Australian Heritage Commission, 1998
ISBN 0 6425 4590 1
Part B - Principles and a Code for the Management of Wild River Values (continued)
5. Principles for Management of Wild Rivers
'Gulf River Bends', tributary Norman River, Qld.
Photo: Richard Rudd © 1998
The principles and the Code are intended to assist managers, where a decision has been made to manage identified wild rivers to protect their wild river values. It is anticipated that the adoption of guidelines prepared by river managers, based on the Code, will assist in providing a more integrated and coordinated approach to wild river management.
The principles and the Code have been developed with the objective of maintaining wild river values. They are not intended to be prescriptive nor do they provide for the total restoration or improvement of river conditions. However where it is considered that an impact left unattended may cause ongoing degradation of wild river values, restorative measures are suggested.
The principles and Code have, of necessity, been kept at a broad level and should be considered as generic statements designed to assist the development by the responsible management agencies of more detailed Guidelines tailored to individual wild rivers.
5.1 Maintaining wild river values
- In order to preserve wild river values the essentially natural condition of a wild river and associated parts of its catchment need to be maintained.
- An holistic approach should be taken with regard to stream restoration and assessment of soft engineering approaches. This approach will assist in maximising the potential to retain or improve wild river values.
- Disturbance to hydrological, geomorphological, and biological processes of wild rivers by modern development can be minimised by undertaking only those activities on the river, or in its catchment, that leave the river environment substantially unmodified;
- If the river or its catchment are affected by any past or ongoing disturbances, wild river values can be enhanced by restoring or mitigating these disturbances.
- The biological diversity and ecological processes associated with wild rivers should be maintained, particularly by maintaining indigenous plant and animal populations in their natural communities.
- The wild river values cited in Section 2 of this document should be maintained, including those not directly attributable to the undisturbed nature of the catchment.
- The management of identified wild rivers is the responsibility of planners and managers.
- Studies of wild rivers and their values should be encouraged. Informed management will depend on ongoing research into ecological functioning of individual rivers or at least river types.
- A management planning process is required for each wild river and its catchment, which recognises the special characteristics and values of that area and identifies any potential threats not already covered by existing plans. This may be part of a planning process for a broader area (for example, a national park).
- All stakeholders should be involved in the management planning process for wild rivers on public lands, including industry, local and State Government, and the community.
- Indigenous people should be involved from the outset in the management of wild rivers and catchments on their traditional lands. Management of rivers principally for their wild river values may not be appropriate in areas where the conservation of wild river values is contrary to Indigenous interests.
- Ongoing monitoring and research should be carried out to determine the existence or risk of unacceptable impacts or changes, and to allow preventative and remedial actions to be taken.
- Management operations that conflict with the maintenance of wild river values should only be carried out for genuine emergency and essential purposes, where there is no realistic alternative means of achieving those purposes.
Ecologically sustainable development (ESD) was defined by the Commonwealth Government in 1990 as:
Using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends are maintained, and the quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased.
'Waterhole in the Bellinger River', near Bellingen, NSW. Maintenance and, where possible, restoration of natural processes and communities should be a management priority.
Photo: Robyn Lambert © 1998
The conservation of identified wild rivers can be considered under the ESD framework. The following is a guide for applying the ESD principles to these rivers:
- wild rivers should be given long-term protection to enable future generations to benefit from their special values;
- resource use proposals should be assessed for their potential impacts on wild river values. If there is a risk of serious or irreversible adverse impacts on wild river values resulting from the development, and there are overwhelming grounds for proceeding, detailed mitigation measures should be considered; and
- if there is insufficient information to assess fully and with reasonable certainty the magnitude and nature of impacts, decision making should proceed in a conservative and cautious manner. The absence of scientific certainty should not be a reason for postponing measures to prevent or mitigate negative impacts.
Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) (referred to as 'Total Catchment Management' in New South Wales) principles as they would apply to wild rivers include:
- protection of a wild river should incorporate management of the river catchment to prevent unacceptable disturbance to its natural condition;
- a coordinated and cooperative approach by all relevant land and water managers, both public and private, should be used to protect wild rivers from existing and potential impacts; and
- a framework for the planning and management of wild rivers should involve the identification and management of all available land, water, human and biological resources within a catchment in order to optimise the value of sustainable beneficial uses of the physical environment (AWRC 1988).