Natural Resource Management

On the North Coast, our NRM Projects are delivered by our Natural Asset Protection team, and cover a wide variety of biodiversity, threatened species and environmental conservation projects.

Scroll through to view our NRM blog below, or use the menu to learn more about some of these projects and programs:

Eastern Freshwater Cod

Statewide Natural Resource Management Framework 2021-26

Marine Estate Management Strategy

Eastern Bristlebird Habitat Restoration

Farm Bioreactors

Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitats

Protecting Koalas of North Coast of New South Wales

1 Feb 2022

Eastern Freshwater Cod

Eastern Freshwater Cod, Maccullochella ikei, is one of Australia’s most threatened freshwater fish species. Extended drought conditions followed by bushfires and flooding have placed significant pressure on remaining populations. Instream degradation from poor land management has also limited the species preferred natural spawning habitat.

As part of the Bushfire Recovery - Eastern Freshwater Cod Project, the Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries and Local Land Services have designed and are trialling ‘natural’ versions of artificial spawning habitat. These trials are taking place in preparation for installing ‘spawning boxes’ in the wild. Although some nesting behaviour (guarding and cleaning) occurred in the trial, only limited spawning eventuated last year at Grafton Fisheries Centre.

Interestingly, once female Eastern Freshwater Cod mate and spawn they leave the eggs in the care of the male. Male fish then aggressively guard the eggs until they hatch and protect young cod until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Over the course of 2022 the Fisheries and Local Land Services team will work with a range of experts to refine the design of the artificial spawning habitat, in preparation for deployment at selected locations later in the year.

Above: Finished cod /spawning boxes ready for installation

Below: Concept drawings for cod/spawning boxes

May 2024

Yaegl Cultural Burning
Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation in partnership with North Coast Local Land Services are using mentoring and knowledge sharing to return cultural burning and other traditional practices to Yaegl Country.
A Dreaming

The journey undertaken by the Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle - Land and Sea Contractors is a remarkable tale of cultural preservation, environmental stewardship, and the merging of traditional practices with modern techniques. This case study explores the challenges faced and the inspiring progress achieved by the Yaegl Traditional Owners in revitalising cultural burning practices on Yaegl Country, North Coast NSW.

The Remarkable Journey

The path taken has been anything but straightforward for everyone involved. It represents an adventurous blend of traditional and contemporary fire management practices. The project required a re-learning of time- honoured Yaegl knowledge and skills regarding cultural burning, that had been nearly lost to subsequent generations. Additionally, there was the imperative to adapt these ancient cultural practices to modern regulatory and safety standards.

While the journey continues, the path is now clearer, and Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle - Land and Sea Contractors are actively engaged in restoring what was once a common cultural practice, now returned.

Yaegl Country

Yaegl Country encompasses the ancestral lands and sea territories surrounding the Clarence River estuary in North Coast New South Wales. Although the Yaegl people have inhabited this region for millennia, their Native Title Rights were officially acknowledged by the Federal Court only a decade ago.

Empowering Yaegl Traditional Owners

In response to the Federal Court's decisions, the Yaegl Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (YTOAC) was established. YTOAC embarked on a journey to reconnect with their cultural heritage, involving elders and future leaders in identifying and documenting cultural heritage sites and assets such as middens, scarred trees, ancient camp sites, and travel routes. To preserve these vital features of their territory, a bush regeneration team was formed. YTOAC is committed to conserving and safeguarding these irreplaceable elements for future generations.

The Birth of Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle

In 2020, North Coast Local Land Services (NCLLS) partnered with YTOAC to plan a three-year cultural burning project. With funding from the NSW Environmental Trust, YTOAC gained the confidence to expand its involvement in land management. This led to YTOAC taking control of the employment, training and management of the team. Their 2019 Yaegl Land Management Contracting Business Plan led to the creation of Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle - Land and Sea Contractors.

Wadyarr = Land. Gargle = Sea
(Yaygirr Language)

Cultural Burning Challenges

The cultural burning project aimed to protect and enhance Endangered Ecological Communities on high conservation value Travelling Stock Reserves (TSRs) where Yaegl native title was recognised. However, it became evident that there was a generational gap in passing on the traditional skills and knowledge necessary for safe cultural burning. The practice had dwindled over the years, and many had lost the skills and confidence needed for burning.

Addressing the Knowledge Gap

To bridge this knowledge gap, Yaegl Traditional Owners sought expertise from neighbouring Githabul and engaged Fire Lore, an indigenous-owned company, to introduce Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle team members to cultural burning. This collaboration led to the first cultural burn on Yaegl Country in over a century, providing invaluable experience and cultural knowledge

Lore meets Law

Today, cultural burning must meet modern requirements, including approvals, permits, and insurance. These requirements present challenges to all First Nations groups interested in cultural burning. It became clear that cultural burning on high conservation TSRs, as initially planned, was not feasible.

My ancestors knew that fire was vital for healthy Country. Helping Country to function means a regular pattern of slow cool burns.

We are just doing what my people have done forever. Sure, we are now using modern tools and practices but the principle is the same and we continue to abide by Yaegl lore.

Grant Brown YTOAC Business Manager and accredited fire fighter.

Cultivating Expertise

To overcome these challenges, Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle appointed Grant Brown, a Yaegl man with extensive firefighting experience, as a business manager. Grant aimed to professionalise the team's approach to cultural burning and firefighting.

The team invested Environmental Trust funds to provide team members with basic firefighting skills through accredited training and real-world firefighting experience by collaborating with agencies such as NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Rural Fire Service and NSW Forestry Corporation.

Equipping the Team

Ensuring the team's safety was a top priority. The first items purchased included Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suitable for firefighting, including jackets, shirts, and trousers.

Training and Collaboration

Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle arranged for accredited training in Public Safety Certificate 2 - Fire Fighting. To minimise costs and support other First Nations organisations, they invited staff from Coffs Harbour and Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC) to join the training program.

The training was successfully completed in early 2023, but the team needed an opportunity to apply their acquired skills.

Collaborating with local agencies, the now- trained but inexperienced Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle - Land and Sea Contractors joined forces with Forest NSW personnel to assist with hazard reduction burns in Pine Brush and Candole State Forests.

The Future

The journey of the Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle - Land and Sea Contractors is a testament to the resilience, determination, and adaptability of the Yaegl people in preserving their cultural heritage while contributing to the conservation of their land.

This case study highlights their commitment to reviving cultural practices, bridging generational gaps, sharing cultural practice and meeting modern requirements to ensure the sustainability of their cultural and natural heritage for future generations.

This project was a partnership between Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and North Coast Local Land Services. This project has been assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust

Seasonal Issues – wildlife movements in Spring

For many of the North Coast’s wildlife residents and visiting migratory species Spring is a time of heightened activity.

Reptiles are re-energising with the warmer weather and longer day length and can be seen basking in the sun, while mammals and birds are busy looking for mates, building nests and dens, rearing young and foraging for food. Turtles seem to appear everywhere with the first rain and are often seen crossing country roads while moving between creeks and dams.

Migratory species have also made their way here to spend summer at their breeding grounds. If you keep an eye and ear out you will notice spectacular seasonal bird visitors including the rainbow bee-eater, spangled drongo, channel-billed cuckoo and dollarbird. With this much wildlife active and on the move, it's unfortunately also a time when many will be adversely impacted as they try to move around and go about their seasonal routines. However, there are things we can all do to ensure the safety of our native fauna and protect them against these threats.

Arboreal mammals such as koalas and possums and terrestrial species such as bandicoots, wallabies and pademelons are particularly vulnerable to road strikes from vehicles. Many birds such as swamp hens, rails, pheasant coucals and quail - which are often well-hidden in long roadside grass and vegetation before crossing onto the road - are at risk. In many cases, there is little reaction time for a driver to avoid hitting wildlife, but if you unfortunately do – and if you can safely attend to the injured animal we encourage you to seek help. Some of the supporting services on the North Coast are linked below. As always, drive to the conditions and take extra care where you know wildlife commonly cross roads or use roadside habitat. For example dawn and dusk are key times to be extra vigilant for kangaroos or wallabies grazing on the roadside.

Studies have shown that driver awareness measures (signage, road painting etc) have a negligible effect on reducing road-strikes. However, reduced speed is shown to reduce the severity of impact to wildlife and overall mortality. The message here is to drive cautiously and – if safe to do so – reduce your driving speed in at-risk areas and situations.

Now is also a timely reminder to all cat and dog owners to ensure their pets are always under control when outdoors. Domestic pets continue to pose a threat to our wildlife, particularly in the interface where our towns and villages meet the surrounding bushland. If your pet injures wildlife, please contact a wildlife rescue service for assistance. Better still, familiarise yourself with basic wildlife first aid as it can be some time before expert help can be reached. In the long-term, you may like to consider becoming a wildlife carer yourself - a fulfilling experience!

So, as Spring warms into Summer, we hope everyone is getting out and about across our beautiful North Coast landscapes. Enjoy the chance to spot wildlife on the move and do your bit to keep them safe.

North Coast wildlife support and rescue organisations:

FAWNA - wildlife rescue and rehabilitation – lower mid-north coast

WIRES - wildlife rescue and rehabilitation; carer training

Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers

Video care of WIRES Facebook page:

20 October 2021

Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Hotspot

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Hotspot is part of Yaegl Nation and centres around Pillar Valley, near Grafton NSW. The project area spans the catchment of the Coldstream River at the eastern edge of the Clarence River floodplain.

This area is referred to as the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Hotspot because it contains some of the most diverse eucalypt forests and forested wetlands in the world. It supports an exceptionally high diversity of native plants, with over 1100 species recorded so far, including over 110 threatened species. The large forested area provides the habitat required by iconic animals such as the coastal emu, forest owls, gliders and even giant dragonflies. Watch this 2017 Nature Conservation Council Video to see some of the unique values of the area.

This project continues the work carried out by North Coast Local Land Services and the Nature Conservation Council since 2013. The Clarence Environment Centre engaged over 40 landholders in priority weed management activities which are undertaken by bush regen teams. The key to this project is to focus on controlling small weed outbreaks in areas that have a high recovery potential and to contain the “basket case” areas so they don’t spread.

Infill planting is undertaken by Pillar Valley local Pillar Pete from Yuraygir Landcare. The focus of these plantings includes tree species that are currently under-represented, having undergone historic harvesting and land management activities.

One of the highlights has been the involvement of the Yaegl Wadyarr land management team in carrying out weed control and installing nest boxes on country. We are honoured to have played a role in facilitating the Team's return to country through paid employment. We have begun to explore further opportunities that native title rights might offer in the future use and co-management of country.

Though impacted by drought, fires and the pandemic, many animals appear to have migrated to this area where food and safe shelter can be found. This has led to a fresh resolve by landholders and partners to continue to protect this magnificent and unique area.

13 October 2021

Spring is in the Air!

Two of the Northern Rivers most unique aquatic animals - the platypus or Mulluny (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and Eastern Freshwater Cod or Gurruuja (Maccullochella ikei) - are now using the warmer months of spring to mate and reproduce.

With our two ambassadors for World Rivers - or Bindarray - Day, lets turn the den lights on, nestle down into some light reading and learn a little about how these two iconic species rely on healthy rivers in our part of the world.


The Eastern Freshwater Cod is a threatened species under both NSW and Commonwealth Law. Their breeding season coincides with river closures where fishing is prohibited from 1 August through to 31 October. The closed waters include:

  • The Mann River and all of its tributaries upstream of its junction with the Clarence River, and
  • The Nymboida River and all of its tributaries from its junction with the Mann River upstream and above Platypus Flat (oddly enough!) to its junction with Wild Cattle Creek.

This closure aims to protect Eastern Freshwater Cod when they are most vulnerable. Brooding male fish aggressively guard their eggs and larvae from predators until they are old enough to disperse and fend for themselves. Eastern Freshwater Cod nest - or wiiri - sites have been observed under large boulders and bedrock shelves, at depths from 1-4m. The nesting site is heartily cleaned by the male for up to 1 week prior to spawning with the nest only entered by the female for the purposes of spawning.


The platypus, however, is almost the opposite. While the males retire to their year long dens, female platypus make elaborate preparations to care for their young.

In the weeks following mating the female constructs a complex burrow - sometimes over 20m long. She softens the floor of the burrow with dead wet leaves and at the end of the tunnel forms a nest of bedding material comprised of more leaves and reeds.

The young will remain in the burrow for roughly four months before emerging into the nearby stream.


Both animals rely on healthy aquatic habitats to complete their life cycle. In the northern rivers that equates to:

  • habitats with submerged timber or large woody debris to provide stream bed complexity, and
  • riparian zones with native vegetation and ongoing stock exclusion to preserve bank stability and maintain water quality.

These habitat attributes then provide for the necessary food sources these animals rely on with the common target being the humble crayfish – a favoured delicacy of both species.

Below you will find a couple of fantastic videos from Brett Vercoe - Former Marine Park Officer at the Solitary Islands Marine Park.

Platypus of the Upper Orara - Worlds strangest creature

Eastern freshwater cod of NSW, Australia

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