Publications archive

Wetlands Australia: the National Wetlands Newsletter

Issue No. 1
Environment Australia, March 1995

A cooperative project between the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission

The 1996 Ramsar Conference comes to Australia

'This will be the most significant international environment conference ever to be held in Australia' said Senator John Faulkner, Federal Minister for the Environment at Moreton Bay on 5 October 1994 to launch Australia's venture as host country for the next Ramsar Convention Conference in Brisbane in March 1996.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, otherwise known as the Ramsar Convention from its place of adoption in Iran in 1971, currently has 84 member countries. Senator Faulkner announced, 'We expect about 100 countries to attend this intergovernmental meeting where the future of the world's wetlands will be debated and priorities for action drawn up'. Australia was the first member country, so it is appropriate that the next Convention Conference will be held in Australia as it will be the 25th Anniversary year of the Convention.

As Australia prepares to host the 1996 Ramsar Conference, it is hoped all State and Territories will request the Federal Government to nominate new Wetlands of International Importance.

The Ramsar Convention also expect Contracting Parties to address the following broad principles:

The hosting of the conference will be a cooperative effort between the Federal Government, the Queensland State Government, the Brisbane City Council and the Australian Wetlands Alliance. At the Moreton Bay launch, Molly Robson, Queensland Minister for the Environment and Jim Soorley, Lord Mayor of Brisbane, pledged their support for the hosting of the Conference as did Eddie Hegerl (Australian Littoral Society), representing the recently formed Australian Wetlands Alliance, a coalition of wetland interested non-government groups.

A strong focus of the 1996 Convention will be the 'wise use of coastal zone wetlands'; Moreton Bay providing an ideal setting for these considerations. Senator Faulkner unveiled a plaque commemorating the signing of Moreton Bay as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. He also revealed the 1996 Ramsar Conference logo (see below) featuring some of the key elements of wetlands - water, plants, waterbirds and fish.

About the newsletter

Working together for better wetlands conservation and management is the aim of this newsletter. Recognising the need to improve communication between those involved in researching and managing, or simply with an interest in wetlands, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) and the Australia Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA) have agreed to co-produce this newsletter on a twice yearly basis.

We hope that through it an Australia-wide network of wetlanders will be formed, exchanging ideas and providing assistance and advice on anything which might help with current management issues. Wetlands are among our most precious natural resources, yet the threats to them escalate on a daily basis.

That's why this newsletter was conceived and that's why it is so important you get involved. Please read, and hopefully enjoy, this first issue. Tell your friends and colleagues about it. In addition, we welcome your news, views, comments and contributions. Please send them to the Editor, Wetlands Australia, at the address shown on the last page. Happy reading.

A cooperative project between the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission

The National Wetlands Program

In 1989 the then Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service established the National Wetlands Program (NWP) as a response to growing concern for wetland conservation and also in recognition of the need to act more strategically and cooperatively with the States and Territories in implementing Australia's obligations under the Ramsar Convention.

Following the Newcastle workshop, Educating and Managing for Wetlands Conservation in 1991 ANCA developed goals and objectives for the NWP.

Since then, the NWP has established good working relations with all relevant State and Territory agencies and the publication in 1993 of the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia has been the major achievement to date. In the 1994-95 budget, the NWP received a Cabinet mandate and an allocation of $3.1m over four years. The priority funding areas under the NWP are:

Some current projects being funded by the NWP are:

The Ramsar Convention - implementation in Australia

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was the first modern inter-governmental treaty between nations aiming to conserve natural resources. The first signings of the Convention took place in 1971 in the small Iranian town of Ramsar (this is why it is commonly referred to as the Ramsar Convention).

Within Australia, implementation of the Ramsar Convention is coordinated through a network of State/Territory officers under the auspices of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation (Ministerial) Council. Bill Phillips of the Australian Nature Conservation Agency convenes this network and also has responsibility for managing the National Wetlands Program. The Murray-Darling Basin Commission is represented on this network too.

On-ground responsibility for implementing Ramsar in Australia rests primarily with the respective State and Territory governments. With the exception of land under Commonwealth jurisdiction Ramsar sites are nominated by the Federal Government at the request of the responsible State or Territory Government. In doing so, the State and Territory Governments undertake to manage the sites in a way which will maintain their special ecological values.

As Australia prepares to host hte 1996 Ramsar Conference, it is hoped all State and Territories will request the Federal Government to nominate new Wetlands of International Importance.

The Ramsar Convention also expect Contracting Parties to address the following broad principles:

The hosting of the conference will be a cooperative effort between the Federal Government, the Queensland State Government, the Brisbane City Council and the Australian Wetlnds Alliance. At the Moreton Bay launch, Molly Robson, Queensland Minister for the Environment and Jim Soorley, Lord Mayer of Brisbane, pledged their support for the hosting of the Conference as did Eddie Hegerl (Australian Littoral Society), representing the recently formed Australian Wetlands Alliance, a coalition of wetland interested non-government groups.

A strong focus of the 1996 Convention will be the 'wise use of coastal zone wetlands'; Moreton Bay providing an ideal setting for these considerations. Senator Faulkner unveiled a plaque commemorating the signing of Moreton Bay as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. He also revealed the 1996 Ramsar Conference logo featuring some of the key elements of wetlands - water, plants, waterbirds and fish.

Regular features

This heading signifies a topic that will appear in each edition of Wetlands Australia. If you have up-to-date information on wetlands conservation and management you would like to share, your contributions would be more than welcome for the following:

Wetland management in the Murray-Darling Basin

In 1986 the River Murray Commission (now the Murray-Darling Basin Commission) funded a project to survey the wetlands of the River Murray. The project report (Pressey 1986) identified more than seven thousand floodplain wetlands between Hume Dam and the lower lakes in South Australia.

The report also identified that the hydrological regime of more than one third of these wetlands had been changed from periodic wet and dry systems, to permanently dry or permanently flooded - with resultant extensive degradation.

The Murray-Darling Basin Commission encouraged the States to develop wetland management programs to address the issues identified in the Pressey report. Since 1989 the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council's Natural Resources Management Strategy (NRMS) has provided funding for some of the projects being undertaken by these programs.

Wetlands funding and projects

In the past five years, 55 wetland related projects have been supported by the NRMS. During this time more than $ 10 million has been directed towards research and investigations, with a further $ 3.6 million being allocated to support community initiatives.

Project emphasis has been on :

Support for community consultation

Several investigations have been undertaken in co-operation with the community to support the development of integrated management plans at key wetland complexes.

Two of the most significant projects undertaken include the development of integrated management plans for the Barmah-Millewa red gum forests (a 60,000 hectare floodplain of red gum forests and wetlands spreading either side of the River Murray near Echuca), and the Chowilla floodplain (a 20,000 hectare floodplain of red gum/box woodland spreading either side of the SA/NSW border on the River Murray). Both sites are listed as Wetlands of International Importance.

The development of options for both management plans involved considerable research and investigations, as well as extensive consultation with the community. Importantly, the process of community consultation adopted in these projects has become a model for consultation in other significant wetlands, including another Wetland of International Importance, the Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales.

Draft Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy ready for comment

The Draft Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy for the wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin will be released later this year. The draft Strategy aims to establish the importance of wetlands in the overall management of natural resources in the Basin. It places emphasis on wetlands located on river floodplains because it is in those areas that wetlands significantly influence the health and integrity of river systems. The Strategy also builds on the experience developed in wetlands management during the past five years of projects funded by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council's Natural Resources Management Strategy (NRMS).

The Strategy contains several objectives to achieve its goal - to maintain and, where possible enhance floodplain wetland ecosystems in the Murray- Darling Basin for the benefit of present and future generations.

It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 floodplain wetlands along 16,000 kilometres of the major rivers in the Basin.

The Strategy identifies several projects, including the development of Basin-wide geographical information systems for wetlands and methods for valuing wetlands which are expected to provide benefits for wetlands throughout the Basin.

Other projects support community initiatives and involve the development of integrated management plans for a set of reference wetlands listed in the Strategy. These projects are expected to produce benefits at each site and demonstrate ways that wetlands can be managed within the regions of the Basin.

Bids have been invited for wetlands management projects under the NRMS funding program for 1995-96.

The NRMS provides a framework for community and agency partnerships to address problems facing the Basin's natural resources, particularly degradation. Extensive degradation of wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin provided the impetus for a workshop of Government, community and international participants in October 1992 to begin the development of the strategy for improving the management of floodplain wetlands.

More information on the Draft Strategy can be obtained from the Murray-Darling Basin Commission office on 06 270 0100.

For more information on these and other projects funded by the Natural Resources Management Strategy - contact the Murray-Darling Basin Commission:

PO Box 409
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph (06) 2790100
Fax (06) 2488053

Update on progress with the release of the Draft Wetlands Management Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin.

Who's doing what where in the Murray-Darling Basin - a look at key projects including:

Coming events

In Australia

22-24 March 1995 Workshop - Wetland Management in the Wet-Dry Tropics, Jabiru, NT Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist

26-28 April 1995 Downstream Effects of Landuse, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Qld

International

May 22 - June 30 1995 - International Course on Wetland Management The Netherlands, Flevoland Directorate

11-14 September 1995 - Ramsar Convention's Standing Committee Meeting Brisbane, Qld

8-14 October 1995 - International Conference on Wetlands and Development, Asian Wetland Bureau Malacca, Malaysia

23-27 October 1995 - Harmonizing Human Life with Lakes, International Lake Environment Committee Kasumigaura, Japan

For more details, contact the Wetlands Unit, ANCA - details last page.

Baldwin Swamp at Bundaberg Queensland

As the value of wetlands becomes better understood, increasingly the community is taking action to manage or rehabilitate local wetlands such as the Baldwin Swamp at Bundaberg (above). At left, rangers from the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service talking to members of the Bundaberg community. This project demonstrates how to get involved with rehabilitating a local wetland.

Urban and industrial development for 120 to 130 years had made a severe impact on the environment at Baldwin Swamp in Bundaberg, Queensland. The area was badly degraded from such practices as indiscriminate clearing, stock grazing, market gardening, tipping of refuse, extracting gravel, runoff from fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, industrial discharge from a nearby car wreckers yard, timber yard and metal works. The water quality had changed and many of the original plants and animals that lived in the swamp had been replaced by introduced species. There was water weed infestation and siltation and the flow patterns had been altered by canals and land weirs.

The Bundaberg City Council set up the Baldwin Wetlands Advisory Committee consisting of eleven community organisations and three individual community members. The Committee agreed that basic research was essential to establish a strategic plan for rehabilitation of the area. They planned to raise public awareness of the importance and urgency of landcare for the future, involving students and the community in specimen collecting, recording, research and ongoing monitoring.

To assist the Committee and Council in future decisions, they also applied for funding to engage consultants who reported on four aspects of the swamp: the history, flora, fauna and hydrology/geology. A preliminary management plan was developed in 1992 to assist Council to commence work in the area. Now all the data is available and the public perception of the area is established, a long term management plan is being written.

This project was funded by Bundaberg City Council with assistance from the Save the Bush program as part of the National Landcare Program. For details of how to apply for funds for such projects contact the Landscape Conservation Unit of the Australian Nature Conservation Agency.

Meet the wetlands people

ANCA's Wetland Unit: fax - (06) 2500 384

Dr Bill Phillips ph - (06) 2500 777 has been manager of the National Wetlands Program since its inception in 1989 and has been involved with Ramsar since 1988. He has attended the last two Conferences of the Contracting Parties and is also Chair of the Organising Committee for the 1996 Conference in Brisbane.

Russell James ph (06) 2500 289 has assisted Bill in wetlands work for several years, including the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia and establishing the Wetlands Unit in 1994.

Samantha Usback ph (06) 2500 714 also worked on the Directory before endangered species attracted her attention. Back in the swamps, Sam shares with;

Wendy Rattigan ph (06) 2500 393 on education work and various project management responsibilities.

Karen Weaver ph (06) 2500 352 manages the Migratory Species Program which naturally links with the National Wetlands Program.

Murray-Darling Basin Commission: fax - (06) 248 8053

Tony Sharley ph 279 0133 has been convenor of the Commission's Wetlands Management Working Group since 1991. He edited the proceedings of the Floodplain Wetlands Management Workshop held in 1992.

Brian Lawrence ph 279 0103 developed the Commission's Fish Management Plan and currently chairs the Fish Management Advisory Committee.

David Eastburn ph 279 0107 is responsible for the communications and education program including the production of the recent wetlands video, Wonderlands not Wastelands, and the co- production The Wetlands - Sirocco Acoustic with the music group, Sirroco.

Would you like to be added or deleted to our mailing list?

Please contact:

Wetlands Unit
Environment Australia
PO Box 787
CANBERRA ACT 2601