Refreshing rivers program

Refreshing Rivers Program


Waterways have enormous ecological, cultural and economic significance and are linked to the wellbeing of our people and communities. They are also vital to agriculture and threatened plants and animals. Globally, rivers are our most degraded ecosystems and in the Murray-Riverina region of New South Wales (NSW), our waterways are classed as being in poor condition.

The construction of dams and weirs, and the subsequent regulation of river flows, are a key pressure on our waterways, and multiple agencies are working to address this impact on waterway health. In NSW, regulated streams make up a small proportion of all waterways and while the water arena is highly regulated, management of lands impacting on waterway health is largely in the hands of private landholders.

In NSW, agriculture is our largest land use and related land management practices can impact on waterway health. Therefore the biggest opportunity to improve waterway health across the state is through supporting farmers to adopt waterway friendly land management practices.

The Refreshing Rivers program is addressing land use and land management issues in a number of ways, working hand-in-hand with landholders, partnering with community organisations, and connecting to national sustainability and stewardship schemes.

By providing new partnerships, pathways and incentives for action, the Refreshing Rivers program is delivering a range of initiatives over 10 years that will reinvigorate waterway management across NSW. The aim is to drive social change leading to improved health of inland waterways sustained by industry, farmer and community action.

What are we doing?

Refreshing Rivers is delivering a range of initiatives over 10 years to achieve waterway health outcomes. The program will offer:

  • pathways for farmers which support land management change and maintain profitability.
  • pathways for government, industry, and community to work together to improve river health.

Our three Target Areas are Central Billabong, Upper Billabong and the Riverina Highlands (figure 1). These areas were chosen due to the range of agricultural activities, as well as waterway threats and assets. Approaches to improving waterway health that are successful in these Target Areas are likely to be effective across NSW. Murray Local Land Services have partnered with Yanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council (YACTAC), Holbrook Landcare Network and Local Land Services to provide local support through project officers in each of the Target Areas.

Figure 1. Refreshing Rivers program target areas

The program aims are:

  • community-wide uptake of integrated, landscape-scale waterway management plans that identify the values, issues and potential solutions around waterway management in each target area
  • outcomes supported by market-based stewardship and sustainability schemes related to waterway friendly farming practices
  • case studies of innovations and technology that enable waterway friendly farming practices
  • co-designed and community-led communication campaigns to encourage community, industry and land managers’ behaviours related to waterway-friendly farming
  • on-ground works that directly address impacts on waterway health (e.g. riparian rehabilitation, erosion management, barrier removal, pest exclusion etc.)

Over the 10 years of the program we are aiming to leave a legacy of:

Improved health of inland rivers across New South Wales agricultural landscapes sustained by industry, farmer and community action.

This legacy will be triggered by the establishment of:

  • New partnerships
    • A working model for collaborative planning and delivery by all stakeholders for long-term, large-scale integrated waterway management
    • An alliance of stakeholder champions for integrated waterway management spanning growers, industry groups, eco-certification bodies, recreational users and local community action groups
  • New pathways
    • A demonstrated new approach to achieving waterway health that leverages emerging market drivers to tie agricultural profit margins to waterway friendly farming
  • Enduring incentives for action
    • Increased capacity of stakeholders to initiate coordinated action to improve waterway health in new areas
    • A base of influence and momentum built over 10 years that provides enduring incentives for integrated waterway management

Through collaboration and innovation, new approaches to achieving waterway health will be demonstrated which can then be extended across NSW and into the future, driven by industry, farmer and community action.

First phase

Program activities commenced in 2021. The early phase of the project will focus on research, planning and engagement within our Target Areas to lay the foundation for on-ground, monitoring and communication activities.

Have your say!

The Waterway Management Plans are now available for your feedback. The Plan outlines management actions that will be implemented over the next ten years in the three Target Areas. The Refreshing Rivers team is thankful for all inputs already received and welcomes any last points of feedback.

Step 1

Click on your Target Area to check out your local Waterway Management Plan (summary version*)

Central Billabong Waterway Management Plan cover  Central Billabong Waterway Management Plan - summary* here

Upper Billabong Waterway Management Plan cover Upper Billabong Waterway Management Plan - summary* here

Riverina Highlands Waterway Management Plan cover Riverina Highlands Waterway Management Plan - summary* here

*The full Waterway Management Plans are available upon request. Please get in touch with the Refreshing Rivers team on

Step 2

Provide feedback on the Plans here

Feedback opens Thursday, 13th April and closes Thursday, 4th May


Collaboration is key to the success of the Refreshing Rivers program and we will be collaborating with a range of partners throughout this program.

There will be ongoing opportunities for local people to contribute to the program.

Get in touch with your local project officer for more information on how to get involved.

Central Billabong Project Officer

Andrea Mitchell

Upper Billabong Project Officer

Kylie Durant

Riverina Highlands Project Officer

Cherie White

Andrea Mitchell


T: 0419 841 834

Kylie Durant
Holbrook Landcare Network


T: 0418 198 522

Cherie White
Local Land Services


T: 0427 407 126

Our research partners

Our partners at Social Marketing @ Griffith University have spent time listening to, and learning from, local landholders, community members and other stakeholders from government, industry and academia about how to improve river health. Work is now underway to co-design solutions to improve river health with community workshops planned in 2022 in each of the Target Areas. If you would like to be involved please get in touch with Dr Carina Roemer from Griffith University:

How can I find out more?

If you would like more information on activities and opportunities through this program, please contact our Refreshing Rivers Program team.

Kathie Le Busque, Refreshing Rivers Program Officer

Local Land Services, Murray.

Kathie Le Busque

Christine Allen, Refreshing Rivers Program Manager

Local Land Services, Murray.

Christine Allen


T: 0499 503 875


T: 0428 217 271


The Refreshing Rivers project stands on Country that always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

We show our respect by acknowledging the ancient protocols and traditions of the First Nations peoples. We recognise the elders for continuing dreamtime lore, protecting the knowledge of all things sacred and spiritual, sustaining all living species that called this place home, and preserving the oldest living culture in the world.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters, and we pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. We are committed to providing places in which Aboriginal people are included socially, culturally and economically through thoughtful and collaborative approaches to our work.

The Refreshing Rivers Program is a collaboration between government, industry, research, and community organisations, led by Murray Local Land Services. This program has been assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust River Connections program.

NSW Government waratah

Pictured in header are (L-R) Central Billabong wetland, Upper Billabong and Riverina Highlands.

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