The answer to the question of "how to fix" kanamaluka/Tamar River estuary depends on who you ask, but a group of independent experts are adamant that science has the answer.
Run by NRM North, the Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers Program have been running for more than a decade, collecting data and information on water quality, animal species and the overall function of the estuary, and reporting that data for use by change-makers and those in authority.
The Examiner is running a campaign to highlight the plight of the estuary and to advocate for concrete solutions for its improvement.
TEER program manager Jo Fearman said stakeholders established the group to bring a holistic approach to solutions to the Tamar River, with concerns about its quality harking back decades.
Our River - Exploring the health of the Tamar Estuary:
Everyone who has responsibility for caring for the waterway and catchment area, which spans 10,000 kilometres and has catchment rivers that traverse 15 per cent of Tasmania, is represented in TEER and Dr Fearman said it was about a collective approach to understanding the estuary system.
Dr Fearman works closely with water quality expert and chairwoman of TEER's scientific and technical committee Rebecca Kelly. They both say the estuary is a jewel in the crown of Launceston and the surrounding local government areas.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about the river, and some people wouldn't even know, but it's an internationally recognised estuary," Dr Kelly said.
"It's really important and I think a lot of locals don't realise that this is internationally listed as a key biodiversity area section from Launceston out towards probably about Batman bridge. It's recognised as an important bird area, so it has all of these characteristics that make it really important."
International species of migratory birds make their way from as far away as Asia to nest and feed on the mudflats of kanamaluka/Tamar River estuary and its an essential habitat for other animals.
However, doctors Kelly and Fearman both acknowledge the estuary has issues, in terms of pollutants and contaminants.
"There is a lot of work being done, and that's been done over the past couple of years, but it's probably not easy to see if you just look at the river," Dr Fearman said.
"So for locals, who look and see the river quality doesn't look like it's improved, it's easy for them to make that conclusion."
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TEER released its 2020 Tamar Estuary report card, a report on the health of the estuary it has published annually for the past 10 years.
It showed the water area in Zone 1, which is the Launceston catchment area, recorded a D rating, which classed it as in poor ecosystem health. However, that's up from a fail grade which the same zone rated in the 2018 report, which doctors Kelly and Fearman say is an improvement.
The estuary zones from Launceston to Legana/Dilston are rated in the report card, with several zones further out of the urban area of Launceston recording positive results.
Dr Fearman said the grades were given by benchmarking against national standards, but the estuary was so unique it couldn't be graded against other similar estuaries.
"That's really the reason for the national standards, it sets the benchmark for what excellent water quality is and we grade against those standards," she said.
Dr Kelly, who is a water quality expert, said there were several issues compounding pollutant and contaminants entering the river system such as run-off from agricultural enterprises, Launceston's combined stormwater and sewerage system and run-off from urban expansion.
"We talk about reducing the sediment that comes from the catchment, but we could do a lot more as we develop urban areas to reduce the sediment that ends up in the estuary from construction and other activities," she said.
"One of the biggest loads from sediment comes directly from the urban areas - we're talking about actions way up in the catchment, that has results further down."
Dr Kelly said some of the work TEER was working on was to educate people in urban areas ways they could assist with erosion and sediment control to divert some of the contaminated run-offs.
TEER is working on programs to help resolve these problems, but it requires more than funding to fix.
NRM North chief executive Rosanna Coombes said rather than just being about money; tangible change required input from all levels of the community, society and government.
"The issue is, you're dealing with the same landowners often, and they can only take so much change at one time, so throwing more funding at it really isn't the answer," she said.
"What we need is to get these programs we're running implemented, we need to run through the next couple of years, let's get more stock out of waterways, and there are other aspects we're looking at."
Ms Coombes said the community needed to understand work was happening to resolve the estuary's issues, but that it wouldn't be a quick fix.