kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary 2022 Report Card

The TEER Program is a partnership approach to waterway management that sees a number of organisations directly engaged and working together to achieve common goals for improving waterway health.


05 July 2022

kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary – The catchment and industry collaboration

The kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary is an iconic part of the Tasmanian landscape. This unique estuary is fed by five major river systems, it drains the largest catchment in Tasmania and the estuary itself is the longest navigable estuary in Australia.

Strongly influenced by the tide along its 70 kilometre length, with the tidal range in Launceston exceeding four metres at times, between high and low tide. The estuary is also facing some big challenges from climate change, population growth, pollution and invasive plant and animal species.

In 2008, the Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers (TEER) Program was established as a partnership between agencies responsible for the management of the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers waterways. The partnership approach to waterway management sees a number of organisations directly engaged and working together to achieve common goals for improving waterway health.

Sustainability at the Heart of Strategy

TasPorts became a participating member of the TEER Program in 2021, after being a member of the Derwent Estuary Program for several years. Why would we be interested in the TEER Program?

TasPorts has a long affiliation with the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary through the Port of Launceston Authority, and with our Launceston office just a stone's throw away from the Estuary on Willis Street.

Adjacent to one of Tasmania’s major industrial estates, is the Port of Bell Bay. The port is located on the eastern bank of the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary, 48 kilometres north of Launceston. The Port of Bell Bay is a major port for domestic and international bulk goods, as well as container services.

On the western shore of kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary is Inspection Head Wharf, the home wharf to our tugs Risdon Cove and RT Sensation and RT Force.

TasPorts’ involvement through the TEER Program has allowed our Environment and Sustainability Team to evolve and adapt our sustainability strategy. As we look forward, it is critical that we continue to plan for a sustainable future at all of our ports.

Key focus areas

The TEER Program aims to be a trusted and respected provider of science and evidence that informs decision-making to protect, restore and enhance water quality in the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary and its rivers, from catchment to coast.

  • Monitoring and reporting
    • Ecosystem Health Assessment Program and Report Cards
    • Lake Trevallyn Algal Bloom Monitoring
    • Freshwater Report Card
  • Scientific investigations
    • Bacteria/pathogens, sedimentation, seafood safety, faecal source tracking
    • Peer review
  • Improving stormwater management
    • Northern Tasmanian Stormwater working group
    • Training for building industry and councils
  • Water quality planning and implementation
    • Water Quality Improvement Plan
    • Projects: Clean Rivers, Sheepwash Creek WSUD

The TEER Program monitors the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary in five functional zones:

Zone 1 ‘Estuarine’ – Launceston to Legana

Zone 2 ‘Estuarine’ – Legana to Swan Point

Zone 3 ‘Estuarine’ – Swan Point to Rowella

Zone 4 ‘Marine’ – Rowella to Kelso

Zone 5 ‘Marine’ – Kelso to Low Head

Both the Port of Bell Bay and Inspection Head Wharf

are located within ‘Zone 5’ of the TEER ecosystem

health assessment program study area.

With coordinated planning, the TEER Program underpins a $140 million investment in estuary improvements identified in the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce’s River Health Action Plan funded through the Launceston City Deal. This investment is leveraging co-funding from landholders resulting in substantial streamside improvements in the catchment.

The 2022 TEER Report Card shows minor declines in ecosystem grades in Zones 2, 4 and 5, with Zones 1 and 3 remaining the same when compared to the 2020 Report Card monitoring period. The reporting period coincides with high rainfall throughout the catchment relative to the 2020 and 2018 Report Card monitoring periods.

The 2022 TEER Report Card Technical Report has been developed to assist with the interpretation of the 2022 Report Card to provide insight into the drivers of change in ecosystem conditions over time.

While Zone 5 has been classed as having ‘excellent ecosystem health’ the 2022 Report Card has shown a small shift in grade from A to A-. The cause of this has been identified as an increase in median concentrations of total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a and high variability in pH in the lower estuary. The elevated chlorophyll-a and total phosphorus are consistent pressures on the ecosystem throughout the estuary.

Grades are allocated based on an ecosystem health index (EHI) for each zone. The overall EHI is the average of composite EHI from 3 categories; dissolved heavy metals, nutrients and ‘other’ consisting of pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll-a.

Building community knowledge and awareness

It is important that the broader community understands the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary and Esk River systems, the role these systems play in the community, and the need for them to be healthy. The health of the Estuary is affected by natural and human-induced pressures. With continued monitoring of the area, members of the TEER Program will be able to better evaluate the condition of the waterway, targeting investment and on-ground works to improve the health of this important ecosystem.

You can find more information about the TEER Program and NRM North via their websites.

TEER Report Web Banner