Joe Thompson

Joe Thompson

Joe Thompson has a background in agriculture, horticulture and natural resource management and has worked in various roles in the Hunter valley for the past 22 years.

Hunter River Management Plan: Where Does It Go From Here?

The Hunter River catchment lies at the intersection of three biogeographic regions, covers 22,000km and flows 300km from the Great Dividing Range to the Tasman Sea at Newcastle NSW Australia. Starting in the 1800s, floodplains of the catchment were cleared and drained for agriculture, urban centres and industry. Since the 1830s, land management practices increased damage caused by major floods, most notably in the 1940s and 1955. Increased awareness of this interaction led to catchment planning and a program of soil erosion works to reduce sedimentation, revegetation to stabilise river banks and construction of a basin-wide Hunter Valley Flood Mitigation Scheme. In an effort to ensure that river restoration activities produce the greatest benefit, Hunter Local Land Services (Hunter LLS) engaged a team from Griffith University led by Dr Andrew Brooks to develop a transparent, repeatable and robust methodology for objective prioritisation of rivers and streams. The methodology uses woody vegetation as a surrogate for geomorphic stability to assess current river and riparian condition and trajectory of change over 15-20 years. Satellite imagery and field testing were used to map woody vegetation as percent foliage cover at 4500+ 1km reaches of streams across the catchment allowing for prioritisation on a sub-catchment basis. Hunter LLS identified the need for an over-arching Hunter River Management Plan given the long history of river management, impact of flooding, variety of organisations involved and number of existing small-scale plans. The resulting plan and accompanying decision support tool incorporate Griffith University and River Styles® data along with other information including recreational use of rivers and streams and adjacent land management. The greatest achievements are that the river plan enables decisions about resourcing and implementation to occur on a sub-catchment basis and the interactive tool provides common ground for technical and non-technical users as well as investors.

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