The Tamar estuary is highly valued by the community for a range of social, recreational, environmental and economic values. The estuary is fed by the North and South Esk Rivers which drain approximately 15 per cent of Tasmania. This catchment area represents some of the most productive agricultural land found in Tasmania as well as nationally recognised biodiversity 'hotspots'.
Several large conservation areas are associated with the Tamar catchment area, including the Ben Lomond National Park, the Tamar River Wildlife Sanctuary and the Tamar River Mouth Nature Reserve. The South Esk and Macquarie catchments have been identified as National Biodiversity hot spots and Low Head within the Tamar estuary has been identified as a marine biodiversity hot spot.
The Macquarie River, North Esk River, South Esk River and Tamar estuary are home to a number of species that are listed under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Act 1995 and the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These species include native fish such as Galaxids and Green and Golden Frogs. There are also many endangered threatened fauna and flora species that are present within the riparian zone and catchments of these rivers.
The South Esk catchment is one of the largest agricultural catchments in Tasmania making it a significant economic resource for the region. The surface water within the North and South Esk Rivers is an important natural resource not only for farmers but for many industries such as Hydro Tasmania, Tas Water, Tas Irrigation, Huon Aquiculture, and Fly Fish Australia.
Sediment input from the greater catchment area, into the river systems has contributed to the siltation of the Tamar estuary. Sediment carried with surface runoff into the rivers brings with it nutrients and heavy metals. A legacy of historic mining in the upper catchment, has also impacted on the overall condition of the river systems and contributed to the contaminants in the estuary. Consequently, improving the water quality in the TEER catchments will assist in the long-term sustainable management of this resource and the ecosystem health of the Tamar estuary.