When former Sydneysider and sales manager Gordon Grainger retired in Tea Gardens with his wife Trish 20 years ago, Mr Grainger had no idea he would soon be battling to protect the natural assets that had attracted him to the seaside suburb in the first place.
"I thought I would go fishing every day," the 80-year-old said.
Mr Grainger lives in a home on the Myall River and says he initially took "the normal retirement passage" of fishing and gardening until, in 2004, he noticed the river changing.
"The colour and the turbidity was changing and we were experiencing a lot of fish disease," he said. "We saw a departure of the black swans and dolphins."
In 2008 he and a couple of other retirees as well as a ferry operator, oyster farmer, boat mechanic and commercial tourism operator formed the Myall River Action Group in response to the worsening conditions which were threatening wildlife and businesses that relied on the river.
"We determined fairly quickly the reason for the deterioration was due to the closure of what is termed the natural eastern opening to the river, which allows oceanic waters to come into the system," he said.
What followed the realisation was seven years of lobbying authorities to dredge the accumulated sand in the opening between Corrie Island and the Winda Woppa peninsula.
"It took that length of time because there was 14 different government agencies we had to go through to get the approval," Mr Grainger said.
It was "great" when the gap was finally opened in 2015, he said, as residents saw an "immediate change" in the river's condition. The dolphins returned.
Four years later, however, the short cut is silting over again and the action group is looking for a permanent solution, including a regular dredging program that could contribute sand to Jimmys Beach.
Despite being only a few kilometres away, the beach is suffering from the opposite problem of erosion.
Mr Grainger believes the issues are intertwined and stem from the destruction of the once inhabited Myall Point peninsula in a cyclone in 1927.
"We would like to see the point rebuilt," he said.
Apart from doing "constant" work related to the action group, Mr Grainger also contributes to the local progress association and a MidCoast Council reference group.
He said he has no plans to stop his advocacy for the waterway.
"The river is the lifeblood of this area, if it is in poor condition it will impact directly on the community and commercial business. We retired here because of the river and the beach and bay."