A FEW hundred metres from Settlement Point's lounge rooms, Adam Gosling and Anissa Murrary spent Wednesday laying vegetation mats on the bottom of the Hastings River.
The coir mesh mats are part of a world-first mangrove restoration project being run by local oyster growers and fishers.
There was almost constant activity around the two coastal marine specialists as they waded in the shallows. Such regular use and abuse of the waterway has taken a toll, and the Hastings River Oyster Growers and the Hastings Fly Fishers Inc have partnered to do something about it.
They received grants from North Coast Local Land Services and Fisheries NSW Recreational Fishing Trust Fish Habitat Action Grant Program, and support from TierraMar Consulting and Fisheries NSW. The coir mesh is relatively inexpensive, Mr Gosling said, and could reduce mangrove restoration costs to about $10 a metre.
"This is a widely used and successful method for revegetation of freshwater wetlands, riparian slopes and coastal areas with high winds so we want to see if we can generate the same sort of success with mangroves," he said.
"If we can, it will substantially reduce the costs of mangrove revegetation."
Wednesday's planting of river mangrove seeds will be followed in November with a trial of grey mangrove seeds, which are more likely to survive and propagate.
"The grey mangrove seed is much more rounded, which means it is better for establishing against the waves and movement in a river,"" Mr Gosling said.
The project will be tested across different conditions including high wind, wave action and calm water to determine its effectiveness in preventing riverbank erosion, Mr Gosling said.
Regardless of where the mats are located, Paul Wilson reckons it shows commitment to stewardship on the part of oyster growers. The Hastings River oyster farmer said his group's environmental management system from 2012 started the ball rolling towards improving environmental practices.
"Mangroves are such a key part of a healthy ecosystem and it will be great if we can use this new method to successfully re-grow mangroves where they once were to help address the serious issue of erosion within the estuary," Mr Wilson said.
The Hastings Fly Fishers will continue to monitor the project because it is important for the community, and because it means one thing for them.
"This is an important project with possible long term benefits for all fisheries, because it's about making more fish, and more mangroves means more fish." said president Don Dixon.