UNTOUCHABLE: Kate Genders with Max, 3, and Maeve, 8, and Carl Paola are worried about the continuing decline of the Richmond River system.
UNTOUCHABLE: Kate Genders with Max, 3, and Maeve, 8, and Carl Paola are worried about the continuing decline of the Richmond River system. Marc Stapelberg

River looks beautiful but 'don't put your head under'

LIVING beside the river at South Lismore there's a golden rule - if you're going to swim in it "don't put your head under".

A lovely Lismore home with the river on its door step, with children's laughs echoing as they run around, sounds as charming as it gets for regional families but the idyllic setting is spoiled by the knowledge that the Wilsons River, "thick with rubbish", is highly polluted.

South Lismore mother and business owner Kate Genders says that the Richmond and Wilsons Rivers needs urgent attention to make it swimable, especially considering the record-breaking heat waves that struck the Northern Rivers during summer.

"The banks are really steep and full of rubbish: fridges, washing machines, tyres, sinks and huge clumps of concrete," she said.

"We've lived on the river for over 10 years and enjoy our beautiful outlook and the sense of 'green', but are otherwise disconnected from it.

"Riverbank maintenance and care has gone into the 'too hard' basket due to running bamboo, madeira vine and other weeds."

Because the young family cant make use of what's on their doorstep, they have to travel "between 40 minutes to an hour regularly to get to Ballina, Brunswick Heads, Lennox for a swim".

"It's a mission and also takes money away from our own local businesses," she said.

"Otherwise we pay $18 to take the family to the pool, which is not an option for many families.

"Imagine heading down to the beautiful shady river bank in the afternoon, other families are there playing, the river is healthy, people are swimming and picnicking and the bird life is rich."

Ms Genders said she would love to see Lismore embrace a river culture, and the river has the potential to "transform" the town.

She said she notices the "whole CBD has been built to face away from the river", making the neglected resource "in the background, and easy to ignore".

"We could be boating, fishing and swimming in it," Ms Genders said.

"Restoring our river and recognising its value could go a long way toward making our summer months here more bearable and more enjoyable."

Ms Genders said she would love to see something like what Wagga Wagga Beach and Brunswick Heads have achieved, and was impressed by the Northern Rivers' Greens $200 million plan to revive the Richmond.



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