Save Nambucca River Groups Meets For May

Coffs Harbour City Council Deputy Mayor Dr Sally Townley, Save Nambucca River President Darrell Hughes, Nambucca Valley councillors Cr Susan Jenvey and Cr David Jones, Save Nambucca River publicity officer Elizabeth Newman, NSW Farmers Nambucca River Branch secretary Julie Gooch, local farmer Elaine Ward and group members.

ENVIRONMENTAL scientist Dr Sally Townley addressed the May meeting of the recently formed Save Nambucca River group.

Dr Townley is also the Deputy Mayor of Coffs Harbour City Council, having been elected to this position in 2022, and has been a Councillor in Coffs Harbour since 2012.

Dr Townley spoke to the meeting about the changes in Coffs Coast agriculture over the last fifteen years, especially in the move to high density agriculture like blueberries and cucumbers.

“Coffs has seen massive changes in agriculture, and the transition to blueberries and cucumbers (over the last 30 years), and massive land clearing,” said Dr Townley.

The transition to hydroponic crops such as cucumber and blueberries has seen the need for increased use of nutrients, pesticides, and water usage.

Illegal water usage in the area, including farmers digging oversized dams, and the overuse of nutrients and pesticides that leach into our river systems, was discussed at the meeting.

“The conversion of our landscapes, coupled with water and chemical use for new intensive growing crops has led to massive degradation of our water systems.

“When should the right to farm be put before our environment, land and water quality?

“Some of the water testing in the Coffs area showed nutrient and pesticide contamination higher in rivers, creeks and lakes than areas in China,” said Dr Townley.

Dr Townley advised that the first step for the group would be to lobby Nambucca Council for more extensive water testing.

Coffs Harbour City Council uses Southern Cross University for water testing, with the cost being funded from the environmental levy.

“It is difficult to get action against illegal environmental pollution and over water usage, but there is a role for Council to play.

“Coffs Council has a million dollar a year environmental levy, which funded Southern Cross University to conduct water studies.

“Other than sewage contamination, they tested for nutrients and pesticides, in drinking water on 20 properties,” said Dr Townley.

“No one sample was above water safety, but it’s the accumulative effects of contamination that is the issue.

“You’re not just drinking the water, you’re showering, washing your dishes and clothes, using it on your gardens, this must have an accumulative effect over long periods of use.”

Nambucca Valley councillors were invited to the meeting and Crs Susan Jenvey and David Jones were on hand to answer questions from the community.

Cr Susan Jenvey spoke with group members about putting a submission for extended water testing other than sewage contamination to be included in the next Council budget.

Cr David Jones spoke on the effects of erosion from Lanes Bridge after our recent fires and flooding events, and the contribution of these events to the poor water quality of the Nambucca River.

“There has been massive erosion from Lanes Bridge sand and gravel has washed down the river.

“There are a set of complex issues associated with the river starting from the headwaters creating even more complex situations that flow down to the lower reaches,” said Cr David Jones.

Julie Gooch, Secretary for the Nambucca River Branch of NSW Farmers said, “What we need is a whole river plan or we won’t get anywhere.

“The regulations are there, and biosecurity controls are very strict for farmers.

“As farmers we need to work together with the community and Council to plan a better future for our river, everyone wants to see better land and water quality.”

It was decided that a submission to be made to the Council for water testing other than just sewage contamination, including nutrients, pesticides and trace elements.

Both Crs Jenvey and Jones agreed they would support the community in working for a water quality solution for the Nambucca River.

For more information contact Darrell Hughes at or


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