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Publications archive - Annual reports


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2001-02

Environment Australia, 2002
ISSN 1441-9335

Review of Performance - Outcome One: Environment (continued)
Inland Waters

alpine stream

Achieve ecologically sustainable use of inland waters

Environment Australia implements national programmes to promote, support and implement conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's inland waters.

In 2001-02 Environment Australia worked to support and implement the ecologically sustainable use of inland waters through the following programmes:

Programmes that Sustainably Manage Australia's Inland Waters and Meet Australia's Commitments to the Ramsar Convention

National River Health Programme (Administered item, Departmental output 1.7)


To ensure sustainable management, rehabilitation and conservation of rivers outside the Murray-Darling Basin and improve the health of these river systems.


Water is vital for a healthy environment. The major national task is to integrate the needs of the environment with water allocations for agricultural irrigation, mining, secondary industries and domestic use, and the management of floods to reduce threats to life and property. Further understanding of the requirements for providing water to the environment was gained in five major river systems across Australia. This information will assist with making water allocations sustainable.

The National River Health Programme continued to build a foundation for the sustainable use and protection of Australia's water resources in partnership with state and territory governments, research organisations, industry and the community. The programme consists of two initiatives, the environmental flows initiative and the Australia-wide assessment of river health. These components assist implementation of the Council of Australian Governments Water Reform Framework.

The environmental flows initiative continued during the year in partnership with states and the Northern Territory, contributing substantially to understanding environmental flows requirements for a range of Australian river systems. In addition it enables identification of risks to aquatic ecosystems and improvements to water management regimes for the protection of riverine, floodplain and wetland ecosystems.

Sampling of biological and hydrological parameters, along with historic and satellite data, has been achieved over a range of sites and projects across Australia including the Western Australia Ord River system, the Lake Eyre Basin in South Australia, the Snowy River in New South Wales, the Northern Territory Daly River system and the Paroo-Warrego River system. This work will contribute to an understanding of environmental flow requirements for Australian river systems and assist in meeting the requirements of the Council of Australian Governments Water Reform Framework. Interim results and information have been disseminated to the public and presented in management and scientific forums.

The Australia-wide assessment of river health AusRivAS initiative continued to assist state agencies to sample river health. Monitoring in all states was completed in 2001-02. The programme provided support for state and territory monitoring, analytical models and software, web sites, training, quality assurance audits and additional health indicators.

The assessment has provided data for the national State of the Environment Report, the National Land and Water Resources Audit, and National Ecologically Sustainable Development Strategy Headline Indicators. Information generated by AusRivAS has provided the basis for improved decision-making regarding river restoration, regulation and environmental requirements.

River health assessment outputs, including river assessments and techniques developed under the programme, are being utilised by state government agencies, community and industry via the programme's web site and capacity building seminars, workshops and meetings.A training and accreditation guide for users of AusRivAS was also developed. For the first time, in 2001-02 state agencies ran formal training and accreditation courses, which successfully trained field staff in AusRivAS assessment.

The programme supported ongoing work with the Queensland and South Australian governments in the implementation of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement. This work supports the sustainable management of water and related natural resources within the Lake Eyre Basin to protect associated economic, social and environmental values. The programme also continued to work with the New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian and Northern Territory governments towards the sustainable management of the Great Artesian Basin and the protection of associated environmental values.


The National River Health Programme is helping to identify priorities to protect and repair Australia's unique riverine, floodplain and wetland ecosystems. Research and monitoring projects are contributing to establishing environmental flow requirements for Australia's rivers.

Completed projects under the environmental flows component of the programme include:

Six projects continued, collecting a range of biological and hydrological information in the Lake Eyre Basin, South Australia and Queensland; Ord River, Western Australia; and the Paroo-Warrego system, New South Wales and Queensland.

A total of 65 projects were funded with total expenditure for 2001-02 of $2.87 million.

Waterwatch Australia (Administered item, Departmental output 1.7)


To support community-based waterway monitoring that operates in every state and territory in Australia.


Waterwatch Australia is a national community water monitoring programme that encourages all Australians to become involved and active in the protection and management of Australia's waterways and catchments.

Waterwatch continued to contribute to the ecologically sustainable management of Australia's inland waters by supporting community water monitoring and action in every state and territory of Australia.

Waterwatch funded 64 projects to employ Waterwatch facilitators and coordinators to the value of $2.57 million. All projects underwent a robust assessment process through the Natural Heritage Trust one-stop-shop, including assessment by regional and state panels and assessment and endorsement from relevant state Waterwatch Steering Committees before being assessed at the Commonwealth level for presentation to the Minister for approval.

In 2001-02, over 3500 community groups and 50 000 Australians participated in the programme with regular monitoring at over 5000 sites nationally. This represents consistent levels of involvement compared with 2000-01.

As well as raising awareness through community monitoring, Waterwatch has prompted environmental action. This on-ground action ranges from community riparian revegetation projects and fencing off riverbanks to prevent stock access to controlling nutrient discharge from irrigation drains. Community water monitoring networks are also integrating data confidence procedures into their monitoring programmes, and community data is being acknowledged and incorporated by data users such as state government, regional organisations and local government for natural resource management outcomes.

Waterwatch produced numerous educational and information products and activities to educate the public about the importance of catchment health and the usefulness of water quality monitoring in determining catchment health.

Version 3.0 of the Waterwatch database was completed. This more robust database programme improves the support for communities collecting water quality data.

The Waterwatch Australia Steering Committee, with community representatives from each state and territory, provided strategic direction for the programme in light of new Commonwealth policy frameworks such as the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the extension of the Natural Heritage Trust.

National Wetlands Programme (Administered item, Departmental output 1.7)


To promote the conservation, repair and sustainable use of wetlands; and to facilitate a coordinated and cooperative approach to wetland and migratory waterbird conservation and management involving all spheres of government, the community, local and Indigenous groups and the private sector.


The National Wetlands Programme promotes the conservation, repair and wise use of wetlands across Australia. The programme also supports the objectives of the Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth Government of Australia (1997). In broad terms, the Commonwealth Wetlands Policy aims to ensure that all levels of government and the community are working together to conserve wetlands.

Projects funded under the National Wetlands Programme undergo a selection process in accordance with the departmental procurement guidelines and one-stop-shop process.

Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

One additional site, Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands in Victoria, was designated to the List of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. Site nomination documents and community consultation processes are also well advanced for three sites in New South Wales and four sites in Commonwealth external territories.

Thirty-seven of the 57 listed Australian Ramsar wetlands have management plans or draft plans in place. Six draft management plans were assessed in 2001-02 for consistency and adequacy against the Australian Ramsar Management Principles established by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Australia's National Report and Companion Document to the Conference of Parties was produced in April 2002, in consultation with relevant Commonwealth, state and territory agencies and non-government organisations.

The 2nd Ramsar Oceania Regional Meeting was held in Apia, Samoa in May 2002 with funding assistance from Environment Australia. A total of 16 countries and territories were represented at the meeting including the three contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention in the region (Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea). Environment Australia has been involved in consultation with other Commonwealth and state and territory government agencies to develop an Australian position on draft resolutions and guidance in the lead up to the 8th Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands which will be held in Spain in November 2002.

Environment Australia is consulting with relevant Commonwealth and state and territory agencies to assign priority rankings to objectives outlined in the draft Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008. National targets for the coming triennium are also being negotiated and will be used by the Ramsar Bureau to set global targets. Further consultation will be undertaken with key non-government organisations.

Inclusion of Sites in the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network

No new Australian shorebird sites were added to the network. Consultation on several sites progressed with a view to nomination in 2002-03. New sites in Japan and Singapore were added.

Achievement of the Objectives of the Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy

Environment Australia has made significant progress towards the implementation of the conservation strategy. This has included promoting the engagement of other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Achievements in 2001-02 included the identification of prospective sites for nomination to the Shorebird Site Network; the launch of a national project entitled Community-based Conservation Action at Australia's Nationally Important Shorebird Sites; the development of a database for national shorebird monitoring data; supporting the preparation of a Status Overview of Migratory Shorebirds in the East Asian- Australasian Flyway that provides updates of population estimates for bird species; and collaborative support of an innovative awareness raising and educational on-line, interactive documentary on migratory shorebirds.

Listing of nationally important wetlands in A Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia Significant effort was invested in improving the database structure and web interface for the directory. There are a number of projects nearing completion that will update existing listings and add new listings to the directory in the near future.

Murray-Darling Basin Policy Development (Departmental output 1.7)


To promote and coordinate effective planning and management for the equitable, efficient and sustainable use of the water, land and other environmental resources of the Murray-Darling Basin.


Through its participation in the Murray-Darling Basin Initiative, Environment Australia has been involved in Murray-Darling Basin policy development, including the development of environmental flows and water quality objectives for the River Murray.

At its April 2002 meeting, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council considered progress in the development of options for providing environmental flows for the River Murray. The council directed the Murray-Darling Basin Commission to use 350 gigalitres, 750 gigalitres and 1500 gigalitres of water returned to the River Murray as three reference points for analysis and community engagement. This analysis will consider the social, economic and environmental costs and benefits of the reference points on areas like the Murray Mouth, the Coorong, the Barmah-Millewa Forest and on Murray cod populations. A large-scale community engagement strategy is a feature of the project being undertaken by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, which is due to report to the Ministerial Council in October 2003. Environment Australia participates in a number of committees associated with the project, including the project management board.

Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement (Departmental output 1.7)


To support the sustainable management of water and related natural resources within major cross-border river systems in the Lake Eyre Basin to protect dependent ecological, social and economic values.


Environment Australia continued to work in partnership with the Queensland and South Australian governments and the Lake Eyre Basin community to implement the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement. Environment Australia also provided the secretariat to the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum and the Lake Eyre Basin Scientific Advisory Panel; developed draft policies under the agreement and the methodology for the Lake Eyre Basin Rivers Assessment; and progressed arrangements for the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum Conference to be held in Birdsville in October 2002.

Funding was provided to the community-managed Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group to undertake the role of Community Advisory Committee to the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum.

Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan (Departmental output 1.7)


To support the sustainable management of the groundwater resources of the Great Artesian Basin and the protection of dependent ecological, social and economic values.


Environment Australia contributed to the sustainable management of the Great Artesian Basin through its ongoing participation in, and support for, the Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council and related forums, and activities supporting the implementation of the council's strategic management plan. Other results included supporting the development of improved management and protection approaches for natural discharge springs within the Basin, and convening the 5th Great Artesian Basin Spring Researchers Forum and GABFEST 2002 symposium held in March 2002.

Wetland Ecology and Conservation (Departmental output 1.7)


To identify and assess threats to tropical wetlands; to contribute to the requirements of international agreements and national policies on the wise use of wetlands and methods of assessment; and to provide managers and users of tropical wetlands with information and expertise to enable the wise use of wetlands through sustainable practices.


Assessments and reviews completed by Environment Australia included:

Technical guidance was provided for international agreements and assessments, such as the Ramsar Convention's Scientific and Technical Review Panel, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, as well as technical projects such as those run by Wetlands International on wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring. Environment Australia's contribution was recognised by the award of a Recognition of Excellence by the Ramsar Convention to Dr Max Finlayson from the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist.

Environment Australia took part in wetland meetings in Darwin and Townsville, where approaches to wise use of wetlands and the cultural importance of wetlands were discussed. In addition, 43 reports and papers were produced, including peer reviewed articles and presentations, on techniques developed for mapping wetlands distribution and monitoring change (including that caused by climate change and sea level rise).

Major analyses were completed, providing innovative advice on linking wetland inventory and risk assessment in relation to environmental allocation of water, and development of data storage formats for wetland inventory. This research included analyses of specific wetlands and species in northern Australia and further afield. Environment Australia cooperated with the National Centre for Tropical Wetland Research in this work.