Beautification of the Macdonald River

Removal of introduced, invasive species and the planting of endemic species for river health, and community accessibility.

Beautification of the Macdonald River

Removal of introduced, invasive species and the planting of endemic species for river health, and community accessibility.

Community Participation -


The issue

The Macdonald River, running through Bendemeer in the New England Region, was once deemed the weediest river in NSW. Dominated by invasive species such as Black Willow and Privet, the river's ecosystem suffered significantly. All tree species along the river were introduced, with no native flora present. This invasion negatively impacted the river's biodiversity, affecting native species like the Bells turtle and platypus. The extensive leaf litter from Black Willows deoxygenated the water, further degrading the habitat. Anne and Winston Doak, spearheaded more than a decade-long beautification project to address these ecological challenges. On ground works of this scale require considerable financial input and it is difficulty for the Doaks and the River Beautification group to continue without the injection of more funding from grants and donations.

The solution

Invasive species, including Black Willow, Privet, and Blackberry bushes, were systematically removed. This was done by spraying, trimming and removal of large trees and stumps with heavy equipment. These actions not only reduced the excessive leaf litter that deoxygenated the water but also improved the habitat for native species. With funding assistance from the Australian Government and the Murray Darling Healthy Rivers grant, Tamworth Regional Landcare Small Grants, NSW Environmental Trust and others, Anne and Winston led the planting of native species like Ribbon Gums and Callistemons. The Macdonald River has been made accessible to the community and tourists. Further financial assistance is being sought through donations and crowd funding opportunities.

The impact

The revitalization of the Macdonald River has yielded significant ecological and community benefits. The planting of around 100 Ribbon Gums has shown remarkable growth, contributing to the river's vitality and the overall health of the ecosystem. The initiative has inspired similar efforts downstream, with the Namoi River and the Manilla Landcare group undertaking their own restoration projects. The transformation has not only improved habitat conditions for the local wildlife, including the platypus and Bells turtle, but also provided the community with recreational spaces that attract thousands of tourists each year, boosting local engagement and environmental awareness.


The removal of invasive species and the planting of native flora like Ribbon Gums and Callistemons significantly improved the Macdonald River's ecosystem, benefiting wildlife and enhancing community access. Planting during the drought led to high mortality rates for some new trees, indicating the need for more resilient species or improved timing for future planting. Despite these challenges, the overall project demonstrated the importance of sustained effort and community involvement in environmental restoration.

Key facts

  • Removal of invasive species to enhance the river health and riparian flora and fauna
  • Planting of endemic species (Ribbon Gum) for river health and to support local reported koala populations

Project Partners