Five key ways you can boost the health of Bellingen Shire's rivers


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JANUARY 2 2020

The rivers of Bellingen Shire are some of the most picturesque in Australia, which is no doubt why tourists flock here.

Bellingen Riverwatch partners would like to share five key ways locals and visitors can support the health of these incredibly diverse rivers.

1. Go before you go
The only public toilet on our rivers is at Lavenders Bridge so you need to go before you leave town. Urine adds nitrogen to the river and going to the toilet near a river creates a public health risk. If you need to pee whilst visiting our rivers, do so at least 20m away from edge of the river bank, on land.

2. Wash swimmers and canoes
In 2015, the Bellinger River Virus killed an estimated 90 per cent of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. The biohazard risk of this virus still prevails. Wash your canoe and swimmers in between swimming holes to help prevent spreading the virus.

3. Take 3
Our rivers lead to the sea, which provides us with the oxygen we breathe and the climate that sustains us. Please take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the river.

4. Weed a Little, Give A Lot
Take a few weeds home on your next visit. Pick a few Madeira Vine, Cats Claw Creeper, Palm Grass, Billy Goat Weed or Lantana and dispose of them in your green bin. Be sure to wear gloves and don't pick anything else as it might be a native or be poisonous! For more info, visit

5. There's Always Someone Downstream
Be mindful of what you're adding to the river. Chemical sunscreens and insect repellents add pollutants to the river. Take a rashie, zinc or other natural products.


Bellingen Riverwatch is an initiative of OzGREEN and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The Bellinger River catchment is one of the largest 'biodiversity hotspots' outside of the Daintree Rainforest World Heritage area and one of the last remaining strongholds for a number of endangered species.

One of these endangered species, the critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, suffered a mass mortality event in 2015, which killed an estimated 90 per cent of the population.

The prognosis for the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, which is found nowhere else, remains uncertain.

"There's about 200 animals left surviving the river, which are mostly juvenile animals", says Gerry McGilvray from DPIE, one of the organisations involved in releasing turtles from the captive breeding program at Taronga Zoo and Symbio Wildlife Park back into the Bellinger River.

Bellingen Riverwatch was born from the need to collect continuous water quality data to assist scientists involved in the turtle's recovery. This leading edge citizen science initiative brings our community together, with 44 volunteers and five schools testing the river at 25 sites every month.

OzGREEN will be raising funds and conducting a community survey for Bellingen Riverwatch outside the IGA on Saturday January 11 from 9am.

For more info, visit To sign up for Bellingen Riverwatch data direct to your inbox, visit or email Amy on [email protected].

The critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle is endemic to this area. Photo Dr Ricky Spencer

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