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Riverkeeper Program removes over 70+ tonnes of rubbish from the Georges River catchment

Posted 10 December 2014 by (Hurstville News)

The Georges River Combined Councils‟ Committee Inc. (GRCCC) Riverkeeper Program removed significant volumes of rubbish from the Georges River foreshores, parklands and tributaries over the year. Riverkeeper teams removed 70,276kgs of rubbish alone this year and logged 17,316 hours at 155 sites across eight local government areas. Bush regeneration teams have also made significant improvements to foreshore bushland.
The Riverkeeper Program Report Card 2013-14 demonstrates catchment-scale cleanup and bush regeneration results of the Riverkeeper Program for the year. The significant clean up and bushland restoration efforts for the year are achieved through the GRCCC partnership with Corrective Services NSW by using work teams comprised of individuals on Intensive Correction Orders who are required to carry out community service.
The Riverkeeper Program also works closely with several state and Australian Government agencies including the Greater Sydney Local Land Services, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Environment. The program also works with teams from organisations such as Scouts NSW, State Emergency Services, school groups and other community volunteer groups to perform bush regeneration and rubbish collection.
The two main focus areas for the program are to 1) remove rubbish (gross pollutants) from the river foreshores, creeks and tributaries which enter the waterway via the stormwater system or as a result of illegal dumping and littering and 2) increase the biodiversity of remnant bushland and riparian (river bank) vegetation through the targeted removal of weeds, revegetation and natural regeneration.
The positive results for the Georges River are reflected in multiple award wins for the Riverkeeper program including the Keep Australia Beautiful NSW Award in 2013 for environmental protection in the Sydney/Illawarra Region, and the GRCCC being named a finalist in the 2013 Australian Banksia Awards in the Water Category.
“GRCCC member councils recognise they have a collective responsibility for the health of the Georges River Catchment and are proud to jointly fund the Riverkeeper Program to undertake on ground works in key areas along the river” said GRCCC Chairperson Councillor Naji Peter Najjar. Member councils include Bankstown City, Campbelltown City, Fairfield City, Hurstville City, Kogarah City, Liverpool City, Rockdale City, Sutherland Shire and Wollondilly Shire councils. The GRCCC is proudly hosted by Hurstville City Council, 2009-2016.
For a copy of the Report Card visit www.georgesriver.org.au .
For more information on the program, or to volunteer, please contact info@georgesriver.org.au

What does the Report Card show?
The Report Card shows catchment-scale program statistics in rubbish collection and bush regeneration undertaken by the GRCCC Riverkeeper Program. While the works are conducted at a local level, the statistics reflect achievements across three Georges River sub-catchments (Upper, Mid and Lower Georges River) and a number of smaller tributary catchments. The Report Card also outlines the partnerships with multiple teams that will strengthen the GRCCC Riverkeeper Program resources over the next 2-3 years.
What can be done to prevent rubbish from being dumped?
Illegal dumping is a criminal offense under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, and significant fines apply to those caught dumping. Catchment residents can anonymously report illegal dumpers by contacting council waste officers. Many councils offer expanded waste services to minimise illegal dumping; these include collection days for hard rubbish, chemicals and electronic waste. Also, community members are encouraged to reuse and recycle materials to minimize waste.
What kinds of rubbish is typically found and removed?
A majority of the rubbish removed is plastics, including plastic bags, drink bottles, packaging and broken debris. Other kinds of rubbish removed includes dumped building and construction materials, green waste, milk crates, rubber tyres, furniture and household items, trolleys, mattresses and auto parts. Riverkeeper teams also remove micro-rubbish. Rubbish within the stormwater system is termed „gross pollutants.‟
What is micro-rubbish?
Micro-rubbish is the term we use to describe the smallest gross pollutants in the system. It is characterised by the smallest pieces of rubbish (< 5mm) such as polystyrene, plastic bits, bottle tops and cigarette butts & lighters. Polystyrene used in packaging represents the most commonly found micro rubbish. The polystyrene breaks down into ever smaller pieces and mixes with organic materials (leaves, seaweed), and is consequently very difficult to remove from the river system. Micro-rubbish, ingested by seabirds and aquatic species has been recorded as a significant cause of mortality.
What else does the Riverkeeper Program do?
The Riverkeeper program continually supports the councils and agencies with which it partners. The Riverkeeper provides other services such as assisting GRCCC River Health Program staff with boat access for water quality monitoring; taking Council compliance staff on the river to access illegal riverfront developments and to conduct foreshore assessments and audits; and coordinating volunteer cleanups such as those for Clean Up Australia Day and corporate cleanup days. The Riverkeeper is the „eyes and ears‟ on the Georges River.
How can I help improve the health of the Georges River?
Catchment residents can get involved by joining their local council‟s bushcare program and volunteering for Clean Up Australia Day activities. The Riverkeeper program also welcomes groups of interested community members who wish to participate in volunteer clean up days co-ordinated by the program and are encouraged to contact us via the website www.georgesriver.org.au or Facebook page “Georges River, NSW”. The program also encourages concerned citizens to report illegal activity to their local council.
Media Enquiries: Svetlana Kotevska, GRCCC at 9330 6057
ENDS