Rapid response stops invasive Frogbit in its tracks

13 March 2023

Our Weed Biosecurity team has acted swiftly to prevent the continued spread of an infestation of Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) reported in the Byron Shire in mid-February.

A significant infestation of the prohibited weed was discovered in a large dam on private land. It originated upstream of the dam, which also feeds downstream into a long and meandering creek system. Two dedicated post-flood weed officers immediately investigated kilometers of waterways on foot and in canoes to map the movement of the weed on the team’s mapping software. Unfortunately, extensive growth and spread was identified.

A ‘weed harvester’ has been used to remove most of the weed manually without the use of herbicide at the landholder's preference. Signage, posters and information brochures have been distributed to ensure the community is informed and to encourage further reporting to capture any additional infestation sites. The team is now planning a scope of future works that could span several years of repeated site monitoring and manual weed removal. 

It is the second Frogbit infestation of this size to be found on the Far North Coast since 2020. It is unknown how this weed found its way into the creek system; however, given that Frogbit is an invasive species established in Queensland, it is viable that it has been unknowingly released into the waterways and its spread has been made worse by the floods of 2022.

Frogbit is known to completely block waterways with its dense matting. Its glossy green leaves are up to 4cm in size, fleshy and have a spongy underside. The weed spreads by each leaf particle, any vegetative part, as well as its seed capsules that could contain up to 100 seeds in each. Thankfully, on this occasion a weed report was made to the authorities, allowing for our team’s rapid response.


Emerging technologies increase water sustainability at Cape Byron Power and Sunshine Sugar at Broadwater

30 January 2023

Rous has been working in partnership with Cape Byron Power for more than two years to monitor water consumption and develop projects that optimise its town water use. Forming part of Rous’s Sustainable Water Partner Program, the project has achieved significant milestones, including the installation of new sub-meters and automated smart water meters; this has helped isolate different operations and provide accurate real-time data on water consumption. 

Cape Byron Power’s Co-Generation Operations Manager, Todd Andrews, said smart metering is now indispensable for its ability to monitor any unusual water usage.

“Water is an essential part of operations at Cape Byron Power. Water efficiency and optimisation is not only important for our environment, but it makes sound business sense. Smart metering is an invaluable tool for Cape Byron Power to instantly respond to any unusual spikes in water use. The data that smart metering technology provides means we can efficiency monitor our water consumption and investigate and respond to any abnormalities in a timely manner. It has also allowed for the identification and implementation of projects that reduce demand on our precious drinking water supply,” Mr Andrews said.
This project has also incorporated works with the adjoining Broadwater Sugar Mill, managed by Sunshine Sugar. Sunshine Sugar has upgraded equipment and monitoring practices by installing a new turbidity sensor. This new equipment has resulted in a significant reduction in town water consumption, with an estimated annual saving of more than 4 million litres.

This project is supported by Richmond Valley Council with assistance from specialist consultancy, Websters Group. 

Ryan Dillon, the Managing Director of Websters Group, said the partnership is an important contribution to firming regional water demand and securing the region’s water supply.

“With a focus on industrial water management, a bespoke digital dashboard has been designed to provide near-real time process flow diagrams, water transfer costing linked to pump energy usage and meter-by-meter detailed analysis for all major site processes,” Mr Dillon said.

“To date, the tool has not only assisted in the design of water saving projects but has also provided engineering and maintenance insights that would have otherwise been undetected. The project with Cape Byron Power is a leading example of a water utility using digital water management tools to build relationships with large water users interested in partnering for a water efficient future.”

Cape Byron Power, co-generation energy plant in Broadwater, is a proud partner of Rous County Council through the Sustainable Water Partner Program. Rous County Council recognises Cape Byron Power for its commitment to water efficiency. 

To find out more
Sustainable Water Partner Program 
Cape Byron Power case study


Regenerating Fosters Spur: One tree at a time

16 January 2023

We’re so fortunate in the Northern Rivers to have Nightcap National Park (NP) as the catchment area for our main water source at Rocky Creek Dam. This pristine environment is a natural water filter, which is why, wedged between the dam and Nightcap NP, it’s critical to restore the land at Fosters Spur.

“It’s a very ecologically sensitive area because it’s part of Nightcap NP and the Whian Whian Conservation Area. Fosters Spur has a lot of ecological value,” says Yusuke Koda, Rous’s Bush Regeneration Team Leader.

Situated on the traditional lands of the Widjabal Wia-bal people of the Bundjalung Nation, Fosters Spur was once an active farm until the dam was constructed in 1949. The sludge produced during the water treatment process was disposed of on drying beds in the middle of Fosters Spur. While this activity has long since ended, some 40 hectares of land was abandoned, until two years ago when Rous’s Bush Regeneration Team started a 10-year project to bring the area back to its natural state.

In Yusuke’s team are Clee Worts, Dominic Wagner and Margarida China. Together they have cleared land of weed infestations and planted around 3,000 natives in the last two years. “It’s a massive project,” says Yusuke. “First, it’s remote. Fosters Spur is on the other side of the dam, so access is very difficult, and we carry in the tools and materials we need. We took a boat over and built temporary pontoons, this saves driving at least an hour through conservation areas. It’s been left for decades so you can imagine we had a significant weed infestation. We started by using machinery to clear 5 acres of butterfly bush,” he explains. Mechanical removal was necessary as the infestation was too thick and tall for staff to access.

“Then we followed by planting native seedlings,” he says. Pencil Cedar, Brown Kurrajong, Red Camara and Bleeding heart are some of the pioneer species to be planted and were propagated in our nursery in Rocky Creek Dam." These are the species that come back first after a disturbance or a clearance on the land. We’re trying to replicate the natural process of regeneration. Surrounded by Nightcap NP we’re confident that birds and other animals will carry in new species so natural recruitment will happen. Once Fosters Spur has been restored, there are still 70 hectares of surrounding bush, including a large camphor laurel forest, to work on.   

Nightcap NP forms part of ancient Gondwana forest and is a World Heritage Area. The lush rainforest is a haven for threatened wildlife including Albert's lyrebird and Fleay's barred frog. New plant species are still being discovered in the subtropical, temperate and sclerophyll forest, including the nightcap oak.

There is a long way to go for the Bush Regeneration team, it seems like the hard work has just begun. “We’re making a difference and we enjoy that. After six months or a year we can see the plants growing, see the progress. It makes all the work we do very satisfying.”

The Bush Regeneration team also manages land around Emigrant Creek Dam, Wilson River Source, and Whian Whian, as well as the regenerated bushlands in Rocky Creek Dam; a total of around 130 hectares.


Yarning Circles: Q&A with Greg Telford

12 January 2023

To complement cultural awareness training at Rous, Greg Telford, our Reconciliation Liaison Officer, has started Yarning Circles for all staff. Initially focused on building trust and respect, as the Yarning Circles progress, they will look at Aboriginal and Islander people and the adversity created by colonisation. Greg has also been engaging with staff to improve race relations.

Rous Communications: For those of us not from Australia, can you tell us what exactly a Yarning Circle is, I guess you’re not knitting?

Greg Telford: Ha, no, not knitting. A yarning circle is an opportunity for people to get together and talk, to share something about themselves. Originally, I’d been asked to educate staff about colonisation and the impacts this had on the Indigenous community. But I thought first we need to build some trust and respect with each other, to build cohesiveness in the workplace.

RC: What do you talk about?

GT: I start by sharing my life story and then other people share theirs – where they come from, about their parents and what it was like growing up. Essentially, how we were socialised because this creates our belief systems, and our belief systems play a big role in how we perceive others. What you create by doing this is vulnerability. At work we have these masks on. Getting vulnerable in front of others means we take these masks down a little and we can be more real with one another. 

RC: is this a bit awkward in a professional environment?

GT: Yes, it is awkward and initially people are squirming in their seats. At first it feels quite strange but afterwards it feels nice. Everything said stays in the circle, it’s private.

RC: And how does this benefit reconciliation?

GT: It shows people that these are human behaviours, human experiences and they’re not black, white, red or yellow, they’re human. (We’re a multi-coloured country now.) Showing some vulnerability helps people feel more a lot more connected to each other and to me as well. That’s the whole idea. To feel a sense of connection and understanding. If I went in straight talking about the atrocities of colonisation there’s a good chance some people might get defensive. 

RC: How do you think the yarning circles have been received?

GT: The response has been quite overwhelming. Most of the staff say, wow, this is so good, I’ve never had this in the workplace before. It’s blown me away – a lot of people have worked together for years, and they don’t really know each other. Parts of the organisation aren’t so keen; they might ask what’s the use of this? I’d say to them, any time you want to come and have a yarn, you’re welcome to. There’s nothing to fear. I think a sense of inquisitiveness will get a hold of them and bring them to the circle. It’s been really positive in breaking down value and belief systems that we have about one another. Some people are sharing things that they’ve held in for so long. They’ve been carrying a heavy load. It’s not uncommon to have people in the women’s and men’s circles break down in tears.

RC: Women’s and men’s circles? Why are they separated?

GT:  Traditionally, women’s business and men’s business have been separated, and I feel most women and men feel slightly safer in Circles with their own gender, besides this they are more inclined to speak openly with their peers. In saying that, I am open to having mixed Circle’s if team’s request this, as the Circles are about building respect and trust with each other.

RC: How can people join a yarning circle?

GT: I’m aiming for this to happen every three months. We usually have between 7 – 11 people in the group and so far, we’ve run two women’s groups and four men’s groups.


New land acquisition to move Alstonville groundwater scheme forward

10 January 2023

Rous County Council is in negotiations with Ballina Shire Council to purchase a parcel of land suitable for the development of a groundwater treatment plant. The new treatment plant will utilise the groundwater resources from the recently investigated Clarence Moreton Basin and Rous’s existing bores within the Alstonville plateau.   

Better utilising groundwater at Alstonville forms part of the first stage of the Future Water Project 2060 and fulfils the project’s short-term objective to improve regional water security and drought resilience. 

Located within the planned development of the Russellton Industrial Estate, the land was determined to be the preferred site after investigating a number of sites across the plateau earlier this year. Once the purchase has been settled, the land will be classified as operational as defined by the Local Government Act 1993. 

Following Ballina Shire Council’s meeting of 15 December 2022, Rous and Ballina councils will soon commence discussions to transfer water supply assets associated with Ballina’s Marom Creek system into the Rous network. This will strengthen the regional approach to water security and make the best use of existing assets and water resources. 

The Future Water Project 2060 was formally adopted in July 2021. Click here for more information about the project.  


Nightcap Water Treatment Plant going green

09 January 2023

A 100kW rooftop solar system has been installed at Nightcap Water Treatment Plant (WTP). A major win-win for the community and the environment! The power generated will almost entirely be used within the water treatment plant, significantly reducing Rous’s greenhouse gas emissions and providing substantial savings on our electricity bill.

The system was installed by SEM Group, a Clean Energy Council approved commercial solar installer based in Brisbane. The project was funded under Council’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Strategy and directly complements our ongoing commitment to sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment.

With recent electricity price rises, the project is expected to have a return on investment of close to 40 per cent. During the next six months, Rous will be developing a Renewable Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan as the next phase of our journey to lessen our carbon footprint even further.


St Helena pipeline project update

06 January 2023

Stage 2 of the St Helena pipeline augmentation is the final stage of a 13.2km 660mm diameter pipeline carrying drinking water from Dorroughby to our coastal communities. Works are progressing well thanks to the recent drier weather, with Stage 2 of the project reaching approximately 77.1 per cent completion with 6.7km of pipe laid. 

This new welded joint, mild steel pipeline replaces infrastructure that had reached the end of its service life and was not sufficient to service the needs of our growing communities.

Pipelaying is now complete for the Knoll Creek double crossing and the Little Benny Creek crossing as well as a steep slope from Coopers Creek to Knoll Creek. From Eureka Road to Taylors Road is also complete. Meanwhile, concrete aprons and surface fittings are being progressively installed throughout the alignment. Trench stops and concrete bulkheads are also being installed.

The Taylors Road crossing is due to commence early this year. Looking further ahead, Coopers Creek, Wilsons Creek and the adjacent areas will be completed as weather and creek flows allow in the following months.

We’re also pleased to report Rous’s pipe supplier has an onsite quality control audit process which has identified excellent pipelaying standards.

Pipelaying from Taylors Road to Binna Burra Road is completed. The next section from Binna Burra Road to Friday Hut Road, is scheduled to start early this year.

The achievements of the project so far are a result of the continuing cooperation between Landholders, Ledonne Constructions and Rous County Council.


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