Australian Heritage Commission, 1998
ISBN 0 6425 4590 1
Part C - A Code for the Management of Wild Rivers (continued)
7. Code for Management of Wild Rivers: Compatibility of Uses in Wild Rivers and Their Catchments
The degree to which activities in the catchment will affect wild river values varies considerably from catchment to catchment and is dependent on each catchment's climate, topography and soil type.
The significance of catchment impacts on wild river values resulting from uses should be assessed and managed to prevent significant disturbance to wild river values. This should apply to any new works or uses to ensure that the river and its catchment are capable of sustaining them. Existing uses should be reviewed, and where necessary modified, to ensure that wild river values are not degraded. Further, to maintain the status quo of wild river values, it is recommended that any activities that may be detrimental to those values that do not currently occur, should be prevented from occurring in the future.
It is only possible to provide a generalised Code for the compatibility of uses with wild river values, as decisions on the suitability of an activity in a wild river catchment need to take into account each river's geomorphology, hydrology and biology.
Refer to Sections 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4 for a discussion on potential impacts.
- Further clearing of natural vegetation is inconsistent with the maintenance of wild river values.
- Agricultural activities such as grazing of livestock and cultivation on the floodplain should be assessed for their likely impact on wild river values, as these activities may have a detrimental effect.
- For activities in the catchment:
- codes of practice for the use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides to minimise soil runoff in the catchment, and to promote efficient irrigation techniques should be developed;
- watering points for stock access should be away from rivers;
- stocking rates should be maintained at a suitable carrying capacity that does not degrade the catchment and should be regularly monitored; and
- management planning to minimise the impact of drought should include measures to protect wild river values.
Refer to Sections 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 for a discussion on potential impacts.
- To maintain natural hydrological processes, no new impoundments, artificial instream barriers, structures which regulate flow or restrict the movement of aquatic fauna, or water diversions should be allowed within or upstream of wild river catchments.
- There should be no alteration of the natural hydrological properties of a wild river and its catchment.
- Waterway management works should not be undertaken in wild rivers.
- Wild rivers should be designated for the highest level of water quality protection under applicable statutory policies and regulations.
- Water quality should be maintained.
- In some catchments, a coordinated program may be needed to protect water quality in wild rivers in accordance with the principles of Integrated Catchment Management.
- Regular monitoring of key water quality indicators should be undertaken.
Refer to Section 3.7 for a discussion on potential impacts.
- While these activities can impact on wild river values, under certain circumstances and if undertaken under stringent conditions, it may be possible to conduct them within wild river catchments without significant impacts on wild river values.
- The floodplain, particularly the stream channel itself, is sensitive to a range of disturbances associated with these activities. However, some mining activities, such as collecting sediment samples, could be permitted in these areas where the results of detailed environmental impact assessment demonstrate that the impacts will be minimal and reversible.
- Operations proposed in other parts of the catchment should take into account potential impacts on wild river values and their compatibility with wild river conservation objectives.
- Mineral exploration activities can generally be conducted with low impacts. Where the exploration technique is known to have an adverse impact on the environment, it should be assessed for its possible incompatibility with the conservation of wild river values.
Refer to Sections 3.8, 3.9 and 3.10 for a discussion on potential impacts.
Access and transport
- Where existing roads and tracks on the floodplain do not conflict with wild river values, they may be allowed to remain open.
- Unless required for emergency operations or other necessity, there should be no construction of new roads, vehicle tracks or upgrading of existing roads or tracks where they may be detrimental to wild river values (see Section 3.8).
- Any new roads or tracks in the catchment of a wild river should be designed, constructed and maintained to avoid direct sediment input or runoff to watercourses.
- In carrying out maintenance of essential roads or tracks within the floodplain, particular care needs to be taken with drainage, spoil disposal, and batter stabilisation to avoid direct sediment input or runoff reaching the watercourse.
- Environmental and social impacts of vehicle tracks and use of vehicles within wild river catchments should be monitored closely and remedial action taken as soon as adverse impacts occur.
- Any new walking tracks in the floodplain should be designed, constructed and maintained to avoid, as much as possible, sediment input to rivers and streams. Any crossings of drainage lines should be designed to allow free passage of instream fauna and maintain the flow regime.
Utility lines and installations
- Existing easements for utility services should continue to be used where they are not causing significant disturbance to natural conditions.
- Where easements are causing disturbance, they should, if possible, be restored to prevent adverse impacts, or if this is not possible they could be relocated.
- New power lines, pipelines, communications equipment and other utilities should, wherever possible, be planned to avoid disturbance to wild river values. They should avoid wild river catchments, not cross wild rivers or be sited in their floodplains.
- New access roads, cleared lines-of-sight or clearings for survey, navigation or communications purposes should, wherever possible, avoid wild river catchments.
- All existing structures on a floodplain that may impact on wild river values should be reviewed as part of the management planning process, and non-essential structures should be dismantled, and sites restored. The exceptions are if removal would result in greater damage than allowing the structure to remain, and if the structure has significant cultural heritage value.
- Essential trigonometric stations, route markers, navigation aids and flow gauging stations can remain and be maintained.
Refer to Sections 3.11 and 3.12 for a discussion on potential impacts.
- When planning for the types, levels and patterns of recreational use for a wild river, management agencies should consider the capability of the river and associated parts of its catchment to sustain such use without significant alteration to its natural state.
- The amount and type of visitor use and visitor conduct on wild rivers and in associated floodplains should be monitored and where necessary regulated to maintain wild river values and visitor experiences, and to protect cultural values.
- Activities which may require special management consideration in order to minimise their impacts on biological, geomorphological and hydrological processes include: fishing, motorised recreation, fossicking, camping and water-based tourism.
- Use of wild rivers by large groups-whether private, commercial or institutional-should be permitted if it is consistent with the maintenance of wild river values and if the groups operate according to some principles of conduct such as a minimum impact code. It is recommended that permitted groups be monitored and, where necessary, conservation measures be put in place to prevent adverse impacts on wild river values.
- Commercial tourist operators directly utilising wild rivers should be licensed by the relevant management authority. Requirements may include compliance with a code of conduct for river operators and users; training for river guides in minimal impact and interpretation/presentation of wild river values; safety requirements and rescue procedures. It is recommended that monitoring be undertaken to ensure compliance. For wild rivers with significant tourist potential, limits to the numbers of users may need to be defined in the management plan.
- Management action should be taken to minimise environmental degradation caused by track and campsite use. Preference should be given to visitor control measures such as education, zoning, establishment of quotas, and use of permits, over upgrading of tracks and campsites.
- An assessment of impacts should be carried out before any new walking tracks and camping sites are constructed in wild river catchments. A similar assessment of impacts should be carried out for the location of existing tracks or sites to minimise visitor impact on wild river values. The formation of ad hoc tracks and camping sites should be monitored, and discouraged if they are causing damage.
- Recreational users should be encouraged to comply with a 'minimal impact' code of behaviour appropriate to the particular river environment.
- The impacts of horses, dogs, or other non-indigenous species on wild river values should be assessed. Where there is a significant risk of unacceptable impacts, recreational users should be encouraged not to bring these animals into wild rivers or their floodplains.
- Use of powered watercraft should be regulated to minimise physical, ecological, or aesthetic impact. It is desirable that vessel owners and the community are educated regarding potential impact of use of high speed vessels on wild river values.
Refer to Sections 3.13 for a discussion on potential impacts and 7.1.1 for discussion on minimising impacts of clearing grazing and cultivation.
- Action should be taken where possible to prevent the introduction and establishment of non-indigenous plant and animal species in wild rivers and their catchments.
- Introduced species should be controlled or where possible removed from a wild river and its catchment, with priority given to the river and floodplain.
- Where the presence of non-domestic herbivores such as wild cattle, goats and rabbits negatively impacts on wild river values, priority should be given to undertaking controls as part of an integrated catchment wide program.
- Species should be prioritised for control or removal according to their impacts on wild river values. Control or removal programs should:
- where possible, be integrated programs, where more than one introduced species is present;
- avoid non-target species to the greatest extent possible, and minimise effects on natural systems and wild river values;
- involve consultation and negotiation with relevant Indigenous people and adjacent communities; and
- be coordinated with Integrated Catchment Management control programs.
- Control of plant species dispersed by water should begin in the upper catchment and move downstream.
- The geomorphic impact of weed control in the riparian zone needs to be considered in weed control programs. The use of heavy machinery or complete removal of species such as willows could result in severe erosion. Low impact techniques and/or staged control programs should be used to prevent erosion.
- Where practicable, control efforts should be monitored on a regular basis.
- Established hygiene practices should be observed to prevent the spread of pathogens such as Cinnamon Fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi) and the reproductive parts of weed plants, particularly by management vehicles entering floodplains.
Refer to Section 3.14 for a discussion on potential impacts.
- The consideration of proposed aquaculture projects (plant or animal) in wild river catchments should take into account potential off-site impacts on aquatic ecosystems in wild rivers. Such impacts could include spread of plant or animal disease, introduction of nutrients, introduction of plants spread by animals, pollution and tracks or structures for access such as piers.
- The impacts of commercial fishing on wild river values should be assessed. For existing operations, measures for minimising future impacts can be adopted. The impacts of new proposals should be rigorously assessed for their compatibility with maintenance of wild river values.
- A quota system could be considered for recreational fishing, if it is required to limit the impact on wild river systems.
Refer to Section 3.15 for a discussion on potential impacts.
- If it has been assessed that logging and associated forestry activities will/is likely to have an adverse impact on wild river values, timber production and harvesting should not be permitted within wild rivers, their associated riparian zone, or floodplain.
- Where timber production and harvesting are permitted in the catchment:
- there should be no degradation of water quality, or water flows or of wild river values; and
- notwithstanding the above, codes of forest practice should be strictly adhered to with respect to drainage, protection of water quality, felling, disposal of debris, access and vehicular movement.
- Refer also to Section 7.1.5. on access and Section 7.1.10 on fire.
Refer to Section 3.16 for a discussion on potential impacts.
- Fire management should be based on the results of ongoing research into fire ecology and its impact on the ecological systems of the river floodplain and catchment.
- Traditional* Indigenous burning practices should be maintained and implemented in ways which minimise impacts on wild river values (* The meaning of traditional practice focuses on the purpose of the activity, not the methods).
- Where information on previous fire regimes is unavailable:
- planned fires should be used only in emergency situations and for essential management operations (these include fires necessary to maintain vegetation communities or essential fuel reduction burning);
- any other human caused fires should be extinguished, where practicable, with minimal disturbance; and
- fires caused naturally may be allowed to burn when they do not pose an unacceptable threat to human life and property including agricultural or forest crops, or are not considered undesirable on conservation grounds (i.e. threatened fauna or flora are at risk).
- The management of fire in the catchment needs to be undertaken in a way that does not adversely impact on wild river values, including minimising soil movement, and should include rehabilitation of control work (e.g. control lines).
- Research which contributes to wild river management and does not damage wild river values, including research which increases understanding of aquatic and riparian ecosystems and processes, should be supported.
- Research techniques in wild rivers should not utilise non-indigenous species, require obtrusive structures or other permanent markers to be established, or involve destructive forms of investigation. Limited sampling of material, selective trapping or netting, the use of unobtrusive permanent markers temporary markers, or monitoring equipment may be permitted, subject to consultation with the river manager to ensure that site location, density and sample quantity avoids impact on wild river values.
- Scientific investigation in wild rivers should only be carried out under permit and should only be appropriate if it cannot be carried out elsewhere. Its aims should be consistent with the unique values of the catchment and be of a nature that does not conflict with the conservation of wild river values.
Hunter River, Kimberley, Western Australia. Traditional owners should be consulted about the possibility of the existence and management of areas of cultural significance. This may include, for example, the recording of sites.
Photo: Rob Jung © 1998
- Particular areas of aesthetic significance should be identified and managed to conserve their values.
- Traditional owners should be consulted regarding the existence and management of areas of cultural significance. This may include, for example, the recording of sites.
- Indigenous sites and places of significance should be managed by the relevant custodians wherever possible and with professional advice as appropriate.
- Indigenous people should be consulted on any matters that affect their interests as an integral part of the management planning process.
- Huts and other heritage fabric of demonstrated cultural significance should be retained and managed according to the principles of the Burra Charter.
- Relevant community interest groups should be consulted on any matters relevant to modern or colonial historical sites as an integral part of the management planning process.
- Re-introduction, or population enhancement of native species should occur only for conservation purposes using locally indigenous species, consistent with the National Recovery Plan for the species, where the status of a species is at risk.
- Maintenance, and where possible restoration, of natural processes and communities should be a management priority.
- Baseline surveys of flora and fauna, and regular monitoring of biodiversity should be undertaken in aquatic and riparian habitats of wild rivers.
- Biocides should not be used in the river channel or closely linked parts of its catchment, except in accordance with an approved management plan.