Bega River
Community comment on the objectives

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A general community discussion meeting attended by more than 50 people was held in Bega, a meeting for Aboriginal people was held at Narooma (attended by representatives of many of the south coast Aboriginal communities) and several written submissions were received.

Water quality and value of the resource

It was obvious from the meeting that people in Bega have long been aware of the importance of water to their local community. In particular, the needs of dairy farmers, oyster growers, tourism, people who drink water from local streams, as well as the aquatic environment's own needs, were canvassed. A broad range of environmental problems within the catchment were highlighted (see Major issues, below), and these are discussed in more detail later. The key issue repeatedly raised was the impact of erosion and sedimentation on local waterbodies. People recognised the need to improve water quality, but were uncertain about the overall costs of achieving these gains.

The catchment community supported all the proposed environmental values and the objectives needed to support these values. Of particular significance were a healthy aquatic ecology (protection of aquatic ecosystems), safe swimming (primary contact recreation), having the water look clean and pleasant (visual amenity), being able to drink the water after little treatment (drinking water supply) and being able to use the water for household purposes (homestead water supply). Most respondents wanted very good water quality.

River flows

The community considered the most important flow issues to be the effects of low or absent flows, and protecting the estuary. People who irrigate do not generally have a store of water, and restricting use at times of low flow would have a considerable impact on their business. There was also some concern at the increasing riparian use of water as a result of rural subdivision.

The impact of erosion and sedimentation on flows was considered very important. The infilling of local waterways with sediments was seen as a restriction on the amount of standing water available for human uses and aquatic needs. The colonising of sediments by willows was also considered to have an important impact on flows.

Major issues

The process of developing the objectives has highlighted several major issues that need progressive action to achieve a healthy and viable Bega River catchment. Comment on some of these is included in Section 3, as part of setting objectives.

The following issues have been identified as needing priority action:

Existing programs

There has been much initiative and cooperation displayed in the local community to address water issues. The Bega Valley Water Management Committee (formed by the Far South Coast Catchment Management Committee) has implemented an interim flow management plan for the Bemboka River. There are many associated projects coordinated by this committee, including a wetland survey, a groundwater study of the Bega River sands aquifer system, an audit of water use, and an investigation of riparian water use. Reports from some of these projects and other local studies are listed in the Bibliography.

Communities, through Landcare, Rivercare and other programs, are already undertaking important on-the-ground projects. The NSW Government has established and funded programs such as Blue-Green Algae Management, Estuary Management Program, Floodplain Management Program, Wetlands Action, the Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program and the NSW Shellfish Quality Assurance Program. At the Commonwealth level, related programs are being funded through Landcare and the Natural Heritage Trust.

Where programs such as these are already underway in the catchment, they should be acknowledged and, where possible, incorporated in water and estuary management plans.

This page was published 1 May 2006