Hunter River Estuary and its catchment (including Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site comprises Kooragang Nature Reserve and Shortland Wetlands)


On 21 September 2015, responsibility for water policy and resources was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - Administrative Arrangement Order made on 21 September 2015.

This website will be updated to reflect these changes.

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About the catchment

The Hunter River Estuary catchment is an area of more than 20 000 km2, bordered in the north-west by the Liverpool Ranges, to the west by the Great Dividing Range, and to the north and north-east by Mt Royal Range and the Barrington Tops.

The Hunter River itself covers a distance of 467 km, starting north of Muswellbrook.

From the headwaters the river flows south where it is joined by its major tributary, the Goulburn River, and then east to Newcastle where it discharges into the Tasman Sea.

Values to be protected

The Hunter River Estuary is an important site for migratory shorebirds and home to a range of fish and crustaceans. The Lower Hunter region is part of a transition zone for many plant and animal species between the sub-tropical influences of the north and the cooler conditions of the south. As a consequence the vegetation and fauna species is unique to neighbouring regions.

Ramsar site

Water quality issues

The Hunter River is experiencing increasing pressure from agricultural activities, mining and urban development. Water quality is affected by continued urban expansion, with urban diffuse, rural diffuse pollution and riverbank erosion. Newcastle is recognised as having the greatest potential for future port expansion and population growth in NSW, and is therefore a strategically important region for improved coastal zone management.

Key water quality improvement projects

Key stakeholders / agencies

  • NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
  • NSW Office of Water
  • Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority
  • Newcastle City Council
  • National Parks and Wildlife Service
  • Port Stephens Council
  • Hunter Councils
  • Hunter Water Corporation
  • Department of Education & Training (Wetlands Environmental Education Centre)