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Protecting precious coastal vegetation on Shark Island

A large area of littoral rainforest on Shark Island is receiving some special attention from North Coast Local Land Services and Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council.  The two organisations are tackling weed invasions that are threatening a large area of coastal saltmarsh on Shark Island in the Macleay River estuary.

The Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council has engaged Henry Dunn to carry out the work.

Hugo Maree from North Coast Local Land Services said Henry is a Kempsey-based Aboriginal weed contractor who is not only building his own ability, but also demonstrating the value of this type of work in the Aboriginal and broader community.

“Henry’s skills are often in demand and include fencing, bush regeneration and environmental survey work,” Hugo said.

The littoral rainforest and coastal saltmarsh are marine-influenced endangered ecological communities (EECs), listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

The two EECs are exceptionally well represented on Shark Island, giving the location important conservation value.

Higher protection exists at federal level as well, with the littoral rainforest currently listed as critically endangered under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Subtropical Coastal Saltmarsh was recently listed as vulnerable under the same legislation.

Coastal saltmarsh gains high statutory protection because it only exists in limited parts of estuary systems, an extent that has shown to be shrinking due to numerous impacts.

Coastal saltmarsh occurs in dynamic intertidal areas, often at the top of the tidal zone such as on the high side of mangroves and towards the upper limit of higher tide cycles.

Known threats include changed drainage affecting water level and quality, climate change affecting sea level, incursion by taller salinity tolerant vegetation, livestock damage and other human impacts like pollution, inappropriate fire regime and trampling.

As stated in the EEC Determination by the NSW Scientific Committee, coastal saltmarsh is considered likely to become extinct within the North Coast region if these threats cannot be addressed effectively.

Saltmarsh habitats are of real social and economic importance too, being feeding and nursery areas for invertebrates, fish and shorebirds.

This ecology directly supports our fisheries, recreation and tourism industries and is a great example of ecological health supporting economic and social outcomes.

Hugo Marree said the project had strengthened an important relationship between the Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council and North Coast Local Land Services, highlighting the regard for Aboriginal land conservation including recognition and support of indigenous roles with conservation work.

This project is supported by North Coast Local Land Services with funding from the National Landcare Programme and Catchment Action NSW.

Photo caption:

Left to right – Greg Douglas Acting, CEO Kempsey LALC; Henry Dunn, weed contractor and Hugo Marree of North Coast Local Land Services; who are kicking a goal for the conservation of endangered ecological communities on Aboriginal land.

Media contact:

Hugo Marree, North Coast Local Land Services, Phone 6563 6707