Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project

The project implemented habitat restoration works across the nationally-significant Upper Coldstream; underpinned by capacity-building opportunities to engage and empower landholders to deliver best-practice landscape-scale management.

A biodiverse landscape

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project coordinated a package of environmental restoration activities around Pillar Valley on the north coast of NSW. The project area spans the upper catchment of the Coldstream River at the eastern edge of the Clarence River floodplain.

The Upper Coldstream contains a significant proportion of the largest coastal wildlife corridor on the north coast of NSW, providing the connectivity and landscape diversity required by iconic species such as the coastal emu. The area is known to contain some of the most diverse eucalypt forests and forested wetlands in the world, provides habitat for more than 110 threatened species, and supports an exceptionally high diversity of native plants, with more than 1030 species recorded during project surveys - a significant proportion of Australia’s total.


The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project established a partnership between the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and the Clarence Environment Centre. In collaboration with 44 landholders, actions were implemented to reduce the impacts of weeds, pest animals and wildfire on the nationally significant values of Pillar Valley and surrounding catchments. With support from key stakeholders and linkages to complementary programs on adjoining public lands of the Yuraygir Coast, the project aimed to influence and implement best practice habitat restoration across 25,000 hectares. Rather than each landholder and land manager working alone, the Upper Coldstream Project provided a platform and network for stakeholders to tackle these landscape-scale problems in a coordinated, cooperative way across the whole catchment.

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project Strategic Plan that set the guiding principles for the project is available here.

Over four years, the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project aimed to achieve several main targets:

  • Weed control prioritised to areas where a natural regeneration response of native plants will eventuate over time as a result of intensive weed control; strategic management was implemented across 4,000 hectares over four years; targeted eradication of a range of outlier and isolated weeds was an important component; the CSIRO supported the release of a biological control for Crofton Weed; training and education was instigated to increase landholder knowledge, skills and capacity to manage weeds.
  • Pest animal control targeted at sites where pigs, foxes and cats are identified as impacting on significant ecological values; a pig trap has been used cooperatively across both public and private lands being located where pigs are currently active. Landholders were provided with motion-detection cameras which gave them an insight into both the wildlife as well as the feral animals moving within and across their properties. Landholders could then instigate the appropriate control methods best suited to their situation. 
  • Fire management focused on reducing the impacts of uncontrolled wildfire on the significant ecological values of the Upper Coldstream. In some cases well-planned and controlled fire can be used as a management tool to rehabilitate habitats, controlling weeds and stimulating native plant regeneration. The Hotspots program was run in conjunction with the Rural Fire Service and brought together a group of landholders covering a large part of the Yuraygir and Coldstream landscape. The program gave landholders the opportunity to consider how fire impacts their land, assets and environment. Property-scale maps were used to plan how to prepare for bushfire events as well as how to use fire to support healthy vegetation and maintain habitat condition.

You can learn more about the outcomes of the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project in this film produced to showcase the progress and achievements of the initiative.

Cultural connections

The project area covers the traditional lands of the Yaegl people who maintain strong cultural connections to the area and it’s spectacular landforms, waterways and wildlife. The project has benefited from having involvement and participation of the Local Aboriginal Land Council and Elders. The emu has great cultural significance for the Aboriginal people of the Bandjalung, Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr nations on the North Coast and their involvement will continue through participation in the Coastal Emu Alliance and management of their land to benefit emus and other significant biodiversity values.

Project case studies

Exceptional plant diversity across the Upper Coldstream

Revegetation across the Upper Coldstream

Invasive weed control across the Upper Coldstream

Flora of the Upper Coldstream

Fauna of the Upper Coldstream

Coastal Emu Alliance

A key initiative that has emerged from the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity project is the establishment of the Coastal Emu Alliance, which is taking a lead in landscape-scale activities to benefit native wildlife and continues to achieve positive outcomes. This group comprises government, community, landholders, cane growers, graziers, native title holders, landcare organisations, ecologists and local environment groups working towards the protection of the last remaining coastal emus.
The great pressure the coastal emu is under requires an intensive management program to instigate a recovery in the population numbers. The Coastal Emu Alliance is proving to be a very useful flagship initiative that will guide prioritisation and strategic delivery of conservation activities across 200,000 hectares - primarily addressing the threats to the coastal emu but in doing so, positively impacting on the other unique, diverse and significant habitats and wildlife across this landscape. 

Find out more about the Coastal Emu program in this short brochure. A more detailed Coastal Emu Business Case has also been prepared.

You can see more about the Coastal Emu Alliance in this short two minute film.


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