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First steps taken to protect Hunter River Estuary

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Local residents and government agencies have joined forces to coordinate the healing efforts for the iconic Hunter River Estuary.

Members of the Hunter Estuary Alliance met for the first time last week to inspect the area, from Newcastle to Morpeth, to understand the good, bad and potential of the tidal part of the river.

Championed by Maitland City on behalf of five Hunter coastal councils – including City of Newcastle (CN), Dungog Shire, Port Stephens and Cessnock City – and Hunter Local Land Services (LLS), the meeting marked the beginning of the coalition, which boasts a mission to protect the estuary for the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of the community both now and into the future.

The iconic Hunter River passes through many towns and is a focal point for aesthetics, recreation and connection to country.

It’s immensely important for the local environment and First Nations communities.

It is also a system under stress, according to Maitland City’s manager environment and sustainability Catherine Pepper.

“Despite the prominence of the Hunter River Estuary, its health is rated as fair to poor, with the most recent report card ranking water quality in the estuary as 124 out of 160 in NSW,” she said.

“So, now is the time for key stakeholders to come together and address the issues and stressors affecting the health and vitality of the estuary.

“The meeting collectively attracted groups and organisations from Maitland, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Dungog and Cessnock, as well as Local Aboriginal Land Councils, Hunter Water, Hunter LLS, Department of Planning and Environment, Hunter Valley Flood Mitigation Scheme and the Greater Cities Commission.

“It’s an exciting time for the whole of the Lower Hunter to be involved in managing the Hunter River Estuary.

“We have a unique opportunity to make a change to our river and bring it back to health, to listen to each other and drive collaboration on major improvement projects.”

The next steps for the group will be to develop the Hunter Estuary Coastal Management Program, which includes working closely with Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

“Healthy estuaries are important for economic, social, physical and psychological wellbeing through ecosystem services such as regulating nutrients and filtering pollution, providing habitat for plants and animals, stabilising shorelines and providing sites for economic activity, recreation and other cultural activities,” Ms Pepper said.

To find out more about the Hunter Estuary Coastal Management Program, funded by the NSW Government, visit Maitland City Council’s website.

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