, has also had an impact over many years. We have to ensure that we minimise the impacts of future development on this fragile ecosystem,” Cr Skinner said.

“Revegetating our upper catchment streams is one of the most important things that can be done to reverse the decline in ecological condition that this study has highlighted.”

Cr Skinner said Council and landholders would need to work together to try to revegetate the upper catchment. A significant investment would also be needed in urban stormwater treatment.

“The results of the EHMP show that we, as a community, are on notice,” Cr Skinner said.

“We have a wonderful system of waterways that sustains nature and our lifestyles, but if there is not a significant positive intervention, the health of the estuary and freshwater ecosystem will continue to decline.

“What this means is that the estuary, particularly the broadwaters, could become subject to algae blooms, and this will result in a decrease in the quality of habitat for fish and birds, and less enjoyment of the area by people.”

Within the next month Tweed Shire Council will be releasing a catchment management plan for Cobaki and Terranora Broadwater which describes all of the steps which must be taken by government and the community to begin to turn around the signs of poor health we have found.

The EHMP has been undertaken for Council by the International WaterCentre in collaboration with Council’s Tweed Laboratory Centre and a team of experts from the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water, the University of Queensland and CSIRO.