Plan to stop river degrading
Nature Conservation Margaret River and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River will develop an overarching protection strategy for the Margaret River, taking action on long-running fears for the region’s namesake waterway.
Momentum for the strategy has gained force since a Times report in December warned WA’s Department of Water found the Margaret River was in “serious decline”.
The latest report follows others over the past four years noting opportunities to maintain the health of the river and stop it from degrading to the same poor status as other waterways in the South West.
The new collaborative group would also act on calls from the Margaret River Regional Environment Centre for the Shire to do more to save the river, also reflected in recommendations facing the council at a special meeting next week.
Co-ordinator Neroli Cartlon previously said river conservation efforts had to include more vegetation buffers, reducing fertiliser and contaminants, and reviewing land titles encroaching on the river when properties changed owners.
The Times understands actions would also consider the increasing pressure on the Margaret River from tourism.
NCMR co-ordinator Caroline Hughes said funding from the National Landcare Program was driving development of a Margaret River Protection Strategy “to protect the long-term ecological health of the Margaret River”.
“Nature Conservation staff are working collaboratively with the Augusta-Margaret River Shire, Government agencies and indigenous custodians to identify priority management actions and responsibilities as part of the strategy, which is due for completion by June, 2018,” Ms Hughes said.
“A recently secured State (Natural Resources Management) Program community action grant and supporting contribution from the Shire’s environmental management fund will allow further collaboration, community consultation and detailed development of management measures to protect
the river over the coming year.”
Shire president Pam Townshend told the Times the protection strategy had arisen from the winter diversion debate.
The council initially resolved to engage NCMR for a study of the river’s riparian catchment, but the Shire “misinterpreted” the instructions in subsequent advertising.
“In the wording of the brief, it was asked that the consultant recommend actions that would improve the health of the Margaret River,” Cr Townshend said.
“The Nature Conservation officers who worked on the report, which has not yet been presented to council, decided that one of the actions needed to improve the health of the Margaret River was to form a collaborative group including government agencies, such as Department of Water (and others).”
South West region manager Adam Maskew confirmed the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation was part of the new group at NCMR’s request.
“Many actions in the proposed plan align with DWER programs and initiatives and the department will continue to explore how NRM groups and community alliances can assist in achieving water resource management goals,” he said.
NCMR’s separate Margaret River Foreshore Reserve Action Plan is due by June 30.