Seagrass, mangroves and salt marsh at Ukerebagh Island, Terranora
Seagrass, mangroves and salt marsh at Ukerebagh Island, Terranora Creek
13 August 2009

UQ research has helped take the pulse of waterways in northern New South Wales and flag what needs to be done to keep them in good shape.

The International WaterCentre (IWC) engaged PhD student Peter Hanington to assess the health of coastal waterways within the NSW shire of Tweed Heads for 12 months, focusing on the Cobaki and Terranora broadwaters and their catchments.

These waterways sustain a huge range of plants and animals and are used by thousands of Tweed residents and visitors each year.

Mr Hanington, from UQ’s Centre for Marine Studies, said the project is the first time the successful Healthy Waterway’s Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP) had been delivered outside South-east Queensland. SEQ’s EHMP is considered one of the most comprehensive aquatic ecosystem monitoring programs in Australia.

“The close proximity of the Tweed has meant that we were able to adopt a very similar set of ecosystem health indicators to those that have been used to monitor SEQ waterways,” Mr Hanington said.

“An additional benefit was that we could directly compare our results to data compiled from neighbouring waterways that have been monitored as part of the SEQ EHMP since 2001.”

Information relating to fish communities, seagrass, algal growth and water quality were collected monthly from 28 locations, from the source to the sea, over a full year.

The resulting report and report card, launched on August 4, classify the freshwater system as poor and the estuarine system as fair.

Separate sites were graded on an “A” (excellent) to “F” (fail) scale, with aggregate scores for freshwater (D+) and estuarine (C) systems also awarded.

The result of the health assessment has highlighted major concerns about the state of Tweed’s waterways and provides the local council with a baseline with which to develop plans for improvement.

The project involved collaboration between UQ, Tweed Shire Council, SEQ Healthy Waterways Partnership, the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management and CSIRO.

To download a copy of the report and report card, click here.

The International WaterCentre is a joint venture between UQ, Griffith University, Monash University and the University of Western Australia.

Media: Agnese Middleton (07 3123 7766 , or Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049,