Living shoreline proposed for Wagonga Inlet

22 November 2021

A deteriorating foreshore at Wagonga Inlet could be transformed into an innovative ‘living shoreline’ under a collaborative proposal to protect and enhance the estuary long term.

The proposed project aims to revitalise the natural and community environment of Wagonga Inlet and would be an exceptional demonstration site for living shoreline projects around Australia.

Native vegetation, restored oyster reefs, and other natural elements would be used instead of traditional rock walls to prevent erosion between the Narooma Swimming Centre and Ken Rose Park.

About 2700m2 of subtidal native Flat Oyster and intertidal Sydney Rock Oyster reefs would be restored as part the Australian Government’s Reef Builder initiative, which aims to bring shellfish reefs back from the brink of extinction, and the NSW Government Marine Estate Management Strategy’s Oyster Reef Restoration project.

The concept incorporates a new jetty and fishing platform extending out to the ‘Deep Hole’, new boardwalk and lookout, improved access to the sand flats and restoration of saltmarsh.

Eurobodalla Council’s sustainability and natural resource coordinator Heidi Thomson said Council had been working on the project with NSW DPI, The Nature Conservancy Australia and the Australian Government. Input into the concept design was also provided by local Aboriginal group representatives and oyster farmers.

“This is a potential landmark project that will showcase how a nature-based approach, rather than traditional rock walls, can provide a viable and cost-effective solution for coastal protection that integrates recreational use,” she said.

“Banks of low-growing saltmarsh plants would be used to create an environmentally-friendly seawall that boosts environmental outcomes, provides increased habitat for fish and shorebirds and greatly improves the public usability of this space.”

The project also proposes to restore about 1,700 m2 of intertidal Sydney Rock Oyster reef habitat adjacent to the bank using locally quarried rock and local sterile oyster shells. Wild Sydney Rock Oyster spat will settle over time and form a natural reef that enhances water quality and improves fish production and overall biodiversity of the inlet.

A further 1,000m2 of subtidal native Flat Oyster reef habitat would be created on the sea floor of the Deep Hole, a deep section of the estuary adjoining the project site.

“Research continues to demonstrate the value of oyster reefs for improving biodiversity, water filtration, fish production, shoreline and seagrass protection and nitrogen fixation,” Ms Thomson said.

“Prior to the 19th century, oyster reefs were common in NSW, providing substantial environmental benefits, however only a fraction remain. Restoring these reefs and saltmarshes will bring back lost ecosystems enriching the Marine Park and providing wonderful flow-on benefits to the community with enhanced foreshore access, recreation and sustainable tourism opportunities, like bird watching. It’s a win-win.”

The Council and its project partners are seeking the community’s feedback on the proposal, which is in the design phase, through a short online survey. The survey results will be used to determine the level of support in the Narooma community for the plans and to refine the final design.

Residents can also meet the project team onsite on Friday 3 December between 10am and 2pm to discuss their thoughts.