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There are five key ways community and tourists can support river health and support the recovery of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle.

1. Go before you go 

The only public toilet on our rivers is at Lavenders Bridge so you need to go before you leave town. Urine adds nitrogen to the river and going to the toilet near a river creates a public health risk. If you need to pee whilst visiting our rivers, do so at least 20m away from edge of the river bank, on land. 

Public toilets can be found at: 

  • Church Street toilet block 
  • Bellingen Library 
  • Market Park toilet block
  • Maam Gudyuing (behind the Museum)


2. Wash Swimmers & Canoes 

In 2015, the Bellinger River Virus killed an estimated 90% of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. The biohazard risk of this virus still prevails. Wash your canoe & swimmers in between swimming holes to help prevent spreading the virus.

Wash down canoes with soapy water and dry thoroughly before re-use. Swim in only one location, or clean and dry swimming gear between visits. Read Flyer from Department of Planning Industry & Environment


3. Take 3 

Our rivers lead to the sea. We need clean rivers and oceans. The ocean provides us with the oxygen we breathe and the climate that sustains us. Take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the river. Read more at take3.org


4. Weed a Little 

Take a few weeds - Madeira Vine, Cats Claw Creeper, Palm Grass, Billy Goat Weed, or Lantana - home on your next visit and dispose of them in your green bin. Be sure to wear gloves and don’t pick anything else as it might be a native or be poisonous! 


5. Think Zinc

Be mindful of what you're adding to the river. Chemical sunscreens and insect repellents add pollutants to the river. Take a rashie, zinc or other natural products.

“We need to be conscious that everything we do in our backyard ends up in the river”

- Sue Lennox, 2020 NSW Senior Australian of the Year and OzGREEN Co-Founder

Donate to Bellingen Riverwatch 

To help build a picture of a catchments’ health, ongoing and regular monitoring of water quality is required to build what’s called ‘baseline data’ - a long-term picture of what’s considered normal conditions for that particular waterway. This baseline information is important for river health and the future of the turtles, as the more we know about the river the better informed we are regarding what to do next.

Sustaining a highly functioning community project such as this requires adequate on-ground scientific and administrative support to ensure that our volunteers are well trained and equipped, our data is well communicated and our partnerships are nurtured. Make a regular or one-off gift to support this program into the future.

Donate to Bellingen Riverwatch

Each month, we send out a River Health newsletter, reporting on the parameters that are of particular importance to turtle recovery - Available Phosphates and Dissolved Oxygen. Sign up here

Other Ways to Help


Report Turtle Sightings

Report turtle sightings using Turtle SAT, and report nesting sites, and sick or dead turtles on (02) 6659 8200 or Shane.ruming@environment.nsw.gov.au or gerry.mcgilvray@environment.nsw.gov.au. To report sick or dead turtles, phone 131 555. 


Another great way to spread the word is by wearing one of our awesome t-shirts or using one of our keep-cups. Shop here


Volunteer with Bellingen Riverwatch

We are always in need of more volunteers to support our monthly monitoring across the catchment. Roving Volunteers support the testing at core sites and step in if our water testing volunteers are ill or away. Register your interest

Volunteer with Bellinger Landcare

Join Bellingen Urban Landcare via their website at https://www.bellingenurbanlandcare.org.au.
Or join Bellinger Landcare Inc to stay up to date about new groups - there might be a new group forming in the Upper Kalang or around Spicketts Creek. Membership is free and you'll get newsletters and updates. Join at https://www.bellingerlandcare.org.au/get-involved/become-a-member.


Bellingen Riverwatch is currently seeking sponsors to support this wonderful project into the future.  Read More


Find Bellingen Riverwatch Upcoming Events here

Like Us on Facebook

We want to raise awareness far and wide about river health, the plight of the turtle, and how communities can help. Like Us on Facebook and help build our community of supporters.



How River Landholders can help


We all live in the catchment, however, landholders have an important role to play in maintaining river health and supporting the recovery of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle.

The main actions identified in the Bellinger River Health Plan (2010) to improve river health are management of stock access to the river and fencing off the riparian zone, preventing fertiliser runoff and drains on farms.


4 Key Ways River Landholders Can Help:

1. Restore River Banks

Improving the condition of the riparian vegetation and stabilising riverbanks is important for maintaining water quality and habitat for aquatic animals in the Bellinger and Kalang rivers. Without action to protect and restore these important areas, it is likely we will see a gradual decline in the health of our waterways through reduced water quality, the loss of riparian vegetation for birds and wildlife, and the smothering of macroinvertebrates, native fish and seagrass habitats with sediments washed into the river from eroding riverbanks.

Native vegetation plays a vital role in river bank restoration. Whilst erosion and deposition of sediment are natural river processes, the accelerated rates of erosion seen today are the result of removal of native vegetation over time through land clearing, over-grazing and other development pressures. This in turn leads to the loss of productive land and valuable habitat and impact on water quality and aquatic habitats downstream. The effect of accelerated erosion are especially significant during floods. Disturbance or destruction of river bank vegetation and weed invasion has also severely limited the ability of river banks to repair themselves through natural regeneration of vegetation between flood events.

In their current state, river banks need active assistance and management to maintain and improve their stability and resistance to erosion. Planting river banks with native species which are adapted to the pressures of this dynamic environment is a valuable way to ensure our river estuaries remain healthy.

The vegetation naturally occuring on estuarine river banks changes as the river water becomes less salty upstream. The Bellinger and Kalang estuaries have four vegetation zones characterised by particular groupings of plant species and their preferred location on the river bank. See the following for more info:

2. Best Practice Stock Management

Best practice for stock management should address the following aspects: Fencing, off-river, Stock watering points, Formed access points.  Stock management is vital for riparian health to reduce:

  • Damage to riparian vegetation from grazing and trampling, leaving banks exposed.
  • Compaction of soil by hard hooves, subsequent erosion and degradation of the river structure.
  • Pollution resulting from sediment washing into the water course from erosion sites.
  • Stirring of sediment and damage to aquatic habitats caused by cattle loitering in streams.
  • Pollution resulting from cattle defecation.
  • Weed growth, through high nutrient loads from dung and disturbed riparian vegetation.
  • Stock exposure to water borne parasites, disease and footrot.

Download Bellinger River System Landholder Booklet: Best Practice for a Healthy River or request a copy of the booklet from Bellingen Shire Council.

3. Best Practice Fox Management

Turtle nest predation by foxes is  a major threat to the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. Wild dogs kill and maul stock and pets threaten populations of native animals, have a social impact on farming and rural families, and are a reservoir for disease spread.

To enquire about the times and locations of baiting courses, contact Mick Elliott of the Grafton Ag Dept on michael.elliott@lls.nsw.gov.au or 0408 352 174.

4. Best Practice OSMS Management

On-site Sewage Management Systems (OSMS) are the treatment systems that collect wastewater from the home for the treatment and discharge into composting or septic system located within the property of unsewered areas of the shire. By maintaining best practice OSMS management, river landholders can contribute significantly to keeping our rivers healthy. For more info see:


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