The Tweed Shire Community Strategic Plan 2011- 2021 identifies the need to foster a viable farming community and improve the environmental capacity of Tweed farmland.
The Sustainable Agriculture Program is a response to these community objectives. By working with local landholders and with support from the Tweed River Committee, Tweed Coastal Committee and state agencies, Tweed Shire Council is seeking to improve the viability and environmental capacity of the Tweed’s farmland with on-ground projects such as those described below.
Agriculture is one of the main land uses in the Tweed Shire. However, a range of social, economic and environmental pressures - including an ageing farming population, changing land uses and increasing variability of environmental factors - are all impacting on the viability of agriculture in the Tweed. The Tweed Shire Sustainable Agriculture Strategy will identify actions and delivery pathways to meet these challenges.
A discussion paper was developed in 2011 to describe the background and extent of agriculture in the Tweed Shire. The discussion paper also outlined a range of key challenges for agriculture in the Tweed Shire. The discussion paper posed questions about how to balance environmental, social and economic considerations in Tweed's agricultural and food production systems, and sought public feedback.
Discussion Paper - Sustainable Agriculture Strategy (6.39mb)
In response to feedback, Tweed Shire Council is currently developing a draft strategy for presentation to Council to consider and place on public exhibition.
Council will then amend the strategy to respond to community feedback. A final version of the strategy will then be presented to Council for adoption.
Please click on the relevant headings below to view more information...
Acid sulfate soil is the common name given to soils and sediments containing iron sulfides, the most common being pyrite. When exposed to air due to drainage or disturbance, these soils produce sulfuric acid, often releasing toxic quantities of iron, aluminium and heavy metals.
In the Tweed, acid sulfate soils are common throughout the coastal floodplain, much of which has been disturbed by human activities, particularly agriculture. Tweed Shire Council, state government and local landholders have been working together for a number of years to manage the impacts of acid sulfate soils. Refer to the projects list for more information.
For more information about acid sulfate soils visit:
QLD Department of Environment and Resource Management - Acid Sulfate Soils
NSW Department of Primary Industries - Acid Sulfate Soils
NSW Department of Primary Industries - Guidelines for Managing Floodgates and Drainage Systems
The Tweed River Committee was formed in 1992 to implement a multi-stakeholder approach to waterway health. It comprises of Community Representatives, State Government Agencies, Councillors and Tweed Shire Council staff. The committee meets bi-monthly and advises Council on issues related to the implementation of the Tweed Estuary Management Plan and Tweed Vegetation Management Strategy. Projects which address issues such as water quality, river bank stability, recreational use and education are initiated by the committee.
Tweed River Committee Charter (28kb).
Need help accessing landholder resources, grants and incentives?
A good place to start is the Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Community Support Officer
(02) 6670 2199
Greenbanks Poster (5.75mb)
Stock and Waterways (5.16mb)
Making Compost (85.6kb)
Climate Change Impacts – Northern Rivers (799kb)
Northern Rivers Floodplain Network (200kb)
NSW Department of Primary Industries
QLD Department of Primary Industries
Catchment Management Authority
Further to previous Caring For our Country and Northern Rivers Food Links projects, TSC will support the Tweed Sustainable Agriculture Network to deliver the $586,500.00 Increasing Soil Carbon in Tweed Valley Farmland grant project.
The 3 years project proposes to implement a nutrient recycling program on 30 local farms across 6 industries (sugar cane, banana, vegetable, orchards, dairy, beef) both conventional and organic with the aim to increase soil carbon whilst reducing farm GHG emissions. The project will demonstrate that through the application of compost, biochar/compost blend, animal manure as well as using legume cover crops, soil carbon levels consistently increase over various landscapes, soil types, activities and time. Furthermore the project will provide a platform to trial the production of local C rich soil amendment products by recycling local resources (municipal green waste, dairy manure and effluent, forestry and road side wood chips) thus reducing need for transport and associated GHG emissions or financial cost (currently transport accounts for over 50% of the total cost of composts or manure).
Increasing Soil Carbon in Tweed Valley Farmland Summary Report (56kb)
Managing Land for Carbon Seminar - Tweed Sustainable Agriculture -1st May 2012 (118kb)
The Tweed River is brackish (salty) as far upstream as Murwillumbah. Historically, floodgates were installed in creeks and drains to prevent high tides from flooding arable land with brackish water. This action inadvertently lead to a range of environmental issues such as acid sulfate soil pollutant export and reducing fish nursery habitiat.
In 2000 Council, in partnership with landholders and state government agencies, commenced a program to improve tidal flow and fish passage through floodgate modification in drains and creeks on the floodplain. Improving tidal flow in cane drains helps to buffer the impact of acid sulfate soil discharge, significantly reducing pollutant export to waterways.
Thirty-nine high priority floodgates have been modified so far, delivering significant environmental outcomes and even a few unexpected benefits to landholders, such as reducing the time and cost associated with controlling weeds in cane drains, which are reduced / displaced when drains are regularly flushed with brackish water.
Maintaining cane drains often requires soil disturbance to remove sedimentation and rectify bank slumping.
In 2007 Council, in partnership with state government agencies and local landholders commenced a program to plant out cane drains with native ground cover and small trees to stabilise the banks, discourage weeds and prevent topsoil runoff.
In 2005 Council, in partnership with state government agencies and local landholders commenced a field levelling and drain in-filling program to reduce acid sulfate soil runoff to local waterways.
Historically, cane paddocks have had varying degrees of undulation, requiring large numbers of field drains to export surface water to the adjacent river or creek. These drains require regular cleaning, which disturbe the soil and generated acid sulfate and other pollutants, which end up in the river.
Levelling cane paddocks reduces the number of field drains required, because excess water can flow off the paddock naturally. This increases the amount of land available for production while reducing soil disturbance associated with drain maintenance. This in-turn reduces acid sulfate soil runoff to the waterways.
Nearly 40km of field drains have been filled across the floodplain including farmland at Eviron, Bray Park, Christies Creek, Murwillumbah, Kynnumboon, Tygalgah and Chinderah.
For many years, Blacks Drain at South Murwillumbah has been identified as a major source of acid sulfate related pollutant (e.g. iron, aluminium, sulfuric acid) export to the Tweed River.
In 2008 Council was successful in obtaining $100,000 from the NSW Environmental Trust, Urban Sustainability Grant to reduce drain depth and increasing drain width to retain drainage capacity without disturbing the acid sulfate soil layer. These works have been very successful, improving a previously unusable pasture while preventing further oxidation and transport of sulfidic materials to the Tweed River.
Blacks Drain Photo Report (1.26mb)
In 2010 Council, in partnership with Tweed Landcare, Northern Rivers Food Links and local landholders, conducted a number of on-farm trials to compare the benefits of organic compost and manures with conventional fertilisers.
The Cudgen Plateau is famous for its fertile, volcanic soil and Cudgen Creek is famous for turning the colour of the soil after heavy rain.
The University of NSW and Tweed Shire Council in partnership with NSW Cane Growers Association and NSW Sugar Milling Co‐operative are undertaking another Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project ; LP110100480 ‘Exploiting Natural Processes to Effectively Remediate Acidified Coastal Environments’ commenced in 2011 with the main aims to undertake:
The major field research undertakings in 2011 focused on two catchments, namely Blacks Drain (Figure 1 - 2)and Christies Ck (Figure 3). In the former catchment, research was aimed at determining how effective remedial works conducted in 2009 have been in reducing the discharge of iron and aluminium from the upper catchment area. In the latter catchment, previous research was utilised with limited further sampling to identify problematic ASS areas and potential techniques to improve water quality from this catchment.
For some of the key findings, please refer to the Annual Progress Report for 2011 (1.31mb).
Between 2005 and 2008 Council co-hosted a research project by the Australian Research Council with the principal objective of developing innovative, scientifically-sound, practicable, floodplain management techniques to reduce the impacts on estuary and coastal water quality from Acid Sulfate Soils drainage products.
In 2006 Council co-hosted a research project by the Australian National University to compare greenhouse gas emissions from acid sulfate soils and non-acid sulfate soils in cane paddocks.
Preliminary results indicates that emissions of CO2 from ASS are in the top of the range for agricultural soils, emissions of N2O from N-fertilised soils appear to be much higher than expected from agricultural soils and that ASS are sources of atmospheric CH4 particularly when very wet when their emissions are comparable with rice fields and wetlands.