PUBLIC MEETING: The authors of report into the health of the Richmond River will discuss their findings with the community in Ballina tonight.
PUBLIC MEETING: The authors of report into the health of the Richmond River will discuss their findings with the community in Ballina tonight. Jay Cronan

River's health on the agenda

THE authors of a report into the health of the Richmond River will hold a public meeting this evening in Ballina to tell us the problems with the river.

Dr Sarah Mika and Dr Ben Vincent from the University of New England in their 2014 Ecohealth Report for the Richmond River graded the waterway's health at D-, or poor, and they will detail how they came to that result.

The poor health of the Richmond River has been a hot topic over many years now, and was highlighted when two major fish kills - 2001 and 2008 - affected the local economy when the river was closed to all forms of fishing for months.

Since the first fish kill, there have been several public meetings calling for answers on how to improve the river's health.

Most recently, the community group Richmond Rivers Rescue was set up after a public meeting in Ballina earlier this year, and the local branch of OzFish Unlimited has secured grant funding to replant areas of the riparian zone as well as provide education for local school children.

At the last Ballina Shire Council election, many of the candidates pledged the river's health as a priority, and a council survey undertaken before the election found that the state of the Richmond was a top priority among residents.

The council has secured a rate rise above the pegged limit for one year, and some of those funds will go to a Healthy Waterways program.

Dr Mika said the University of New England had been looking at various river catchments in the past six years, using the same investigation framework to classify river health.

Dr Mika said the public meeting in Ballina will give the community an opportunity to learn more about the diverse environmental factors affecting the health of the Richmond River.

The presentation will also explore what the scores mean in particular catchments, focusing on the results gathered from within Ballina Shire.

The meeting will be held from 6pm to 8pm in the Dirrawong Room at the Ballina Surf Club at Lighthouse Beach this evening. Seats are limited. RSVP to 6686 1210 or email dehg@ballina.nsw.gov.au