“Witches brew” of contaminants plaguing the Richmond River
THE Richmond River has ranked as one of four river systems in regional coastal NSW in the poorest health, with one local expert saying it's probably the worst.
The State of the Environment Report, released by Environment Minister Mark Speakman on the weekend, assessed every river system in the state with the Richmond, Tweed, and Hunter rivers getting a "moderate" result and the Brunswick River getting "moderate to poor" score.
In coastal NSW, only the Sydney rivers fared worse, ranking alongside the beleaguered Central Murray as "poor".
Wetland Care Australia regional manager Cassie Price said outside of Sydney the Richmond was probably in the sorriest state.
"If I had to pick the worst (regional) coastal river system I would have picked the Richmond," she said.
"The Hunter is a much bigger catchment... the lower catchment of the Hunter is very heavily mined and has a lot of infrastructure… but they're making some pretty good headway with their environment there."
"In comparison the Richmond is a shorter catchment but has the same range of issues.
"Not enough's being done here.
Ms Price said there was a "witches brew" of contaminants impacting the Richmond.
"It's a little bit of everything and everything is bad," she said.
"There's too many nutrients, too much sediment, and too many chemicals and pesticides flowing into the river."
Ms Price also said she believed it was an "anomaly" that the rating of the Brunswick River was worse than those three - and in fact said the small river system was in a relatively healthy state and getting better.
"Perhaps it was just a lack of data for the Brunswick," Ms Price said.
The report, which also looked at air and soil quality, wildlife, weeds and pests, and marine ecosystems, conservation levels, and water resources, is released every three years.
Opposition Environment Spokeswoman Penny Sharpe criticised the government for saying it was "snuck out" over the weekend while Fairfax Media journalists were on strike.
"The minister's been virtually nowhere on it, it's a really important report, and there's basically no attention on it," she said.
She also blamed the downgrading of environment within government, ongoing cuts to program, and the "sacking of highly trained scientists" as behind a report with increasingly patchy data sets.
"NSW is experiencing massive biodiversity loss, a deterioration of our soil, great water insecurity and a decrease in the quality of our air and the health of our river systems," Ms Sharpe said.
"The Baird Government must spell out what action they will take to address the alarming trends in the State of the Environment Report as a matter of urgency."
Mr Speakman acknowledged there was "room for improvement and challenges ahead".