Bellingen Riverwatch reports encouraging river health, but says stay vigilant

Gerry McGilvray, Department of Planning, Industry & Environment releases turtles into the river. Photo: Brent Mail, DPIE.


BELLINGEN Riverwatch’s (BR) September river-analysis data has been interpreted into a report, which shows that the rivers of the Bellinger and Kalang catchments are generally in very good health.

It verifies BR partners’ scientific understanding that these are unique river systems and some of the healthiest and most pristine rivers in Australia.

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“However, there are still problems presenting in many parts of the catchment – one area showing poor results consistently for the past four years is Caratti Creek, the little creek in Market Park near the tennis courts,” Program Manager Amy Denshire told News Of The Area.

Bellingen Riverwatch, now the largest river health citizen science program in NSW, was born from the need to collect continuous water quality data to assist scientists involved in the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle recovery.

This turtle is now Critically Endangered, after suffering a mass mortality event in 2015 which killed an estimated 90% of the population.

“It’s difficult to describe how terrible it was to see 90% of our turtles disappear from the river,” says Fiona McMullin, a river landholder.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has been successfully releasing turtles back into the river from captive breeding programs at Taronga Zoo Sydney and Symbio Wildlife Park.

This summer, BR partners remind the community that the biohazard risk of the virus still prevails.

“Tourists and community members – please wash your swimmers and canoes in between visits to help prevent spreading the virus,” said Amy Denshire.

“It’s a simple way we can all help.”

There are many other ways we can make a difference – choosing to wear zinc instead of chemical sunscreens, going to the toilet before we leave town, or pulling some of the problem weeds out when you next visit the river, such as Madeira vine, Billygoat weed, or Castor oil.

Learn more about how we can help at or about what BR data is telling us at

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