Coast and Rivers

Council has a strong commitment to the protection and enhancement of our precious river systems as well as monitoring water quality for swimming and ecosystem health as detailed in the links below. In the last three years, Council has implemented river rehabilitation projects at thirty-six (36) sites including weed control, tree planting, stock fencing and river bank stabilisation on public and private land.

River Rehabilitation projects

By addressing problems such as weed invasion, lack of native tree cover, erosion and sedimentation, these projects enable Council to work with the community to ensure healthy rivers are maintained and improved now and for our future. Council’s river rehabilitation projects are funded through external grants, often with matching contributions from Council’s Environment Levy and/or private landholders.  Selection of project sites and activities depends on a range of factors including:

  • grant priorities and eligible activities
  • landholder interest, capacity to provide matching contributions (cash and/or in-kind) and commitment to follow-up maintenance
  • strategic priorities (often guided by management plans, studies and/or condition assessments).

Newry Island Foreshore Rehabilitation Stage One, Kalang River Estuary

Riverfront landholders on Newry Island are very pleased about Bellingen Shire Council’s successful funding application to rehabilitate a priority erosion site on the Kalang River.  In partnership with the Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH), Bellingen Shire Council (Council) applied for a grant of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) from the NSW Environmental Trust (the Trust) to stabilise five hundred meters (500m) of eroding river bank.  This project will be implemented over eighteen months from January 2017. 

River bank stabilisation techniques will include rock revetment and rock and timber fillets incorporating re-used root balls and tree trunks from Pacific Highway upgrade clearing.  This will provide a demonstrated example of best practice resource recovery enabled by effective industry and community engagement through OEH and Council’s Environment Sustainability Advisory Committee.  On-ground works will also include fencing the river bank to remove stock impacts, planting native trees, encouraging mangrove recruitment and managing weeds to improve condition of a Swamp Oak Floodplain Forest remnant, an Endangered Ecological Community.

The Trust assessed sixty-seven (67) proposals and approved funding for twenty-nine (29) successful projects.  Council’s project site was identified as a priority for management in the Bellinger and Kalang River Estuaries Erosion Study 2010 and has been severely degraded by river bank erosion, lack of riparian (river bank) and foreshore vegetation and unmanaged stock access.  

Council has a strong commitment to the protection and enhancement of our precious river systems as well as monitoring water quality for swimming and ecosystem health as detailed in the links below. In the last three years, Council has implemented river rehabilitation projects at thirty-six (36) sites including weed control, tree planting, stock fencing and river bank stabilisation on public and private land.

Drone Images of Newry Island Works - Redirected to YouTube

Friesians & Fish - Bellinger River Floodplain and Estuary Water Quality Improvement

A $76,000 grant from the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, Estuary Management Program 2015 allows Council to continue its work with the local dairy industry to improve water quality and contribute to more sustainable farming practices, particularly as Dairies are the dominant land use surrounding the estuary. The project provides matched incentive funding for implementation of priority actions identified in voluntary assessments by eleven dairy farms. Project planning and implementation is through a partnership between Bellingen Shire Council, Bellinger Landcare and dairy farmers with support from North Coast Local Land Services, Norco Dairy Cooperative, Urunga Anglers and oyster growers.

Rock Fillets for Fish Fillets

An exciting river health project was implemented in the Bellinger Estuary adjacent to Mylestom Drive at Mylestom and Repton in 2014.  River bank stabilisation structures called Rock Fillets were constructed to protect the banks from erosion by dissipating wave energy and providing a slack water environment to encourage sediment deposition and mangrove regeneration.   Artificial Reef Balls were also installed to improve fish habitat.  Weed control and revegetation was also implemented along the river banks and is regularly maintained to further boost the river health benefits of this project.

NSW Soil Conservation Service managed this project with funding from North Coast Local Land Services, NSW Primary Industries, NSW Recreational Fishing Trust and Bellingen Shire Council.  Other project partners included Office of Environment & Heritage, Bellinger Landcare, Lend Lease, Holcim and local landholders.  NSW Roads & Maritime, Urunga Amateur Anglers and North Beach Community Alliance also provided valuable support throughout the project. 

Download: Rock Fillets for Fish Fillets video - 9 minutes - mpeg

Bellingen Island River Bank Stabilisation

This project focussed on implementing best practice river bank stabilisation works to protect Bellingen Island and its Lowland Subtropical Rainforest which is an Endangered Ecological Community. The project installed wooden pin groynes, log and rock revetment work and native seedlings have been planted to stabilise the riverbank to the west of the Island.

The project was completed in partnership with North Coast Local Land Services (design & grant funding), Council’s Works Team, private contractors and Bellingen Urban Landcare (BULC). 

There is also ongoing bush regeneration work by Council and two Landcare groups.  Council maintains the revegetation on the river bank which was undertaken for the project described above.  BULC works at the western end of the island ( and Bellingen Island Landcare Group has been working  in the rainforest at the eastern end of the island since 1997.  Contact Bellinger Landcare to get involved.

Download: Further Information on Bellingen Island.

River Health Monitoring & River Health Plans

As a multi partner project together with State government and the University of New England, a comprehensive assessment of the health of the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers was undertaken in 2009-10. Data collected was compiled into report card documents, see below. At the same time Council undertook a comprehensive process to develop the Bellinger River Health Plan and the Kalang River Health Plan, see below.


Antimony Monitoring at Wild Cattle Creek, Dorrigo

As part of Bellingen Shire Council’s ongoing water quality monitoring, Council has commenced a water quality testing regime to gather baseline data for the levels of antimony in Wild Cattle Creek and the Bielsdown River prior to any further mining being undertaken. 

There is currently an exploration license for the antimony deposit at Wild Cattle Creek (the Bielsdown Project) which was discovered in the late 1800s and mined on a small scale until the 1970's.  At this stage, further operations are in the exploration stage and it has not been confirmed if, or when, any further mining operations may eventuate.   The independent water quality data collected by Council will be used to compare data should further mining commence and therefore, will allow the identification of any impact on the tested waterways. 

Council has collected water quality samples at five strategic locations up and downstream from the proposed mining site.  Samples were taken six times over twelve months in a range of flow rates including high discharge events to capture the potential influence of variability in discharge on contaminants over a twelve month period.   The Bielsdown Project site is located 12 kilometers north of Dorrigo in Bellingen Shire, however the catchment flows west into the Clarence River.  Council is undertaking this monitoring with support from Clarence Valley Council, Coffs Harbour City Council and University of New England.

A report was prepared by UNE in June 2015 and can be downloaded below.

Download: Detecting Antimony and Arsenic concentrations in the water column of Wild Cattle Creek

Water Quality Monitoring

Water Quality Monitoring of the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers 2015-16

River Rehabilitation Fact Sheets

Bellingen Shire Estuary Inundation Mapping Study

The Bellingen Shire Estuary Inundation Mapping Study describes tidal inundation extents for both typical ocean conditions and severe storm events under existing and future mean sea level conditions for each estuary along the coast. The study includes maps and recommended management actions for all areas under tidal influence within the Bellingen Shire. This provides Council and the community with important information for a proactive response to future sea level rise and tidal inundation. A risk based approach, likelihood and consequence, was applied to the study to guide the development of options for infrastructure and ecological assets. With appropriate planning, social disruption, economic loss and environmental impacts can be minimised.

Download: Bellingen Shire Estuary Inundation Mapping Study 2015 (PDF) (9.27 MB)
Download: Bellingen Shire Estuary Inundation Mapping Study - Mapping Compendium (PDF) (12.36 MB)

Estuary Action Plans

In 2011, Council prepared the Bellinger River Estuary Action Plan in partnership with the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.  This plan includes site action plans for fifty-four river front properties (private and public land) from Lavender’s bridge in Bellingen down the Bellinger River to Mylestom.  Each site action plan includes a description of the condition of the river bank and adjacent land (e.g. erosion, native vegetation, weeds etc.) and recommended actions and cost estimates to improve the health of the riparian zone.  On-ground works have been implemented at over half of these sites through grant funded projects.

In 2014, Council completed the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers Estuary Action Plan Stage Two with financial assistance from the NSW Government through the Office of Environment and Heritage.  Stage Two extended further downstream to include one site in the lower Bellinger estuary and five additional sites along the Kalang estuary.  These six sites were selected strategically based on priority areas identified in the Bellinger and Kalang River Estuaries Erosion Study and high levels of landholder interest and capacity. 

Bellinger and Kalang Estuaries Erosion Study 2010

The Bellinger and Kalang Estuaries Erosion Study adopted by Council provides a comprehensive understanding of erosion within the estuaries and identifies priority areas for action. Out of 28 sites of erosion significance, five sites are recommended as Highest Priority, four sites as High Priority, with the remainder all considered to be Moderate Priority. The implementation of on ground work to address erosion in these areas is dependent upon factors such as landholder willingness, available resources, and the ability to remove disturbance factors.

Download: Bellinger and Kalang Estuaries Erosion Study 2010  (PDF) (7.74 MB)

Bellinger and Kalang Rivers Estuary Management Plan

This plan includes management objectives for the Bellinger and Kalang River estuaries, developed through consultation with the community and stakeholder organisations; and review of specific scientific investigations and other existing information. Major concerns identified were water quality, bank erosion, habitat management, waterway use, land management, the need for community education, fisheries and tourism management. As such, the plan proposes measures for the protection of estuarine habitats and ecosystems in the long-term, including maintenance in each estuary of the necessary hydraulic regime; conservation of the aesthetic values of estuaries and wetlands; prevention of further estuary degradation; repair of damage to the estuarine environment; and sustainable use of estuarine resources, including commercial and recreational uses.

Download: Bellinger and Kalang Rivers Estuary Management Plan

Bellingen Shire Coastal Zone Management Plan

The aim of the Plan is to preserve the high quality of environmental, recreational, cultural and economic values associated with the open coast and provides practical actions for managing threats from coastal hazards to the coastal zone in our shire. The plan is funded by the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage to comply with NSW State legislative requirements. The natural and undeveloped beauty of the Bellingen coastline is highly valued by visitors and residents alike, and these features make it far more adaptable to coastal hazards such as erosion and future sea level rise than other parts of NSW. Therefore a key aim of the plan is to preserve its naturalness.

Download: Bellinger Coastal Zone Management  Plan 2017

Bellingen Shire SandWatch

Council is undertaking the monitoring of beach profiles and coastal erosions as an action in the Bellingen Shire Coastal Zone Management Plan 2014 (CZMP). The following beach profiles are measured and updated on a regular basis to monitor trigger points for the implementation of management actions in the CZMP. The profiles align to data collected since the 1950s, so form an excellent basis for tracking changes in the beaches over time.


North Beach Profile
Sand Mines Beach Profile
Hungry Head Beach Profile
Wenonah Head Beach Profile