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Macleay River Catchment gets a health check

Ecohealth water samplingThe Macleay River Catchment is next in line to get a health check as part of a program designed to report on the health of our aquatic ecosystems to the community.

The Ecohealth program, coordinated by North Coast Local Land Services, coordinates existing monitoring activities of local and state government agencies resulting better reporting on the health of our catchments across the region.

The Ecohealth program is used to gain a greater understanding of the ecological function of our rivers and to undertake activities that help to restore and protect river health values.

North Coast Local Land Services Senior Land Services Officer Max Osborne said "Ecohealth measures key indicators of aquatic ecosystem health and compares the results against national guidelines to determine how healthy our rivers and estuaries are for the plants and animals that live in them.

Ecohealth reports on the condition of freshwater fish species, sizes and population numbers, aquatic macroinvertabrates (small animals that live all, or part, of their lives in water), river bank vegetation condition, as well as water quality.

"Sampling is undertaken over a twelve month period and gives an excellent assessment of the average condition of a river system for that period.

An important component of the Ecohealth program is a Report Card brochure which informs the residents of the valley about the condition of their river. The report card awards grades to the river system in an easy to understand map based format. Report Cards will be sent to all Macleay ratepayers in early 2016 and provide an opportunity to gain a catchment wide perspective on aquatic health.

"Repeated over time, the report card will show long term changes in river condition and help answer the age old question of whether things have improved or not," Mr Osborne said.

The data collected in the program will be used to develop grades for each of the 42 sites that are to sampled as well as overall grades for each of the 4 major landscape units: New England Tablelands, Gorge Country, Macleay Valley and the Lower Macleay Floodplain.

The Macleay Catchment Ecohealth project is already underway with Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) undertaking fish sampling. The first of the bimonthly water sampling is expected to commence early in February with the report and report card due for release in May 2016.

"We will cover a significant section of the 11,450 square kilometres of the Macleay catchment from the tributary creeks on the New England Tablelands to the river mouth at South West Rocks." Mr Osborne said.

Kempsey Shire Council is the latest council to join the Ecohealth program as a result of a $100,000 grant from the NSW Government Coast and Estuaries Program announced by Minister for the Environment, Rob Stokes, as part of a $3.2 million funding package to assist local councils carry out coastal and estuarine management projects. Funding has also been provided by Kempsey Shire Council, North Coast Local Land Services, Australian Government's "Caring For Our Country" program and Northern Tablelands Local Land Services.

The Macleay Ecohealth project is the product of a partnership between the North Coast Local Land Services, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, University of New England, NSW Office of Water, Kempsey Shire Council, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries).

Image: Sampling program on the Macleay River Catchment

Media Contact:                      Max Osborne, Senior Land Services Officer, 02 6563 6710