The Northern Tasmania NRM Region covers 25,200 km2 (approximately 2.5 million hectares) of the State and extends to the three nautical mile (5.5 km) limit from the coast. The region’s boundaries align with those of Northern Tasmania Development, the regional development organisation owned by the eight Northern Tasmanian Councils, namely: Break O’Day, Dorset, George Town, Launceston, West Tamar, Meander Valley, Northern Midlands and Flinders (covering the Eastern Bass Strait islands). The region’s population of approximately 134,000 (28% of the State) is concentrated around the Tamar Basin and Launceston, with a number of smaller towns servicing a dispersed rural and coastal community.
The economy of northern Tasmania is primarily based around its natural resources of land, water (including estuarine, coastal and marine), biodiversity and associated service industries such as tourism, retail and government, manufacturing, agriculture, viticulture and forest industries, form a major part of the region’s core economy. Other industry sectors include fishing, aquaculture, education and training, food and beverage, and information technology. The role of primary industries is especially relevant, as this sector manages much of the region’s natural resources and underpins the region’s economy.
Northern Tasmania covers a variety of terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine, coastal and marine habitats and each contains important flora and fauna species and ecosystems. The region’s biodiversity reflects the diversity of landscapes, soils and climate. Terrestrial habitat types include dry forests, woodlands, she-oak forest, wet forests, rainforest, grasslands and coastal and alpine heathland. Native vegetation covers approximately 65% of the terrestrial area of the region. Freshwater habitats include the aquatic flora and fauna of inland rivers, streams and wetlands.
The region contains ecologically significant wetland conservation areas, including five RAMSAR wetlands (Logan Lagoon, Flyover Lagoon, Jock’s Lagoon, Little Waterhouse Lake and the Chimneys) and 44 Directory of Important Wetlands Australia (DIWA) wetlands. Over 180 threatened species are known to occur in the region.
These water resources have significant ecological value, providing habitat for a diverse array of aquatic flora and fauna species. Similarly, the region’s groundwater resources are an important source of water, which is primarily used for stock watering and irrigation, as well as for the town water supply in areas such as St Marys. Within the region, inland water resources are an important component of economic and social growth through the provision of water for irrigated agriculture, power generation and town water supplies. Water resources also provide a range of tourism uses and scenic and visual amenity values.
The region contains a diverse range of geology, soils and landforms, from the islands of the Furneaux and Kent groups to the karst cave systems around Mole Creek and the rich red soils in Deloraine. The soils of the region provide the basis for much of the land-based primary production and urban settlement. At higher elevations, or on soils with lower fertility, production forestry is frequently the dominant land use. Significant areas of land are held under a number of different reserve types with approximately 3,400 km2 (13.5%) of the region in secure reserves or under conservation covenants and a further 640 km2 (2.5%) in informal reserves of State Forest .
The coastline of northern Tasmania extends for over 2,000 km and includes offshore islands, low energy beaches, rocky shorelines, sheltered bays and extensive dune systems. Estuarine, coastal and marine habitats support a unique range of important flora and fauna communities including shorebirds and waders, fairy penguins and humpback whales.
Since European settlement, the ecosystems and habitats in the region have been extensively modified, principally by economic activities such as agriculture, urban and industrial development, forestry, mining, hydro developments, fishing and aquaculture, as well as recreational pursuits. It is now time to improve the way we use and look after our natural resources, to ensure a brighter future for all.
Our Region's Priorities
In developing the Northern Regional NRM Strategy, the region’s stakeholders identified 21 targets for resource condition, 51 targets for the management of those resources and more than 150 priority actions to get us there.
These priorities spanned the natural resource areas of Land, Water, Biodiversity, Atmosphere and the Coast and Marine Environments. Although highly diverse in their range, there were some consistent themes that arose, particularly in respect to:
- Providing assistance to farmers and other resource managers to help them adopt improved management approaches.
- Better identifying and monitoring the condition of our natural resources, and
- Recognising and supporting the community groups and organisations that underpin the delivery of NRM across the region.
- Habitat loss and modification;
- Management of threatened populations species and ecological communities
- Pest plants and animals and diseases.
Major causes of habitat loss and modification include:
- Clearance of riparian and wetland vegetation and the degradation of these habitats by uncontrolled stock access.
- Over-grazing. Grazing pressure is thought to be one of a suite of contributors to rural tree decline in native woodland and forest communities. Not only is tree decline a major cause of habitat loss and modification in some areas, it also has the potential to contribute to soil erosion and salinity, through rising water tables.
- Conversion of native vegetation for agriculture and forestry is still occurring in the region. Highly biodiverse areas of native grasslands and grassy woodlands are at risk of species decline due to conversion for pivot irrigation and cropping.
- Inappropriate timber and flora harvesting.
- Changed fire regimes and inappropriate use of fire
- Secondary salinity (salinity induced by human activities)
- Ongoing habitat loss and modification is partly due to a lack of adequate planning to address fragmentation of habitat, particularly on private land.
- Lack of knowledge or lack of capability to undertake appropriate property management planning may contribute.
The major causes of Threatened Species, Populations and Ecological Communities include:
- Inappropriate or illegal harvesting of flora
- Introduced species out-competing and/or killing native species.
- Pest Plants, Animals and Disease. Pest plants and animals impact on the environment by modifying habitat and by hunting or out-competing native species. In addition, pest plants and animals degrade the pastoral industry by reducing the productive capacity of the land. Weeds displace and degrade native vegetation and fauna values, reduce farm and forest production and contribute significantly to land and water degradation. The root rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi is a problem in some parts of the region, mainly in coastal heaths, heathy woodlands and buttongrass moorlands. Other diseases affecting native flora include myrtle wilt, Eucalypt crown dieback, and root rot caused by Armillaria spp. Fungi, while threats to fauna include frog disease.
- Two new State-wide threats, foxes and the occurrence of the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease, represent major challenges to wildlife in the region. The establishment of foxes in Tasmania could lead to the extinction of some small and medium-sized mammals.
Building Sustainable Communities
The following have been identified as processes that threaten the building of sustainable communities:
- Community burnout
- Low levels of understanding
- Resourcing limitations
- Ineffective policy and legislative frameworks, planning and coordination
- Lack of monitoring and evaluation.
To adequately tackle capacity building in the region there are two issues that need to be simultaneously addressed. The first involves a range of actions to engage the community and business in NRM activities and to support them in undertaking NRM action, while the second involves investing in NRM leadership and overcoming institutional and regulatory frameworks that restrict NRM action. In conjunction with these two issues is the role of communications in conveying the NRM message to engage stakeholders and the wider community. A key part of our community partnerships approach is working with Local Government and their NRM committee's.
Coastal, Estuarine and Marine
- Habitat loss and modification
- Introduced pest plants and animals
- Degraded estuarine, coastal and marine water quality.
- Reduction in environmental flows
Habitat loss and modification is caused by:
- Pressures including tourism, recreational, residential and industrial use and development.
Vegetation clearing, alteration of drainage and fire regimes, weed/pest invasions, nutrient and sediment pollution in run-off, and climate change impacts
- Introduced pest plants and animals threaten coastal and marine environments through predation, habitat modification and displacement of native species. They can also contribute to a decrease in land and marine economic productivity.
Degraded estuarine, coastal and marine water quality is caused by:
- Elevated nutrient, pollutant and sediment loads from a range of sources in their catchments including agricultural, urban and industrial activities.
- Marine pollution, especially from land based sources.
Reduction in environmental flows from upper catchments is caused by:
- The removal of water upstream for irrigation and domestic purposes.
- The lack of an integrated approach to coastal and marine management has at times resulted in lack of action and inconsistent and/or ill-informed decision-making. This, combined with low levels of understanding and awareness about the condition of the asset and associated issues, exacerbates the deterioration of estuarine, coastal and marine environments.
- Disturbance of Aboriginal and historic artefacts, places and features is a threat to the integrity of culturally significant sites. Development without regard for cultural heritage values is the main cause of the decline in condition of cultural heritage sites. Lack of knowledge and understanding of the significance and management of these sites has also contributed to deterioration.
- Increasing Salinity
- Decline in Soil Condition
- Protection of Geo-heritage Values
- Loss of Landscape Values
Increasing Salinity is caused by changes in land use, primarily from native vegetation to other land uses such as pasture, cropping, irrigation and drainage
A Decline in Soil Condition (including acidification, erosion, and contamination) is caused by various land use and management activities (eg. forestry, agriculture, or urban development) as well as climate and other biophysical processes.
Sulphide-rich sediments have the potential to form Acid Sulfate Soils (ASS) when they are drained and exposed to the air. ASS have the potential to seriously impact on infrastructure through the corrosive effects of the highly acidic subsurface materials, crop and pasture production, and inland and offshore fisheries.
Accelerated Soil erosion is caused by human intervention in activities such as vegetation clearance or soil disturbance. Wind erosion in agricultural areas within the Northern Midlands can be severe, especially following spring cultivation of soils. Erosion in forestry areas is known to occur along tracks and access roads, while in National Parks and Reserves erosion can result from tourist and recreational activity.
Contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water can potentially be caused by the disposal of solid and liquid wastes on land. Contamination by pesticides and herbicides may also occur in northern Tasmania leading to a decline in soil biodiversity and production, however data on this issue is limited.
Geoconservation sites are under threat from the effects of human interaction, either directly through recreational activities, or indirectly through changes in land use affecting the hydrological cycle and fluvial processes.
Loss of Landscape Values of agricultural and natural landscapes is caused by urban encroachment. Areas at risk include those around major urban centres such as Launceston, and coastal areas undergoing development such as much of the East coast.
- Water Quality
- Sustainable Use of Water Resources
- Decline in condition of Wetlands
- Decline in condition of Rivers
Surface Water Quality decline is caused by:
- Inputs of sediments after high rainfall, nutrients, salinity, bacterial contamination, debris and litter, heavy metals and chemicals.
- The removal of riparian vegetation or its decline in condition through uncontrolled stock access can reduce the stability of stream banks and the capacity to intercept overland flow. As a result, sediments, nutrients and pesticides in run-off can enter waterways.
- Heavy metal pollution from mining.
Declining quality of groundwater systems can be attributed to:
- Both point and diffuse sources such as septic tanks, landfill sites, agricultural chemicals and fertilisers and leaking fuel storage tanks. These issues may be a result of historical deficiencies in strategic water quality planning between stakeholders, ineffective institutional arrangements or an insufficient knowledge about integrated water quality management.
The main causes underlying unsustainable use of water resources include:
- A lack of coordinated strategic planning
- Ineffective institutional frameworks
- Inappropriate management practices.
- Insufficient data on the condition of water resources and trends.
Activities leading to unsustainable use of water resources include:
- Over-pumping and overdevelopment of groundwater resources.
- Land clearance - as it increases deep drainage of water to groundwater that can then result in the flushing of salt into surface waters, and soil salinity and waterlogging.
Decline in condition of Wetlands is caused by:
- Government, industry, farmers and community groups undertaking unregulated works in and around wetlands, such as excavating banks, draining wetlands to provide more pasture or removing riparian vegetation.
- Alteration of natural flow regimes from upper catchments.
Decline in condition of rivers is caused by:
- Inappropriate land management practices (including on adjoining waterways)
- A lack of coordinated management
- Ineffective arrangements and inadequate knowledge relating to the use and appropriate management of rivers.
- Changes in flow regime and changes in water quality. Changes to the flow regime are caused by modified catchment land use (impacting on surface run-off and groundwater discharge); water harvesting (diversion works, pump stations, dams); regulation (power supply, harvesting, temporary and permanent modifications to the channel); and return of drainage from agricultural, urban and industrial land uses.
Changes in catchment land use, return drainage (agricultural, urban and industrial) and changes to groundwater discharge impact on water quality.
- Air quality
- Greenhouse gas emissions
Air Quality is affected by:
Locally high levels of woodsmoke during the winter months. The Tamar Valley is particularly affected due to the Tamar Region Airshed. A climatic feature of northern Tasmania is the potential for cold air (katabatic) drainage. This occurs under highly stable conditions when cold air sinks from higher elevations under its own weight, producing a light air stream moving along the valleys towards the sea. A temperature inversion is thus created, and air pollution that is entrained into katabatic flow will remain largely unmixed, thus causing high pollution concentrations in particular air bodies.
Particulate emissions and smoke at the regional level:
Particle and greenhouse gas emissions include particulates, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, methane, carbon dioxide, fluorine and odorous reduced sulphur compounds. Emissions can come from wood burning, motor vehicles, and industrial processes. Major sources of particulate emissions include domestic woodsmoke, bushfires, controlled burns, incinerators, and pollen.
Atmospheric issues such as climate change and greenhouse effects come through the use of fossil fuels, industrial processes, and inefficient energy-use practices.
Strategies & Proposals
What is the strategy?
Managing Tasmania’s natural resources is nothing new. It’s been practised under one name or another for years, and indeed for thousands of years before European settlement.
Over the past decade, the majority of local governments have been developing a plan for managing natural resources in their area. There are various other strategies as well: coastal management strategies, weed management, salinity management and so on.
The intention of the NRM North Natural Resource Management Strategy is tie together all of these other strategies, and pick up any other important bits that haven’t yet been covered.
Simply put, it is an overarching plan for managing all of the natural resources of the northern Tasmanian region. It’s also the framework on which investment in NRM activities in the region will be based, e.g. funding will be directed towards achieving what’s in the strategy.
What’s in the strategy?
In short, the strategy is a series of statements about what we want for our natural resources, what we’re going to do to get there, and how we’re going to measure our progress along the way.
What we want:
Aspirational Targets describe the long-term goals for our natural resources – the air, soil, water, rivers, forests, oceans, and so on: they express what we want in the future, for example, clean air; rivers we can drink from; productive land; and so on.
What we’re going to do about it:
Management Actions describe the actions we’re going to undertake to achieve those goals.
How we’re going to know we’ve achieved it:
Resource Condition Targets describe the measurements we’ll use to monitor our progress towards achieving our goals. They express how we’re going to measure our progress, for example, they are specific and measurable targets that indicate whether we’ve achieve our aspirational target.
Regional Weed Management Strategy & Weed Action Plan
As a complement to the Northern NRM Strategy, a wide range of committed organisations in the northern region have financed and developed a Northern Regional Weed Management Strategy.
Priorities highlighted in the Strategy will be addressed primarily through an IP that identifies high priority investment opportunities designed to achieve our longer-term targets (10-20yr Resource Condition Targets), and shorter-term targets (1-5yr Management Action Targets) listed in the Strategy. This weed strategy identifies strategic actions and resource sharing efficiencies for the ongoing effective management of introduced feral plant species in our region.
A Weed Action Plan was subsequently developed in 2006 as a partner document to the strategy. The action plan gives a simple but precise outline of the current programs and future actions required in the northern NRM region of Tasmania to manage the existing and potential weed issues.