A resounding 82 per cent of landholders believe a program that aimed to provide better environmental outcomes in catchments near Cessnock has helped improve or maintain water quality in their creeks over the past 12 months.
The Paxton Catchment Improvement Program (CIP), a six-year partnership between Hunter Water and Hunter Local Land Services, provided grants and advice to local landholders to protect and enhance creek banks and adjoining lands within the Congewai and Quorrobolong catchments.
Since 2016, the program has rehabilitated 21 kilometres of stream bank, led to the planting of more than 13,000 trees, and remediated important habitat for local native fauna such as the iconic platypus, which is known to reside in this area of the Lower Hunter.
Following the project's completion, Hunter Water, in collaboration with Hunter Local Land Services, sought feedback from local communities to help shape future environmental projects.
The recent survey assessed views on water quality among landholders and urban residents, as well as changes in beliefs, attitudes and practices because of landholder participation in the program.
Hunter Water Environmental Scientist and Project Manager Louise McKenzie said the survey results highlighted how the $900,000 program had benefited the catchments, while it also provided insights for future improvements.
"We wanted to understand what the landholders and residents of Congewai, Quorrobolong, Ellalong, Millfield and Paxton thought about the program and what it achieved.
"Interestingly, when landholders directly compared the current water quality in the creek on their property to five years ago, 73 per cent indicated it was either better or the same as five years ago.
"Only 44 per cent of respondents indicated they had undertaken riparian, or creek bank, protection and enhancement work during this same period. However, of those respondents, 89 per cent believed this had provided benefits such as improving native vegetation and other natural resources on the property.
"The survey also showed 60 per cent of landholders had changed how they managed their property because of their participation in training and field day events during the program.
"We heard the most frequent changes were riparian fencing and limiting stock access to waterways, while others included pest and weed management, planting trees, and revegetation of creek banks," said Dr McKenzie.
She added Hunter Water joined forces with Hunter Local Land Services as part of its commitment to deliver even better environmental outcomes.
"Congewai Creek was in a deteriorated condition because of vegetation clearing, agricultural activities, urban stormwater runoff, and general erosion. "By remediating the creek, in partnership with local landholders, we saved Hunter Water customers about $1 million, which we would've been required to spend on upgrading the alreadyadvanced Paxton Wastewater Treatment Works," said Dr McKenzie.
The survey report is now publicly available on Hunter Local Land Services' website. Visit www.lls.nsw.gov.au/hunter for more.
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