AN UPGRADE of the Apsley River and associated woodland replantings has been a big hit with Walcha residents, with 98 per cent of them giving the recently completed work the thumbs-up.
Gerry Moran, Walcha Council’s director Environmental Services, said he and other council staff were chuffed at the residents’ approval.
Mr Moran said since the completion of the 12-month project late last year, school children had surveyed residents as part of a school project to find an overwhelming number of people liked the finished result.
“It’s fantastic. It’s great,” Mr Moran said.
The Apsley River Corridor and Walcha Woodlands Plan had been funded by the NSW Environmental Trust to the tune of $2 million as part of the High Country Urban Biodiversity Project across four local government areas – Guyra, Armidale-Dumaresq, Uralla and Walcha.
The project aimed to maintain and improve the biodiversity values of the significant native vegetation remnants within Walcha and to increase their connections with the Apsley River.
Areas worked on included the lookout, the travelling stock route on Uralla Rd, the town common, Blair’s Gully and near the racecourse.
The plan also aimed to increase water quality and riparian habitat along a section of the Apsley River between the Millpond and Middle St Bridge.
Mr Moran said the river had been clogged with reeds and weeds, and needed a major cleanout of the silt, which had built up over 50 years.
The council also wanted to lessen the town’s levee banks’ overwhelming presence and utilise them in a better way for the community to enjoy.
“Prior to the works, the levee banks were cutting the town in two,” he said.
“Council wanted the Apsley River to be ‘the vein, not the drain’. The river should be uniting our community rather than dividing it. We wanted this to be the focal point of our community, a place where locals and visitors could visit and enjoy their time in Walcha.”
Mr Moran said beautification and diversity works were done within the levee banks to make them more “environment- and people-friendly”.
Major earthworks were done, “to reduce the level of the water initially and then we installed rock riffles, which cause the water to pond,” Mr Moran said.
“You build up the water level to what it was before the works to oxygenate the water and allow fish passage.”
A concrete cover was also laid on top of the levee banks which doubles as a walkway and cycleway, an added bonus, Mr Moran said, because the levee bank work was part of flood-mitigation works.
A whale sculpture had also been donated from Tamworth and erected, adding to the town’s sculpture tourist walking trail.