Landholders call for help
LAWRENCE landholders are calling for National Parks and Wildlife Service to help maintain the Sportsmans Creek Weir, which they say is at risk of flooding the village and surrounding reclaimed land if not properly maintained.
They say this has the potential to "wipe out Lawrence" and return the area to a "stinking, mosquito-infested swamp".
The Sportsmans Creek Drainage Union's Sue Zuill said it was unfair to expect a handful of elderly farmers to continue to finance the insurance and maintenance of the weir without support from NPWS.
"At the recent Sports-mans Creek Drainage Union AGM it was made known that two benefactors who have contributed $30,000 in the last 13 years to (upkeep of) the weir are now replaced by NPWS - who will not be contributing funds," Mrs Zuill said.
"Despite NPWS and NSW Forestry Commission now owning over 75% of this wetland dependent on the weir, they do not contribute to the public liability insurance or maintenance."
The Office of Environment and Heritage plan of management for the Everlasting Swamp State Conservation Area notes the swamp has been managed for more than 100 years for agriculture, mainly beef cattle production, and in recent years as a tea tree plantation.
A report published in May states this management aimed to minimise saltwater (tidal) flows into the system and control the escape of freshwater from the system after rain.
"The current management regime has been in existence since the 1920s when the Clarence River County Council commenced construction of a complex system of levees and gated drains on the Clarence River floodplain to restrict natural flows.
"As a result, in dry times water is retained in the swamp, whereas in wet times, the drains are used to quickly drain the swamp."
The report also notes despite damage done to the wetland by drainage works and acid sulphate soil problems, the swamp remains a highly significant waterbird habitat used by many species of migratory birds.
The swamp is listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.
In a statement, National Parks and Wildlife spokesman Lawrence Orel acknowledged the significance of the Sportsmans Creek weir to the wetlands. He said NPWS had not been approached by the Sportsmans Creek Drainage Union for financial support or assistance.
"The NPWS has been managing the Everlasting Swamp State Conservation Area (SCA) established in 2007 for its natural values and with the aim to improve water quality and breeding habitat for the benefit of recreational and commercial fisheries within the Lower Clarence in general," Mr Orel said.
"This is strongly supported by members of the Clarence Floodplain and Estuary Partnership and relevant government agencies and stakeholders such as professional and recreational fishers."
"Although grazing enterprise no longer occurs in Everlasting Swamp State Conservation Area, the NPWS will seek to meet with representatives of the private landholders along with DPI Fisheries, Local Land Services and relevant stakeholders such as professional and recreational fishers to discuss the weir and water management."