Bedload yields have been calculated using eight bedload equations at a total of 11 gauging sites in four coastal river basins in New South Wales. Comparisons of yields calculated by each equation at each site show enormous variations. Furthermore, on the Manning River, where calculations could be made on the four main tributaries and compared to those from the trunk channel below their combined confluence, there was no recognisable continuity of results. For the following reasons, the use of bedload formulae on these rivers appears to be a futile exercise. Firstly, the formulae appear to be inherently unstable under natural field conditions. Secondly, application of the formulae must rely on extrapolated flow data, as actual flow measurements are rarely conducted at discharges that are more than a small fraction of largest discharges recorded at any site. Thirdly, formulae must be applied assuming an unlimited availability of bed material; yet the rivers studied here behave as ‘conveyor belts’ of considerable power but with very low and irregular rates of sediment feed. Finally, temporal step-functional shifts in climate and flow regimes are shown to have an important impact on estimation of sediment yields. The implication of these results is that, until there is a carefully monitored scientific program of bedload measurement or estimates of reservoir sedimentation on the rivers of south eastern Australia, there can be no reliable evaluation of sediment yields from these rivers. As a result, the impact of gravel extraction, the dispersal of mine tailings, or the construction of dams can not be adequately assessed for this region, nor probably for the rest of Australia. © 1987, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.