Richmond River
Community comment on the objectives

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Two community discussion meetings attended by more than 200 people were held in Lismore. A meeting for Aboriginal people, held in Lismore, was attended by representatives of many far north coast Aboriginal communities. Thirty-two written submissions were received from indivduals, irrigation farmers (banana growers), and community and environmental groups. These expressed a wide variety of views. Some people felt that the discussion papers (EPA 1997) did not provide enough explanation of possible impacts, or enough detail to assess the objectives and what would be involved in achieving them-including their economic impacts. Some disliked the format of the meetings.

Water quality and value of the resource

Most submissions indicated a high level of community support for a healthy catchment, with good quality water and sufficient flows-both from a resource point of view, and because of feelings of attachment and well-being associated with knowing that the catchment was healthy. Most respondents wanted unpolluted water, rehabilitated riparian zones, and a diversity of native animals with their habitats protected. A range of environmental issues within the catchment was identified (see 'Major issues', below).

Many people supported a total-catchment approach, increased efficiency of water use, and management of the entire water cycle (including reuse), particularly in urban areas. There was widespread recognition that achieving the objectives would have a cost for the community, although many submissions indicated that having a healthy catchment was worthwhile. Most people strongly supported spreading the costs throughout the community, rather than targeting a particular sector, as they recognised that the community as a whole would benefit from achieving good water quality and a river flow regime that protected both human and environmental health.

Most respondents supported a range of proposed environmental values and their corresponding objectives, with a healthy aquatic ecology (protection of aquatic ecosystems), safe swimming (primary contact recreation), water looking pleasant and clean (visual amenity), being able to drink the water after some treatment (drinking water supply), being able to irrigate (irrigation water supply), and being able to use the water for household purposes (homestead water supply), and to water livestock (livestock water supply) being particularly significant uses within the catchment.

River flows

The responses indicated that the community considered that the most important river flow issues related to low flows or no flows in the river, the connection between the river or estuary and its wetlands, managing groundwater use and minimising the exposure of acid sulfate soils, retaining some natural variability in the flow regime, minimising the impact of instream structures and protecting the estuary. Some people at the meeting commented on the inequity of access to low flows and irrigation water. There was less agreement on support for river flow objectives than for water quality objectives.

Various potential solutions were put forward to improve river flow problems, with some of these indicating conflicting viewpoints-e.g. some wanted more off-river storages built while others wanted to limit construction of farm dams and strictly control their use; some wanted more dams on the river while others wanted existing weirs and dams removed.

The river flow objectives that caused most concern (particularly among irrigators) were those involving potential controls on access to water when the river was flowing little or not at all.

Major issues

The process of developing the objectives identified the following major issues that people felt needed progressive action to achieve a healthy and viable Richmond River and coastal lakes system (comment on some of these is included in the supporting information for the objectives listed in Section 3):

Existing programs

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

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

This page was published 1 May 2006