Oral Presentation 9th Australian Stream Management Conference 2018

Georges Riverkeeper - 40 years in the making (#91)

Beth Salt 1 , David Reid 1 , Tony Wales 1 , Lisa Smith 1
  1. Georges Riverkeeper, Husrtville, NSW, Australia

Georges Riverkeeper is one of Australia’s longest running catchment management groups, which has progressed from humble beginnings in 1979. Initially, the group were committed volunteers who focused on litter collection, reporting pollution incidents and disseminating information to encourage others to care for the Georges River, in southern Sydney. In that era, the Georges River estuary had NSW’s second most productive oyster industry, with 95 oyster leases and a value of $3.5 million in 1992. However, in the mid-1990s the local oyster industry was decimated by QX virus after being weakened by years of pollution. By 1997, all commercial fisheries in the river were closed and recreational fishing was banned in some reaches where pollutants were discovered in sediments. The insult of the lost oyster industry provided an impetus to increase the coordination for management of the Georges River by local councils across the catchment, including a boost in support for the Riverkeeper Program and Streamwatch groups involved in water testing. The core programs still relied on volunteers, but provided momentum for propelling the group into the new millennium, with a funding model enabling the employment of full-time staff. Today, Georges Riverkeeper receives funding from local councils to support four staff and continue core Programs that are the pillars of the organisation’s operations. The core programs are supplemented by successful delivery of grant-funded projects such as the federally-funded Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team and River Health projects. The strong reputation, longevity and stability of the organisation are key to developing and maintaining relationships with a range of stakeholders who assist to: remove litter; rehabilitate bushland; conduct catchment-scale ecological monitoring; coordinate the development and implementation of management plans; disseminate information and educational materials; and, advocate on behalf of the river. Reflection on Georges Riverkeeper’s evolution can inform the development of other waterway management groups.

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