“It is obvious that strategic planning for wetland rehabilitation and long term protection of impacted ecosystems is a priority. The Minister for Primary Industries and the Government have known about these conditions for years. The environment, professional fishermen, recreational anglers and tourism industries will be severely impacted without long term management.
“Local conservationists have been campaigning for years for improvements in land use management after approximately 150 years of extremely high levels of ecosystem modification including clearance, cropping, drainage, artificial floodgates and burning. The pre-European Richmond River floodplain had a very high biomass of standing vegetation that provided what we are increasingly recognising as an ‘essential ecological service’ – that is the remediation, organic buffering and filtration of poor quality flood waters.
“Restoring forested wetlands on the floodplains will not only help clean up floodwaters, but will store and capture carbon and will also lead to long term stability for the river based fishing industry.
“Unfortunately climate change looks set to deliver greater volumes of water to the north coast. This will only increase pressure on the river and wetland ecology and should prompt the Government to act.
“It’s a bitter irony for the professional fishermen that they are classed as ‘harvesters’ and not ‘primary producers’, and therefore are not eligible for low interest loans under the Natural Disaster Relief Scheme, while the primary producers changing the floodplain are.