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Brunswick Estuary Management

Brunswick Estuary                                                                                                        Source: Ben Fitzgibbon

The Brunswick Estuary, situated north of Byron Bay, next to the township of Brunswick Heads, comprises of three principal parts:

  • The main arm, which is the intercourse of Brunswick River and Kings Creek, flowing directly into the sea at Brunswick Heads
  • The north arm, known as Marshalls Creek
  • The south arm, know as Simpsons Creek, which runs parallel to the coast, immediately landward of the beach

The Brunswick Estuary has an open entrance with training walls and twin breakwaters and is bordered by developed areas, cleared private rural lands and vegetated Nature Reserves.

The main pressures affecting the Brunswick Estuary are:

  • Poor ecological health and water quality due to:
    1. Stormwater run-off
    2. Sedimentation
    3. Waste water discharge
    4. Impacts of agriculture and forestry (land clearing and associated impacts)
    5. Impacts associated with dredging and waterway structures
  • Riverbank Erosion
  • Loss of Riparian vegetation
  • Depleted fish stocks
  • High levels of human use

The Brunswick estuary has a unique ecological value as it supports a high biological diversity including several floral and faunal species identified as threatened or endangered. The estuary and surrounding catchments also supports several significant and important vegetation community assemblages such as wetlands, littoral rainforest, Coastal Saltmarsh and many more.

The Brunswick estuary (to its tidal limits) falls under the Cape Byron Marine Park, and is, therefore, formally recognised as being significant in a local and regional sense, with regard to conservation values.

In order to sustainably manage the Brunswick Estuary and its associated ecosystems into the future, Byron Shire Council completed the Brunswick Estuary Management Study and Plan in 2008.

In June 2010 the Brunswick River Estuary Management Plan and Sewerage Augmentation Scheme, was successful in winning the United Nations Association of Australia’s Excellence in Overall Environmental Management Local Government at the World Environment Day awards.

The award recognises ten years of dedicated efforts from the community and committee members in driving and developing a sustainable vision to improve and restore the balance to the Brunswick River.

Achievements to date on the Brunswick Estuary Management Plan include:

  • over 60,000 trees planted
  • over five kilometres of cattle exclusion fencing
  • stabilisation of 500 metres of slumping river bank
  • over 1500 man hours in volunteer and paid riparian bush regeneration including endangered ecological communities such as salt marsh, floodplain rainforests and wetlands
  • improvement of eight barriers to fish passage opening up 30 kilometres of the river and tributaries
  • reintroducing snags for fish habitat
  • expansion of the Main Arm effluent reuse scheme
  • introduction of “Land for Wildlife” program
  • ongoing water and catchment education in local schools

The above works have lead to the reduction of large volumes of river sediment that was ending up in, and potentially impacting, the Cape Byron Marine Park of which Brunswick River is a part.