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Northern Basin Toolkit

Fish passage: Reconnecting the Northern Basin project

Creating fish migration paths along more than 450km of waterways.

Fish ladder at Toorale

About the project

The Fish Passage: Reconnecting the Northern Basin project seeks to improve connectivity across the northern Basin by reinstating the movement and abundance of migratory native fish species, while at the same time balancing the needs of local water users.

The project aims to address barriers to fish passage by installing rock-ramp fishways at priority weir sites at Banarway, Calmundi and Louth, as well as an assessment of reinstated fish passage at Toomelah Weir.

Native fish need to migrate to complete key life stages and to avoid drying habitats during drought. The distance migrated ranges from a few kilometres to entire river systems in the case of species like Golden Perch.

The department’s Water Group recognises the importance of balancing the needs of water users and the environment carefully. Water security will always be front and centre when it comes to any water infrastructure we deliver across the state, including installing fishways along our river systems.

The project also involves early on-ground works at Holdfast Crossing on the Macintyre River to remove an existing causeway. An unlicensed structure on the Darling-Baaka River is also being removed.

The project would reinstate more than 370km of fish passage along the Barwon-Darling River system and more than 80km of fish passage along Macintyre River.

Project status

The Water Group continues the detailed design process for the fishways, including an investigation of design options balancing the needs of the environment and local water users.

This process can take time, so we will be in contact with residents, local councils and key stakeholders as soon as we have an update on these options.

We continue to progress supporting activities for the fishways including the review of environmental factors, procurement strategies and licensing and agreements.

Works to remove the existing causeway at Holdfast Crossing and an unlicensed structure on the Darling-Baaka are expected to begin in June 2024.

Project benefits

The project will generate significant benefits, including:

  • increased movement of native fish species across the northern NSW Murray Darling Basin
  • increased abundance of native fish species in the system
  • enhanced cultural values for First Nations communities (native fish are an important part of First Nations cultures in the region)
  • support for regional economies and the creation of local job opportunities during construction
  • increased regional tourism opportunities as native fish populations increase.


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View a map (PDF. 1.9MB) of the project sites.

Project funding

The project is funded by the Australian Government and is being delivered to support the Murray–Darling Basin Plan  by the department’s Water Group in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries.

The Australian Government has allocated up to $56.8 million to fund the project, of which $30.2 million has been provided to fund the construction of the new fishways and the removal of one illegal structure.

About fishways

Fishways are structures placed on or around constructed barriers, such as dams or weirs, to provide a passageway to help fish migrate safely upstream and downstream.

Find out more about the different types of fishways, or view rock-ramp fishway diagrams below:

Stakeholder engagement

We will continue to provide opportunities for local communities and stakeholders to have their say on the project throughout its stages of development and delivery, and this feedback will be used as a key input into project decision-making.

Subscribe to our mailing list to be notified of the details of future engagement activities for the project.

Upcoming engagement opportunities will also be listed on this webpage and on our stakeholder engagement page.

Engagement with First Nations people

We recognise and acknowledge the unique relationship and deep Connection-to-Country that First Nations people have as the Traditional Owners and First Peoples of Australia.

The wisdom and experience of First Nations communities will play a role in informing our approach. We have a dedicated engagement team who will guide our engagement with these communities, and we look forward to working with them to deliver real and tangible outcomes.

Contact us for more information


1300 081 047