Voice of Real Australia: Not all rivers are created the same

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The muddy banks of the kanamaluka/Tamar River.

The muddy banks of the kanamaluka/Tamar River.

It's a classic example of humans wanting to manipulate nature.

You have the magnificent 70-kilometre kanamaluka/Tamar River winding its way through Northern Tasmania, a wide tidal estuary home to saltwater and freshwater marine life and ecosystems.

And at its upper reaches is Launceston, one of Australia's oldest and most picturesque cities with Georgian architecture and steep hills.

As the city was developed, the residents wanted to use the Tamar like other cities use their rivers. They wanted a port, a marina, rowing clubs, yacht clubs and, ultimately at the turn of the 21st century, up-market hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes facing the waterfront.

Launceston property developer Errol Stewart wants a solution to the Tamar's mud problem. Photo: Phillip Biggs

Launceston property developer Errol Stewart wants a solution to the Tamar's mud problem. Photo: Phillip Biggs

But the Tamar isn't like other rivers. As a tidal estuary, it was once home to vast mudflats and wetlands that filter and compact sediments flowing down from 15 per cent of Tasmania. It can't simply flush toxins out to sea.

Throughout the 20th century, the Tamar was dredged to make bigger channels and the mud was raked to allow for recreational uses. A suburb was built on top of the mud, a dam was built nearby and the environment changed.

Come 2019, the environmental harm caused by raking was laid bare in a report from the local council. It was releasing toxins and heavy metals into the water stream, and once the mud was raked, it would simply settle again nearby.

Raking was banned, and the mud is rapidly returning. It clogs the banks and is changing the face of the Tamar at Launceston when the tide recedes.

This is a problem for the waterfront businesses, rowers and yacht owners, not to mention Launceston residents who think the mud is unsightly and a sign of poor river health.

But is it?

Ecologists think it's time for Launceston to learn to "love the mud", embrace its benefits and let wetlands and other natural features form once again.

It's a tough sell, though.

To learn more about the situation, tune into our Voice of Real Australia podcast. Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your preferred podcast platform. Just search Voice of Real Australia.

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