Tweed River Estuary Management Plan 2019

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The Tweed River Estuary is the tidal section of the river, a 35km stretch between the Bray Park Weir at Murwillumbah and the river mouth at Tweed Heads.

Council has been working on a new management plan for the Tweed River Estuary since 2016.

The Tweed River Estuary Management Plan will set the focus and provide recommendations for management of the Tweed River for 10 years, from 2020 – 2030.

The purpose of the Plan is to determine actions that can be implemented by Council, NSW Government agencies and the community to achieve the right balance between the many different

The Tweed River Estuary is the tidal section of the river, a 35km stretch between the Bray Park Weir at Murwillumbah and the river mouth at Tweed Heads.

Council has been working on a new management plan for the Tweed River Estuary since 2016.

The Tweed River Estuary Management Plan will set the focus and provide recommendations for management of the Tweed River for 10 years, from 2020 – 2030.

The purpose of the Plan is to determine actions that can be implemented by Council, NSW Government agencies and the community to achieve the right balance between the many different uses and to protect nature, scenic and recreational values, livelihoods and cultural practices.

Review the draft Tweed River Estuary Management Plan or read the Tweed River Estuary Management Plan summary sheet


What is an estuary?

An estuary is the section of a river which is tidal. In the case of this management plan, ‘the Tweed Estuary” means the section of the river from the Bray Park Weir to the Tweed Bar, including the Rous River downstream of Numinbah Road. Terranora and Cobaki Creeks and Broadwaters are also part of the estuary, but are not covered by this plan.

See the Tweed Estuary map. The area shown in grey is the catchment of the Tweed Estuary.


Tweed River Estuary Management Plan - values and objectives

Read more about the Tweed River Estuary Management Plan values and objectives.


Environmental status of the Tweed Estuary:

The health of the estuary environment is fundamental to all its other uses. Without good water quality and healthy and abundant plant, animal and birdlife, the Tweed River’s value as a recreational and economic asset cannot be maintained. Overall the river is in good shape, however, there are some serious concerns that need to be addressed. Below is a summary of the environmental status of the Tweed River Estuary:

  • There are 15.3 km2 of land in the study area protected in National Parks and Nature Reserves.
  • The Tweed Estuary contains 232 hectares of ecologically significant marine vegetation (seagrass, mangroves and salt marsh), protected under the Fisheries Management Act.
  • On land, most native vegetation is fragmented and patchy and remains on a highly modified and disturbed floodplain.
  • Weeds are abundant, particularly in riparian areas.
  • Fish communities have been determined to be in a fair condition. This evaluation has been based on a NSW scale assessment. It is difficult and expensive to accurately monitor fish populations locally.
  • The Tweed estuary supports several threatened migratory and resident shorebird populations, with 28 species recorded.
  • Several raptor species are present, including Osprey and White Bellied Sea Eagle.
  • Dolphins and turtles are commonly observed in the lower estuary.
  • More than 50% of the river banks are considered to be highly or very highly disturbed, exhibiting erosion, sea walls, weed infestation and a lack of native vegetation. There is no vegetation on 51km of the estuary banks.
  • Significant portions of undisturbed vegetation remains on and adjacent to Stotts Island and the Tweed Broadwater.

The figure below summarises some important environmental conditions in the estuary and how these conditions vary across different areas. The ‘functional zone’ refers to the zones shown in the figure above.

View the environmental conditions of the estuary.


Actions in the Tweed River Estuary Management Plan:

The action plan describes the specific tasks that need to be undertaken over the next ten years to achieve the Plan's objectives.

There are 90 separate actions within the management plan that address all the identified threats to the Tweed River Estuary. Actions have been allocated priorities and where possible, cost estimates, timelines for implementation and sources of funding.

Riverside vegetation mid-estuary

Examples of key actions include:

  • Develop and release an annual, easy to understand, estuary health report card - the “Tweed River Report”.
  • Raise the profile of the Aboriginal cultural heritage significance of the Tweed including history, values and cultural practices associated with the estuary, both historic and ongoing.
  • Work with landholders to increase awareness of the impacts of both soil and river bank erosion and increase landholder adoption of best management practice, particularly in regards to water quality.
  • Stabilise river bank erosion between Murwillumbah and Stotts Island with techniques that improve fish habitat and protect the river’s visual character.
  • Work with the sugar industry and floodplain landholders to reduce acid sulfate soil runoff, wherever possible.
  • Recommend to NSW Roads and Maritime Services that it:
    • create a no-tow zone within the ‘Conservation Zone’ (Stotts Island) to prevent wake damaging sensitive environmental habitat, whilst increasing the area’s suitability for tranquil and passive recreational uses; and
    • extends the no ski/tow zone within the ‘Restoration Zone’ (Dunbible Creek to Commercial Road boat ramp) to reduce the risk of further wake induced bank erosion. This will increase the likelihood of existing erosion to be stabilised with bioengineered works, and enhance the area’s suitability for tranquil and passive recreational uses.
  • Develop and implement a Riparian Zone Management Plan for riparian vegetation, rehabilitation and management on private land in the Rous estuary, and upper Tweed estuary.
  • Assess the vulnerability of Council assets and developed land to increasing tidal inundation due to sea level rise.
  • Undertake an assessment of areas of the floodplain that may have potential for regeneration of floodplain wetlands.
  • Design and deliver an education project to reduce boating impacts on seagrass beds, in particular from propeller tracking and trampling during boat beaching.
  • Undertake upper catchment riparian rehabilitation works, in particular fencing livestock out of waterways and revegetating banks with native species.
  • Reduce the effect of Waste Water Treatment Plant discharges on the estuary, particularly nitrogen in the Rous River.

Read all of the actions in the draft Tweed River Estuary Management Plan

Mangroves in the lower estuary


Have your say:

The community is invited to make a submission on the Tweed Estuary Management Plan during the public exhibition period from 2 September - 31 October 2019.

Hard copies of the Plan are available at Council libraries and offices.

Submissions can also be made in writing and sent by email or mail.

  • Online: Submission form below
  • Email: tsc@tweed.nsw.gov.au
  • By mail: The General Manager, Tweed Shire Council, PO Box 816 Murwillumbah NSW 2484

Submissions will be received by Council no later than close of business on Thursday 31 October 2019.

Council is seeking feedback on the plan, including suggestions of how the plan could be improved to better manage the Tweed River, now and into the future.