28 April 2023

Shoreline coming to life as Wagonga Inlet restoration project ramps up

| Katrina Condie
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Group on boat

NSW DPI Senior Fisheries manager Kylie Russell, Eurobodalla Shire Council officer James Caffery, TNC South East Oceans manager Kirk Dahle and TNC project officer Lewis Hurley working to restore oyster reefs. Photo: NSW DPI.

A degraded seawall will be removed from Wagonga Inlet and salt marsh habitat will be restored as part of the Living Shoreline project.

The improvement of the foreshore follows the completion of the first native flat oyster reef in NSW and the first intertidal oyster reef on the NSW South Coast in July last year.

A collaboration between Eurobodalla Shire Council and The Nature Conservancy Australia (TNC), the project will transform and restore a section of the Wagonga Inlet shoreline between the Narooma Swimming Centre and Ken Rose Park to create a ‘living’ shoreline.

TNC’s South East Oceans manager, Kirk Dahle, said this new phase was a really exciting time for the partnership and for the iconic waterway.

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“The restoration of oyster reefs at Wagonga Inlet will benefit both people and nature,” he said.

“By filter feeding, oysters enhance water quality, and the reefs will provide habitat for marine life, as well as an important natural defence against coastal erosion and damage from storms.

“We’re excited to move on to the next stage of the project with the removal of a degraded seawall and the restoration of salt marsh habitat along a 400 metre section of the inlet.”

People with oysters

Baby Angasi oysters settled on recycled shell will form a reef. Photo: Lewis Hurley TNC.

Salt marshes are a key habitat within the estuarine seascape of NSW that have been degraded through human impacts such as foreshore developments, coastal erosion and land reclamation.

“This project is important for the inlet, but also as a demonstration project for nature-based coastal protection around Australia,” Mr Dahle added.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries manager, Jillian Keating said the project was unique, not only for the benefits it would bring to nature and people in the inlet, but also because it demonstrated the importance of nature-based solutions to coastal erosion.

“The project combines natural elements, such as salt marsh and oyster reefs, as opposed to traditional concrete and rock seawalls,” Ms Keating said.

“The Living Shoreline will protect the coastline from erosion and support biodiversity and water quality in this beautiful part of the world.”

Eurobodalla Shire Council natural resource and sustainability coordinator Heidi Thomson said work would also commence on new accessways, a boardwalk, a jetty and a pontoon to improve public access to a very popular recreation area of the inlet.

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The project is supported by the Australian Government’s Reef Builder initiative, the NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy, and the NSW Environmental Trust. Construction of the jetty is supported by the Recreational Fishing and Camping Facilities Grants Program.

Wagonga Inlet is one of 13 sites identified for reef restoration to bring shellfish reefs back from the brink of extinction and support the economic recovery of communities impacted by bushfires and COVID-19 restrictions.

The Marine Estate Management Strategy is a 10-year strategy which aims to deliver the NSW Government’s broad vision for the marine estate: a healthy coast and sea, managed for the greatest wellbeing of the community, now and into the future.

To find out more about Reef Builder and the Wagonga Inlet Living Shoreline project visit the project page.

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