A tale of two River Tweeds was told by Tweed Forum trustee at the River Restoration Centre’s annual conference in Nottingham last week.
Professor Chris Pray told his audience about the River Tweed in New South Wales, Australia, named after its Scottish counterpart by Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, who was Governor General of New South Wales in the early 1820s.
He had lived at Makerstoun House near Kelso and also gave his name to the city of Brisbane and the Brisbane river.
Images of both rivers today show a surprisingly similar landscape and the bodies responsible for the management of the catchment of the two Tweeds - the Tweed Forum in the Scottish Borders and Tweed Shire Council in New South Wales - discovered that both are dealing with many similar issues after Derek Robeson from the Tweed Forum visited the Australian river in 2016.
He had been keen to see how farmers and communities are addressing the challenges raised by global warming and population growth and to see how they balance the need for food production with wildlife, water and soil conservation.
Both River Tweeds share issues with pollution, flooding, wildlife conservation and the effects of climate change, which are resulting in more extreme weather events such as storms and drought.
Since Derek’s visit to Australia, supported by the Border Union Agricultural Society’s Bicentenary Bursary Fund, the Tweed Forum and Tweed Shire Council have been sharing information.
A further meeting took place in September 2017, when director Luke Comins and Professor Spray visited while they were in Australia to receive a Tweed Forum’s finalists trophy in the Theiss International River Prize.
Both Tweed Forum and Tweed Shire Council see real growth potential for their respective rivers in landscape and wildlife tourism and plan to continue to share information and good practice.
Luke Comins, director, Tweed Forum, said: “We were fascinated to discover the historic links with the Australian river Tweed and the Scottish Borders and it has also been extremely useful to be able to share experiences and strategies for tackling some of the major issues that both rivers are facing, despite the fact that they are at opposite sides of the world.
“Both Tweed Forum and Tweed Shire Council are passionate about the conservation and future potential of our rivers and we look forward to continuing to develop this valuable working relationship in the years to come.”
It was when he was assisting Scottish Borders Council with the pilot phase of the Scottish Borders Land Use Strategy, that the Tweed Forum’s Derek Robeson discovered that another River Tweed, on the other side of the world, was undertaking a similar exercise.
The Scottish Borders based strategy was looking at promoting natural flood management techniques and raising awareness of integrated catchment management and environmentally responsible farming practices.
The managers of the Tweed River, located on the Gold Coast, New South Wales, Australia, were approached by Tweed Forum’s Derek and a ‘knowledge exchange’ visit was agreed.
Prior to his visit Derek said: “Tweed Forum has been working closely with a wide range of stakeholders across the Borders, to develop a map based tool to help facilitate land use decision making.
“The aim of the tool is identify areas where farmers can work collectively to identify opportunities, such as alleviating flooding, increasing wildlife habitat, sustaining food production and improving water quality.
“We were really excited to learn that stakeholders living and working along the River Tweed, on the other side of the world in Australia, are looking and discussing very similar challenges. The opportunities to share experiences has a strong appeal for me.”
Derek spent a week with Mr Tom Alletson (Waterways Program Leader) and staff at Tweed Shire Council, learning about the challenges and opportunities in land management planning in the Tweed River catchment.
He discovered that climate change is beginning to pose some real challenges, including more extreme weather events such as storms and droughts. Pollution, flooding and wildlife conservation were also areas where both Tweed catchments found it useful to share information.
During the visit, Derek was a keynote speaker at the Australian Stream Management Conference, speaking about the work of Tweed Forum and since then a close working relationship has been forged between Tweed Shire Council and Tweed Forum.
Since his return from Australia Derek has been sharing the knowledge gained by speaking at numerous events.
Lord Joicey, bursary panel chairman said: “ We were very interested to learn that Tweed Shire in Australia takes its name from the River Tweed here on the Scotland/England border. The town of Brisbane and the Brisbane River takes its name from Sir Thomas MacDougal Brisbane, who lived at Makerstoun, near Kelso,
and who was appointed by the Duke of Wellington as Governor General for New South Wales in 1822.
“It was the Brisbane’s cartographer John Oxley who mapped the river and called it Tweed. Kelso therefore has a strong historical association with Tweed Shire.”
Ron Wilson, secretary of Border Union Agricultural Society said: “ The Bicentenary Bursary Fund helped provide a mechanism to feed back some of these experiences to the benefit of the wider economy and environment of the Scottish Borders.
“The opportunities for reciprocating arrangements are significant.”