The rivers, creeks and waterways of the Macleay Valley are important social, economic and environmental assets and play a significant part in our local history and culture. They provide water for habitat, household use, industry, agriculture and recreation and warrant the same serious attention we give to physical, capital and financial resources. 

About the Macleay River

The Macleay River Basin covers an area of approximately 11,450 km2. There are three main tributary sub-catchments in the basin: the Macleay, the Chandler and the Apsley. The 298 km Macleay River is the longest river in the basin and begins in the Great Dividing Range. In its upper reaches, the river is joined by 26 tributaries and passes through rugged landscapes and gorges before reaching the sea at South West Rocks. 

While most of the rivers and creeks in the Macleay Catchment are unregulated, several large dams are in operation for domestic water use, including the Malpas, Dumaresq and Puddledock dams.

Today, land use in the Macleay River Catchment is diverse and includes fishing and oyster farming, horticulture and cropping, cattle and sheep grazing, dairying, mining and quarrying, forestry and agro-forestry, light and commercial industry, urban and tourist development and national parks.

What we are doing

Council is strongly committed to protecting and improving our precious river systems and monitors water quantity and quality for human and ecosystem health.

In partnership with government agencies and local land owners, Council has undertaken a range of river monitoring and rehabilitation projects, including:

  • Pelican Island foreshore habitat improvement project
  • Jerseyville riparian improvement project
  • Boyters Lane/Spencers Creek riparian improvement project
  • Sherwood/Macleay River riparian rehabilitation project
  • a survey of aquatic plants of the Macleay River 
  • Macleay Ecohealth Project 2015-16

River and flood publications

As of 1 December 2021, a reference to an Environment Protection zone E1, E2, E3 or E4 in a document should be taken to be a reference to a Conservation zone C1, C2, C3 or C4. For further information please see Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) Amendment (Land Use Zones) Order 2021 (nsw.gov.au)


Kempsey CBD Floodplain Risk Management Plan(PDF, 1MB)

Lower Macleay Flood Levee Audit Report(PDF, 892KB)

Lower Macleay Valley Flood Study(PDF, 168MB)

Derelict Mines: Macleay Catchment Arsenic and Antimony Assessment Stages 2 and 2a(PDF, 53MB)

Relative Condition of the Freshwater Fish Community in the Macleay Basin: North Coast New South Wales Ecohealth Program(PDF, 3MB)

Freshwater Macrophyte Communities of the Macleay River 2015-2016(PDF, 4MB)

Water Sharing Plan for the Macleay Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources

Macleay Ecohealth Project 2015-16: Assessment of River and Estuarine Condition

To find out which properties in Kempsey Shire are likely to be affected by flooding, see Research a property.

How you can help

We all have a role to play in protecting our waterways. Following these simple steps will help safeguard the health of local waterways:

  • Contact Macleay Landcare to become involved in local regeneration works.
  • Contact Local Land Services and speak to a river management professional to learn how you can improve your property’s riparian zone.
  • Take care not to trample or remove vegetation, except weeds, from riverbanks.
  • Fence off the riverbank to protect it from trampling or damage from stock.
  • Control weeds and plant native trees along your stretch of riverbank; Landcare can advise you on what to plant and what to remove. Make sure you get the relevant approvals.
  • Take your rubbish with you, and report illegal rubbish dumping to Council. 
  • Reduce fertiliser use and prevent soil run off. Nitrates from fertilisers are one of the biggest polluters of our rivers and creeks.
  • Dispose of chemicals, paint and oils correctly to keep them away from drains, gutters and waterways.

More information

Go to Environment projects for information on waterway rehabilitation projects.

Go to Coast, estuaries and wetlands for coastal management information and estuary management plans.

See Flood information for what to do before, during and after a flood emergency.