Bass fishers expose illegal dumping

BILL loves his bass and his bass fishing. He likes to explore the bends, pools and upper reaches of the small creeks that flow from the ranges of the Far North Coast of NSW to join up with the not-so-small Richmond River, at Ballina.

One of his favourites meanders its way off the Alstonville Plateau and is, Bill says, “really special”. So, imagine Bill and his son enjoying a day’s outing, walking up the creek, revisiting good bass spots, talking about fish and fishing, and exploring a bit further upstream. Sounds lovely! Wish you were there? You bet! But, they were in for a rude shock…

Beauty, beauty, … old washing machine, machine parts, other rubbish. Rubbish and lots of it. Heavy-duty plastics, machinery, household bits and pieces, broken toys, garden waste; layers and layers and lots of it washed into the creek and on the banks of this otherwise pristine creek. An illegal dumping site, you ask? No, and here’s a strange thing. A very tidy and well-kept farm, except for where the creek and its bank were used as the household and farm waste dump.

Bill and his son were flabbergasted. Bill said: “It was just so disappointing. This really special creek just dumped on. I’ve spent my life out fishing and exploring and I’ve never seen anything like it. My son, after me being on him for years about doing things right, was asking me, ‘How come?’ And I just couldn’t answer him. Why would anyone do this?”

“It’s terrible, looks terrible. And there are bits of plastic and other rubbish down the creek too. I thought that was stormwater rubbish but it’s not, it’s coming from here,” he said.

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Some of what Bill and his son found. The upper reaches of these creeks are important places for bass and for the small fish that bass feed on.

Fortunately for the local fish, Bill was determined to try and get something done. He knew one of the other soccer dads worked for Fisheries NSW.

“I got in his ear and I showed him exactly where it was using Google Earth”, Bill said.

Fisheries NSW knew what action could be taken and involved Ballina Shire Council which can act on illegal dumping. Together they inspected the site and interviewed the landholder. Council sought advice from Fisheries on how best to clean up the site in a way that would rehabilitate the fish habitat and directed that this work be done. When there has been an impact on fish habitat it is a Fisheries NSW priority to ensure that the habitat is rehabilitated.

The clean-up was completed within about two months and now the creek bank is recovering with replanting of riparian vegetation and sediment and erosion control until the plants are fully established. It wouldn’t have happened, though, if Bill hadn’t been willing to do something on behalf of the creek and its fish.

“It was just a matter of letting someone know,” Bill said. “I knew this bloke and he knew the person who was the Inspector and things progressed from there. It’s not enough to just say ‘Oh, that’s terrible’. I’m really glad I did this, you know. If I hadn’t, that dump could have kept happening for years more, just as it had for years.”

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After the Ballina Shire Council clean up order. The bank on its way back to being part of what Bill calls “the best little creek anywhere in the region”.

The creek is on its way to a full recovery. A very special place that will remain that way thanks to a fisher willing to be speak up on behalf of the fish and the places they need to survive and thrive. Good on you, Bill!

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