Coast, estuaries & wetlands

Estuaries, lagoons and wetlands are dynamic, living entities and an important part of the natural environment. These systems are integral to landscape processes such as nutrient cycling, water detention, slow release of flood water and trapping of sediments. 

Estuaries have a special place in the lives of most Australians. Many people want to live near estuaries or take their holidays there. More than 75% of the NSW population live and work in towns and cities near estuaries.

A high proportion of the state’s commercial activity occurs near estuaries, as they provide an important focus for industry, tourism and recreational activities. As a result, the pressures on the coastal environment are significant. This highlights the need for careful monitoring and management of these areas.

Council role and responsibilities

In 1992, the NSW Government introduced an estuary management policy and developed the Estuary Management Manual to assist local government to manage estuaries through a strategic process. In 1997, the NSW Government introduced the NSW Coastal Policy and the Guidelines for Preparation of Coastal Zone Management Plans.

In 2010, the NSW Government released the Guidelines for Preparing Coastal Zone Management Plans to guide local councils, their consultants and coastal communities on the preparation of coastal zone management plans. 

In 2018, a new NSW Coastal Management Framework was finalised, which included the Coastal Management Act 2016, the State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018 and the Coastal Management Manual. This framework requires Council to transition from estuary management plans and coastal zone management plans to the new coastal management program (CMP) format. Council is upgrading its estuary and coastal zone management plans to comply with the new framework. 

Coastal management

Under the Coastal Protection Act 1979, Council prepared the Kempsey Coastal Zone Management Plan (2016).

The plan was prepared through the NSW Coastal Management Framework and underpinned by a technical assessment of coastal processes and related hazards for the Kempsey coast and an assessment of risks, values and options presented in the Kempsey Coastline Coastal Zone Management Study.

The plan’s main aim is to provide practical, affordable actions to improve community use of, and facilities in, the coastal zone and to plan and initiate actions that protect values and build resilience to coastal hazards. 

The plan is being reviewed and updated to a Coastal Management Program to comply with coastal management legislation. 

Coastal management publications

Estuary management [H2]

Under the NSW Estuary Management Policy, 1992 manual and 2010 guidelines, Council has prepared estuary management plans for the shire’s primary estuaries. 

Macleay River Estuary

The Macleay River Estuary is a main feature of the Mid North Coast and contains many sites of Aboriginal significance, indicating an occupation of the area of up to 4000 years. European history of the Macleay River dates to the area’s exploration in 1820. 

The Macleay estuary is a mature barrier-dominated system in a high-energy ocean wave setting. It is a filled delta system dominated by fluvial processes. It can be broken into three broad process zones that reflect different degrees of fluvial and tidal interactions:

  • the fluvial process zone extends from tidal limit at Belgrave Falls to Kinchela, including Belmore, Kinchela and Upper Clybucca Creek
  • the fluvial-marine transitional zone extends from Kinchela to Jerseyville Bridge and includes most of Clybucca Creek
  • the marine flood tide zone is dominated by marine derived sediment and extends from Jerseyville Bridge to the mouth of the Macleay River, including the abandoned Macleay Arm 

The floodplain of the Macleay River estuary includes large backswamps and holds approximately 15% of total coastal floodplain wetlands in New South Wales. Mangroves on the Macleay River estuary cover an area of about 5 km², representing 5% of the state’s estuarine total, while seagrass and saltmarsh areas cover 1.1 km² and 3.7 km² of the estuary respectively.

To comply with the NSW Government’s Coastal Management Framework, the Macleay River Estuary Coastal Zone Management Plan is being reviewed and upgraded for inclusion in Kempsey Shire’s Coastal Zone Coastal Management Program (CMP), which will cover the shire’s primary estuaries and remaining coastal areas.

Management Plan and related documents

Macleay River Estuary – Data Compilation Report(PDF, 5MB) (and Appendix(PDF, 120KB))

Macleay River Estuary – Processes Study(PDF, 15MB)

Macleay River Estuary – Management Study
Part 1(PDF, 5MB)
Part 2(PDF, 5MB)
Part 3(PDF, 5MB)
Part 4(PDF, 5MB)

Macleay River Estuary – Management Plan(PDF, 3MB)

Macleay River Estuary – Ecological Study
Part 1(PDF, 1MB)
Part 2(PDF, 1MB)
Part 3(PDF, 2MB)
Part 4(PDF, 3MB)
Part 5(PDF, 2MB)
Part 6(PDF, 2MB)
Part 7(PDF, 1MB)
Appendices(PDF, 4MB)

Macleay River Estuary CMP Stage 1 Scoping Study(PDF, 8MB)

South West Rocks Creek Estuary

South West Rocks (Back) Creek is a small tidal inlet that discharges into Trial Bay. The entrance is generally shallow and sand movement results in short-term variations in water depth. It has a relatively small catchment area of approximately 540 ha. A large proportion of undeveloped land in the catchment is zoned for low density residential development. 

Back Creek is a practical alternative to the Macleay River entrance due to a safer bar crossing. The creek is heavily utilised for access to offshore fishing grounds. It is also popular with swimmers, and a commercial kayak hire business operates there. However, the creek is naturally susceptible to ‘silting up’.

No specific estuary management plan for Back Creek has been prepared, though some management actions for the estuary and its catchment are described in the Macleay River Catchment Zone Management Plan and the Kempsey Coastal Zone Management Plan.

Killick Creek Estuary

Killick Creek is a small but well-flushed marine-dominated estuary at Crescent Head. It has a mostly open entrance and two main tributaries, known as ‘Muddy Arm’ and ‘The Flood Cutting’. Its 5 km2 catchment includes parts of Hat Head National Park. The creek is approximately 2.75 km long, with a waterway area of approximately 0.6 km2.

An Estuary Management Plan for Killick Creek was prepared on behalf of Kempsey Shire Council and the Department of Natural Resources to fulfil the requirements of the NSW Estuary Management Policy (1992) and the NSW Coastal Policy (1997).

The plan provided a program of strategic actions to help government authorities and other stakeholder groups sustain a healthy estuary through appropriate waterway, foreshore and catchment management.

To comply with the NSW Government’s Coastal Management Framework, the Killick Creek Estuary Management Plan is being reviewed and upgraded for inclusion in the Kempsey Local Government Area Coastal Zone Coastal Management Program (CMP), which will cover the shire’s primary estuaries and remaining coastal areas.

Management Plan and related documents

Killick Creek Estuary Processes Study
Killick Creek Estuary CMP Stage 1 Scoping Study(PDF, 7MB)
Part 1(PDF, 2MB)
Part 2(PDF, 2MB)
Part 3(PDF, 2MB)
Management Plan - Consultant's Brief(PDF, 244KB)

Killick Creek Estuary Management Plan
Introduction(PDF, 1MB)
Chapter 1(PDF, 518KB)
Chapter 2(PDF, 542KB)
Chapter 3(PDF, 116KB)
Chapter 4(PDF, 650KB)
Chapter 5(PDF, 66KB)
Chapter 6(PDF, 2MB)
Chapter 7(PDF, 268KB)
Chapter 8(PDF, 17KB)
Appendix A(PDF, 553KB)
Appendix B(PDF, 543KB)
Appendix C(PDF, 127KB)
Appendix D(PDF, 1003KB)
Appendix E(PDF, 30KB)

Korogoro Creek Estuary

Korogoro Creek is unusual for a small estuary in that it is believed to have a permanently open entrance. The estuary is approximately 5.4 km long and has a water surface area of approximately 0.2 km2

The entrance to Korogoro Creek is located at Hat Head, a popular tourist and surfing location that experiences a major influx of visitors during school holidays. This influx often doubles or triples the population, which places huge pressure on local resources. 

An Estuary Management Plan for Korogoro Creek was prepared on behalf of Kempsey Shire Council and the Department of Environment and Climate Change to fulfil the requirements of the NSW Estuary Management Policy (1992) and the NSW Coastal Policy (1997). The plan provided strategic actions to assist government authorities and other stakeholders to sustain a healthy estuary through waterway, foreshore and catchment management. 

To comply with the NSW Government’s Coastal Management Framework, the Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Plan is being reviewed and upgraded for inclusion in the Kempsey Local Government Area Coastal Zone Coastal Management Program (CMP), which will cover the shire’s primary estuaries and remaining coastal areas.

Management Plan and related documents

Korogoro Creek Estuary CMP Stage 1 Scoping Study(PDF, 8MB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Executive Summary(PDF, 387KB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Historic Part 1(PDF, 761KB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Existing Data Part 2(PDF, 2MB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Gap Analysis Part 3(PDF, 216KB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Processes Part 4(PDF, 2MB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Issues & Recommendations Pt 5(PDF, 219KB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Glossary of Terms(PDF, 211KB)
Korogoro Creek Process Study - Appendices(PDF, 599KB)

Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Study

Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Study Part 1(PDF, 2MB)
Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Study Parts 2-3(PDF, 2MB)
Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Study Parts 4-6(PDF, 2MB)
Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Study Appendices 1(PDF, 2MB)
Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Study Appendices 2(PDF, 2MB)

Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Plan

Korogoro Creek Estuary Management Plan(PDF, 4MB)

Saltwater Creek and Lagoon Estuary

Saltwater Creek is a small estuary connected to the ocean adjacent to South West Rocks. The creek is approximately 3.2 km long, culminating in Saltwater Lagoon, with a waterway of approximately 0.4 km2.

The estuary is an intermittently closed and open lake or lagoon, meaning that the waterway is not permanently connected to the ocean. In fact, beach sand keeps the entrance closed about 70% of the time, resulting in no tidal variability, and water levels that respond to catchment run-off and evaporation.

An Estuary Management Plan for Saltwater Creek and Lagoon was prepared on behalf of Kempsey Shire Council and the Department of Natural Resources to fulfil the requirements of the NSW Estuary Management Policy (1992) and the NSW Coastal Policy (1997). 

It provided a program of strategic actions to help government authorities and other stakeholders sustain a healthy estuary through waterway, foreshore and catchment management. 

To comply with the NSW Government’s Coastal Management Framework, the Saltwater Creek and Lagoon Estuary Management Plan is being reviewed and upgraded for inclusion in the Kempsey Local Government Area Coastal Zone Coastal Management Program (CMP), which will cover the shire’s primary estuaries and remaining coastal areas.

Management Plan and related documents

Saltwater Creek and Lagoon Estuary Processes Study
Chapters 1-2(PDF, 2MB)
Chapters 3-5(PDF, 2MB)
Chapters 6-9(PDF, 3MB)
Saltwater Creek and Lagoon Coastal Management Program(PDF, 18MB)

Saltwater Creek and Lagoon Estuary Management Plan
Chapter 1-5(PDF, 2MB)
Chapters 6-8 (Appendices)(PDF, 1MB)

Saltwater Creek Flora and Fauna Study
Saltwater Creek Flora and Fauna Study(PDF, 471KB)
Map 1 Vegetation Associations(PDF, 207KB)
Map 2 Fauna Habitats(PDF, 181KB)
Map 3 Wetland Boundaries(PDF, 200KB)
Map 4 Forest Senescence(PDF, 222KB)

Yarrahapinni Wetlands

Yarrahapinni Wetlands is managed by National Parks and Wildlife Service and listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.

Before 1971, the site was known as the Yarrahapinni Broadwater, with extensive tidal estuarine wetlands and highly productive seagrass and mangrove habitats. In the late 1960s, a flood mitigation program installed a levee wall and a five floodgate headworks to control the flow of water into the wetlands and help to manage small, nuisance flood events. 

Aboriginal history of Yarr-ar-pin-ni is associated with the slaying of a giant koala. Aboriginal occupation dates back approximately 5000 years and continued for about 3000 years. The National Parks and Wildlife Service declared the area as Clybucca historical site due to its important Aboriginal content.

In 2005 a Plan of Management for the historical site was developed. It describes occupation dating back 9000 years. Extending over 14 km and forming one of the largest estuarine midden complexes in Australia, it contains seven middens and one bora ceremonial site. The area is a sharing place in the country of the Thungutti/Dunghutti and Gumbaynggir nations. 

In 1996 the Yarrahapinni Wetland Reserve Trust was formed to manage the 600 ha land acquired by the NSW Government and to implement the Yarrahapinni Wetland Rehabilitation project, designed to reinstate a full tidal regime in the wetland area.

The area was gazetted as national park in March 2007 and now has a total of 806 ha of national park area. The trust formed under the Crown Lands Act has been adopted by the Department of Environment and Climate Change as an Advisory Group.