Upper Clarence River erosion study

Roads and Maritime Services is coordinating the response to an erosion study by the University of NSW’s Water Research Laboratory. The study made recommendations on how to best address erosion issues in several parts of the river. These issues are reported to have been caused by a range of factors including land management, flooding, loss of vegetation, stock access, natural factors and high-wash boating activities.

Clarence River erosion photo


In 2014 the University of NSW’s Water Research Laboratory was commissioned by Transport for NSW, Clarence Valley Council and North Coast Local Land Services to conduct an assessment along several sections of the Clarence River to report on the status of riverbank erosion, the causes of erosion and to suggest remedies to ensure the long term environmental sustainability of the river.

Following the report’s release, a multi-agency committee was formed with members from Transport for NSW, Roads and Maritime Services, North Coast Local Land Services and Clarence Valley Council. This committee developed a 12-point Management Action Plan. This Plan seeks to balance the environmental needs of the river while ensuring boaters, businesses and local residents can enjoy the river for years to come in a sustainable and responsible manner. The actions were projected to be in place for a period of two years from September 2015 to September 2017.

In October 2016, the Committee was briefed on the details of a series of remediation works needed to stabilise key sections of the riverbank, this work would address two of the proposed actions. The committee subsequently decided it was necessary to extend the Management Actions for a further three to five years, to enable these riverbank works to stabilise.

A public meeting was held in November 2016 to inform the community of the extension of management measures and discuss progress on the issue.

What's happening now?

Boating restrictions have remained in place and there was a recent flood event on the river. Work currently in progress includes:

  • A Review of Environmental Factors is under development to identify any environmental considerations that need to be taken into account before the riverbank remediation works begin
  • A draft Landowner Agreement is being developed for the property owners whose land has been identified for remediation
  • A storage area has been identified near the proposed remediation area for storage of major remediation work materials such as tree trunks and root balls which have been sourced from nearby clearance activities from the Pacific Highway work and have started to be moved to the new storage area.

Local varieties of tree saplings and other vegetation have been identified to stabilise the river banks and help blend the larger material work into the natural environment. Once a detailed scope of work on the riverbanks has been finalised, the number and specific type of vegetation will be known.

The Committee plans to meet again in mid-2017 to discuss progress on all these fronts and identify next steps. Roads and Maritime will provide the key stakeholders with regular updates on progress of the action plan.

Frequently asked questions

  • Restrictions are now in place against wakeboarding, wake surfing, aquaplaning and using an additional ballast in the new ‘no slow-tow’ zones in the Clarence River for a further three to five years from 1 September 2017 at:

    • the areas between Rogans Bridge and Moleville Rocks
    • the northern channel between Susan Island and Grafton.
  • As the restrictions apply to most circumstances where heavy wash is generated, a general prohibition on waterskiing is not considered necessary due to the preference for smooth water and the comparatively lower level of wash generated.
  • Recreational activities such as wakeboarding have the potential to cause damage to the river environment and by restricting this activity Roads and Maritime aims to assess the impact reducing wash will have on the riverbank.

    The Management Plan was developed following extensive community consultation and in consideration of scientific evidence established by the University of NSW Water Research Laboratory (WRL). The WRL identified parts of the Clarence River riverbank as sensitive to erosion and where high-wash boating activity is likely to be a contributing factor.

    With consideration of the scientific evidence and after extensive stakeholder and community consultation, the new boating restrictions were determined as part of the Clarence River Erosion Management Plan.

    The Management Plan aims to balance the environmental needs of the river while ensuring boaters, businesses and local residents can enjoy the river for years to come in a sustainable and responsible manner.

  • The new restrictions will not affect aquatic events such as the annual Grafton Bridge to Bridge race. As aquatic events are held infrequently they are not considered to have a substantial or ongoing impact on riverbank health.

View or download

Clarence River Erosion Management Plan

August 2015

Improved management of boating wash and riverbank erosion

Water Research Laboratory report

December 2014

Riverbank Vulnerability Assessment using a Decision Support System: Clarence River (Rogans Bridge to Ulmarra)

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