Our Manning River

The future of the Manning River is in our hands. Photo by Mark Gutterson.

 MidCoast Council acknowledges the Gathang speaking people, the custodians of the land to which this plan applies. We pay our respect to all Aboriginal people of the land and to Elders past, present and future.

Caring for the Mighty Manning

We hope to inspire community action to assist us in protecting the incredible asset that is the Manning River. 

 As a community, we have a shared responsibility to take care of the waterways of the Manning River and its surrounding catchment lands. Together we will develop the Manning River Estuary Management Plan which seeks to measure the health of the Manning, and outlines what steps we need to take to manage it sustainably. 

We seek support and inspiration from our community. The contribution of local knowledge and stories will allow us to discover more about our remarkable river system.  We will share our findings, up to date science, and welcome your involvement to be a part of activities and celebrations. 

We invite you to explore the information, events and activities below - and be involved with us in caring for the Manning River.

This project is supported by the NSW Government’s Coastal Management Program.

The Our Manning River Photography Exhibition will be on display at Harrington Library from Tuesday 21 January – Friday 28 February.

In September 2019, on World Rivers Day, MidCoast Council launched a photography exhibition.

The theme of the competition was:

“What I love about the Manning River and why”

Council received 185 images from 69 entrants including 5 juniors. We were overwhelmed with the response and wish to thank everyone who took the time to submit their entries. The winners were: 

Winner: Mark Gutterson “Our river – our future”

Runner-up: Christine Price “Rolling Clouds”

Junior Winner: Sam Lambert “Isolation of Brimbin Reserve”

Through this photography exhibition, we discovered that our community values the Manning River’s scenic beauty, healthy ecosystems, and places to have fun and restore the spirit.

We hope these photographs inspire you to help protect our incredible asset that is the Manning River.

This project is assisted by the NSW Government through its Coastal Management Program, and sponsored by Taree Camera House.

Council is committed to engaging with our community throughout the planning process, to ensure the CMP is inclusive and meaningful, captures local knowledge, and is supported by the community and stakeholders. An engagement program in late 2019 invited our community to identify what they valued most about the Manning River Estuary and its catchment. Results of the Community Values Study are available now in the Related Information section on this page.

The top three values identified were:

  • Aquatic Ecosystems
  • Visual Amenity
  • Cultural and Spiritual value

Key themes included:

  • River Health – healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems and good water quality underpin all other uses.
  • Sensory Experience – connecting to nature in wild spaces. Sanctuary and peace.
  • Stories and History –cultural connections to the river and estuary for the Aboriginal community and settlers across multiple generations.
  • Great Outdoors – recreational use for fun, fitness and well-being.
  • Livelihoods: primary production – oysters, dairy and beef

Why do we need a coastal management program for the Manning?

The Manning River Catchment and Estuary is one of the greatest natural assets of the MidCoast region. With its vast rivers, waterways and diverse landscapes it supports extraordinary biodiversity and ecological values.  The catchment contains World Heritage areas in the Barrington Tops, endangered ecological communities, iconic and threatened species. The Manning River Catchment and Estuary is vital to the local economy.  It provides social and cultural values that connect and support our community and those that visit the region.

The Manning River Estuary Coastal Management Program is designed to support the health of the Manning Catchment and Estuary and the social, economic, cultural and environmental values of its people.

Rural lands of the catchment are the backbone of the Manning Valley, with strong dairy, beef, oyster, poultry and timber industries. Organic and boutique farms are now emerging, and the number of horse studs have also increased. Other industries include blueberries, tomatoes, flowers and orchards. The population of the Manning Catchment is 50,000 with around 30% of people living within the rural environment, and a large proportion in urban townships of Taree, Wingham, Old Bar and Gloucester.  The Manning Catchment is part of the traditional homelands of a number of Aboriginal nations, with the waterways and lands holding strong cultural significance. Today approximately 7% of our community is Aboriginal / Torres Strait Islander, (compared to 5.5% for Regional NSW as a whole).


Parts of the Manning Catchment and Estuary are in poor condition and under threat from past and present land use activities. Management challenges include nutrient and sediment run off from urban and rural land, erosion, stock in water ways, invasive species, vegetation clearing, flood plain drainage (acid run off), drought and climate change.  These impacts result in poor water quality, reduced ecological condition of our waterways, degradation and loss of biodiversity and loss of productive land.

What will a coastal management program look like?

We are working with our community and agency stakeholders to develop a Coastal Management Program for the Manning River Estuary.  This program is designed to support the health of the Manning Catchment and Estuary and the social, economic, cultural and environmental values of its people.

 This program will:

  • Collect information about social, economic and cultural values and assets from the community and stakeholders
  • Invest in innovative environmental and social science to fill gaps in knowledge about the Manning
  • Work with the community and stakeholders to identify management responses that protect social, cultural, economic and environmental values
  • Establish strong links to planning and legislation
  • Improve opportunities for investment in the Manning Catchment and Estuary following plan adoption.
We can bring together science, strategic management, community and landholder engagement in partnership with other stakeholders.

We will develop two coastal management programs for the Manning

We are currently developing two Coastal Management Programs for the Manning region:

  • The Manning River Estuary Coastal Management Program
  • Old Bar - Manning Point Coastal Management Program

These plans are being produced under legislation known as the Coastal Management Act 2016. It became a legislative requirement in 2016 for councils to prepare Coastal Management Programs (CMPs) to set long-term strategy for coordinated management of the NSW coast and estuaries.

There are a range of complex and specific issues to be addressed for the Old Bar – Manning Point site, which are quite different from the  estuary / catchment issues for the Manning River Estuary. We believe these will be better addressed in two separate CMPs. This will allow us to focus efforts on specific issues and management areas. 

Although they will deal with specific issues, the two CMPs are inter-related in a number of aspects, and there will be ongoing communication between the two programs. Put simply, the Manning River ECMP will address issues associated with the impact of land-based activities on waterways while the Old Bar CMP focuses on how the water impacts on the land.

The Old Bar – Manning Point CMP focuses on a coastal erosion hotspot. As part of the coordinated management of the coastline, the focus areas for Old Bar / Manning Point are coastal vulnerability areas, coastal use areas and littoral rainforest. In comparison, the Manning River Estuary CMP will focus on issues relative to the estuary and the catchment in the Coastal Management Area and Coastal Wetlands. 

Visit our Coastal Management page for more information on the Manning / Old Bar CMP. 

The Manning River Estuary Project team are passionate and skilled experts in river management, community engagement and ecology. We are part of MidCoast Council's Natural Systems Team and work with experts within our team and externally with State organisations such as Hunter Local Land Services and the NSW Office of the Environment and Heritage.

Louise Duff

Louise is the Catchment Coordinator responsible for development of the Manning River Estuary Management Plan. Louise established a successful Great Lakes ecotourism business in the late 1980s and has a keen understanding of the way precious natural places underpin our economy.  She has worked for three decades in both engagement and on-ground roles, conserving and restoring wetlands and their catchments in the Hunter and nationally. Louise is Chair of the World Wetland Network, a role which has allowed her to learn firsthand about river management around the world including study tours of the Nakdong River in Korea and the Nagoya River in Japan. She is passionate about the power of collaboration with catchment communities, creating shared commitments to protect the Manning.

Karen Bettink

Karen is our Catchment Ecologist. She was born in south-west Western Australia into a dairying family where her passion for the environment and animals began. After working in bushland and riparian restoration and ecology, and undertaking threatened species research, Karen joined MidCoast Council in a role of applying science to improve outcomes for our unique local waterways and biodiversity. Karen will be taking the lead on coordinating the scientific studies to fill the gaps in knowledge about the Manning Catchment and Estuary.

Alisha Madsen

Alisha is the Catchment Officer for the Manning. Alisha grew up in Sydney where she completed university studies in Marine Science and Education. Whilst on a weekend trip to the Manning in 2012 she was captured by the surroundings and idyllic lifestyle, and was lucky to be able to relocate from the big smoke to a farm in Taree. She enjoys sharing her passion for the environment with the community. She hopes to learn from and learn with local farmers on various exciting projects to ensure that the Manning River thrives into the future. Alisha will be coordinating the community engagement aspect of the project, tapping into local knowledge, connection to place, and aspirations for the Manning Catchment and Estuary.     

Prue Tucker

Prue is the Estuary and Water Quality Program Coordinator. Prue moved to Forster in 2006 to develop the Great Lakes Water Quality Improvement Plan for Wallis, Smiths and Myall Lakes.  Over the past ten years she has been busy putting actions from the plan in place, protecting the estuaries and waterways that are now part of her family’s story. Prue and her team have received awards for improving the quality of stormwater runoff in our urban catchments, and introduced development controls that require all new developments in the former Great Lakes area to assess and treat their stormwater to protect the health of MidCoast waterways. Prue will draw on her experience developing water quality improvement plans and her knowledge of estuary management to provide technical input and guidance to the project. 

The Manning community holds a wealth of fascinating stories about the river.

The tales have been published on the Midcoast Stories web site and make interesting reading.

The stories helps us understand how we use and value the river and what we can all do to help protect it.