Freshwater Protected Area Resourcbook

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A respect for nature ethos. There is a widely held ethical basis for conserving our biodiversity. It is expressed in the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity in the following terms: 'We share the earth with many other life forms that warrant our respect, whether or not they are of benefit to us. Earth belongs to the future as well as the present; no single species or generation can claim it as its own”.


447 Water Resources Act 1998; Section 3. Objects

The objects of this Act are—



(a) to ensure that the use and management of the water resources of the Territory sustain the physical, economic and social well being of the people of the Territory while protecting the ecosystems that depend on those resources; …


448 Brian Wilkinson, ACT govt, email 28/2/01.

449 See Table 4.2 in the text.

450 Water Allocation Plans could, in theory, implement catchment caps – essential for the management of cumulative effects; see s.22B which requires that allocations must be within the sustainable yield of the catchment. However the heavy reliance on the discretion and judgement of the Minister and the Controller of Water Resources makes the NT framework exceptionally vulnerable to pressure from short-term or vested interests.

451 The SA Water Resources Act 1997 establishes tiered levels of management, and tiered management instruments, duty-linked to the objects of the Act. Encompassing ICM, this framework has the potential to develop and impose the necessary limits to manage cumulative effects. The framework is not, however, utilising this capability.

452 Although the basic framework to control cumulative effects is present in Queensland’s Water Act, the issue is entirely ignored in this statute, except in relation to permits to interfere with watercourses (s.268).

453 At present Victoria has no provisions allowing State control applicable to overland flows; however the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1995 does provide a good framework within which programs to manage cumulative effects might be developed..

454 In spite of commitments made in 1999, partly in compliance with the CoAG agenda, a State ICM policy has not been developed.

455 See section 4.7 of the text.

456 Both statute and policy limit the application of catchment caps to catchments where available water is over-allocated, or where available water is nearly fully allocated, and catchments are showing signs of stress.

457 See Water Resource Management Plan 1999, the Territory Plan and the Environment Protection Act.

458 See text of section dealing with the ACT.

459 See, however, the discussion of the incorporation of wetlands within the terrestrial CAR reserve system.

460 Fifteen Representative River Reserves exist. Representative coverage of existing wetland reserves has yet to be assessed.

461 Freshwater ecosystem classification has not been finalised which would allow 'representative' freshwater ecosystems to be identified and selected as reserves; however, water ecosystems are being extensively protected within the IBRA terrestrial reserves framework.

462 Two applications were made by the Tasmanian State government for NHT funds to establish projects which would see the development of a comprehensive freshwater inventories. One project, focussing on river geomorphology, was funded by the Commonwealth. The second, focusing specifically on establishing the basis for a system of representative reserves, was not funded.

463 The most obvious problems here are national consistency and funding. There is no agreed approach to the classification of ecosystem type (that is: river, lake, wetland and aquifer ecosystem type) within a bioregional framework. All State inventory programs are under-funded.

464 Progress on expanding the existing inventories is slow, given failure to obtain requested NHT funds.

465 The Queensland program is in the planning phase.

466 NSW's new Water Management Act 2000 has provided a statutory framework for the identification and classification of watercourses according to three criteria: ecological value, stress, and risk (see discussion in text).

467 Victoria's Heritage Rivers Act 1992 protects a number of Heritage Rivers selected for their high natural, cultural (eg: landscape) or recreational values. These rivers are additional to the 15 Representative Rivers protected by government Order in Council.

468 See Table 4.1 in the text.

469 The WA WRC believes such a policy is unnecessary, as the few catchments where strong surface / groundwater links exist are already under integrated management programs (Rod Banyard, pers. comm 23/1/01).

470 South Australia's legislation requires coordination between plans, not within plans.

471 While the Water Act 2000 contains provisions requiring single planning instruments for surface and groundwater (with the explicit exception of artesian-related water) this requirement can be circumvented by simply not considering surface/groundwater interlinks. In other words, neither the Act, nor current policy, require that Water Resource Plans develop integrated management for surface and interlinked groundwater. However, the Qld govt now has an policy of integrated ground/surface water planning, and this approach has commenced in the Atherton / Barron River area.

472 Requirement by policy rather than statute (see text above).

473 The current Victorian Water Act 1989 provides for the preparation of groundwater management plans. The Victorian Government’s Farm Dam Discussion Paper 2000 floats the concept of statutory streamflow management plans, but does not propose the integration of groundwater and streamflow management plans.

474 See ACT Water Resources Management Plan 1999 section 5.4.

475 Integration of groundwater and surface water management occurs in the Millstream / Fortescue system and wetland protection at Wanneroo and Ellenbrook. Integrated surface water and groundwater allocation strategies have been developed at Lennard Brook where demand must shift from surface water to groundwater during times of low flow (Rod Banyard, pers. comm 23/1/01).

476 Policy (see above footnote) has commenced implementation.

477 The need for such programs has, however, been recognised by the WRC (Rod Banyard, pers. comm 23/1/01).

478 Compliance is, however, being addressed more thoroughly. A Compliance Unit was established in late 2000 within the Department for Water Resources SA (Env Institute of Aust Newsletter Feb 2001:16).

479 The new Water Act 2000 contains strong provisions which will encourage compliance auditing and enforcement.

480 The new Water Management Act 2000 contains strong provisions which will encourage compliance auditing and enforcement.

481 Not applicable: Brian Wilkinson (ACT Gov): "There is an appropriate approach to compliance. The small size of the ACT and the large area of national parks and reserves means that routine air-photo interpretation is not warranted. However, it is a tool used as appropriate." Email 28/2/01.

482 Brian Wilkinson (ACT Gov) pers. comm. 26/2/01, 28/2/01.

483 The NT Water Act s.22B provides that, where the Minister declares a Water Allocation Plan in respect of a Water Control District, the plan must include an allocation for the environment.

484 While many NT streams remain substantially unregulated, specific environmental flows, calculated in accordance with agreed national principles, have not yet been established as a component of Water Allocation Plans under s.22B of the Water Act 2000.

485 Tim Fisher (2000) has suggested that NSW is the only State to implement environmental flows enthusiastically and effectively.

486 "Surface flow" here means the capture of catchment runnoff away from defined watercourses.

487 The provisions of the NT Water Act s.40(2) are so weak as to provide no effective control.

488 Being addressed by the current Vic policy / statute improvement program.

489 The Act defines 'surface' water to include overland flow (s.4) so the provisions of the Act applying to surface water can be used to regulate harvesting of overland flow.

490 Water Management Act 1999, s.14 - for example.

491 This is, however, likely to eventuate in the near future.

492 However, this issue has been addressed by recent revisions in both policy and statute, and surface flows in southern Qld catchments feeding the Murray-Darling should soon come under State control.

493 The ACT's water allocation and licensing procedures include surface flow controls (Brian Wilkinson, ACT Gov, email 28/2/01).

494 "The State Water Plan … discourages on-stream dams. In addition, some of the catchment water management plans contain policies for ‘water affecting activities’ which includes dams. As an author of the policies, I know that they do discourage on-stream dams, as well as addressing capacity and environmental flows." Gary Mavrinac, email 26/2/01.

495 UC - under consideration. Refer Farm Dams (Irrigation) Review Committee (December 2000) Draft Report: recommendation 13.

496 An informal departmental policy exists discouraging on-stream dams "where inappropriate" (B.Wilkinson email 28/2/01). However, there is no written policy, and no reference to the need to encourage off-stream dams in departmental farmer extension material (see "Information sheet 4: Water Resources Act 1998: Information about dams).

497 As in the ACT, an informal departmental policy exists discouraging on-stream dams, although there is no written policy, and no reference to the need to encourage off-stream dams in departmental farmer extension material.

498 "Weak" means that fish passage provisions are set in policy or statute, but not effectively implemented. Tasmania, for example, has strong fish passage provisions in the Inland Fisheries Act, however they are not effectively implemented - in a political climate that places a high priority on encouraging the building of dams. Fish passage is included in the assessment criteria for medium and large dam proposals. "Strong" means that an effective implementation program is underway. Key elements of implementation include: (a) accurate mapping and auditing of dams, weirs, and other impediments; (b) a program for the identification and removal of unnecessary impediments; (c) readily available written guidelines on fish passage provisions for small and medium dams are available; (d) policy requires all new major on-stream dams must have fish passage facilities.

499 Brian Wilkinson (ACT govt) email 28/2/01: "Fish passage needs are being addressed adequately. Whilst the ACT does not have a formal fish passage policy (because of the small number of barriers), the requirements for fish passage are addressed in the Threatened Species Action Plans, and management plans for the MRC. They were covered in: Lintermans, M. (2000). The Status of Fish in the Australian Capital Territory: A Review of Current Knowledge and Management Requirements (Technical Report 15, Environment ACT, Canberra). The ACT has constructed fish ladders on two barriers in the last year and has just commence planning for a third. There are only a small number of fish barriers in the ACT some of which are required to prevent passage of pest species."

500 The draft Waterways WA Policy does acknowledge intrinsic values, although in a somewhat muted way.

501 NSW Biodiversity Strategy p.4, and the Water Management Act 2000, 5(2)B.

502 Refer to: Government of the Australian Capital Territory (1998) Nature Conservation Strategy; page 4.

503 Macmillan and Kunert’s 1990 review of river classifications outlines the following associations of stream flow and geologic and topographic features, which relate to ecological factors:

  • Flow, gradient and geology determine the nature of the substrate;

  • Flow and substrate are fundamental in determining biological habitats;

  • In terms of the frequency and extent of flooding, flow is an important determinant in the development of riparian, particularly floodplain, vegetation;

  • Stream chemistry (under natural conditions) is primarily related to catchment geology;

  • Flow rate, substrate, water chemistry, and temperature are the most important factors regulating the occurrence and distribution of stream invertebrates; and

  • Streams with very similar non-biological features will usually have parallel and ecologically similar faunas.




504Environment Australia 2001 A directory of important wetlands in Australia; third edition. Environment Australia; Canberra. Page 11.

505 Email from Michael Butler, on behalf of the Minister for Environment NT, 17/7/02.

506 See comments above on stygofauna and subterranean ecosystems.





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