Australian Ramsar site nomination guidelines

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012

Module 4 of the National Guidelines for Ramsar wetlands - Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia

Executive summary

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar (Iran), 2 February 1971, the Ramsar Convention) encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity to the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar List). These sites are commonly known as Ramsar sites.

The Ramsar Convention is seen by the international community as the primary means for conserving wetlands of international significance. Designation as a Ramsar site confers upon it the prestige of international recognition, it also raises the profile of the site; enhances opportunities for management assistance and improves long-term management of the wetland; and increases legislative protection through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Ramsar site managers are responsible for, amongst other things, managing Ramsar sites to maintain the ecological character of the site.

Ramsar site nominations can be initiated by the Australian, state and territory governments, non government organisations (NGOs), community entities, trusts, Traditional Owners, individuals, private landowners or a company. Proposed nominations on state or private land require support from the relevant state government. Nominations for sites wholly within Commonwealth land require Australian Government support. In practice, most Ramsar site nominations are proposed and developed by the state or territory governments, which have priorities for new Ramsar sites and processes for reviewing and supporting Ramsar nominations. Nominations may also be made based on priorities agreed by the Australian, state and territory governments.

The guidelines are intended to facilitate more effective, efficient, and timely Ramsar nominations, and to provide greater transparency and certainty to site managers, governments and the community about the nomination process. The guidelines describe the practical requirements for proposing a Ramsar site nomination including the minimum information required to support a nomination. These guidelines do not cover the strategic identification of new Ramsar sites.

The development of a Ramsar site nomination should be the result of a collaborative process between site managers/landowners and the Australian and state or territory governments. Consultation with the landowner(s) and key stakeholders is an important consideration in both the preparation of a Ramsar nomination and the negotiation of ongoing management arrangements for the site.

To add a wetland to the Ramsar List there needs to be clear evidence that the site is internationally important by providing adequate justification that the site meets at least one of the Ramsar criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance. The nomination will need to be supported by the following documentation: Ramsar Information Sheet; boundary description and map(s); an ecological character description; a management plan or system; and a summary of consultative outcomes for the nomination. The documentation requirements cover the information required for nomination, baseline information on ecological character and management planning for the site. It should be noted that the nomination process can be lengthy and may require considerable resources to complete.

A Ramsar site nomination is considered by the Australian Government on its merits, to ensure that: the site meets the Ramsar criteria for international importance; appropriate consultation with key stakeholders has taken place; suitable management arrangements are in place for the site, including appropriate watering arrangements (where required); ongoing stakeholder engagement arrangements are in place for the site; and whether the site will assist Australia to meet the requirements of the Ramsar Convention's Strategic Plan.

The Australian Government processes for reviewing Ramsar site nominations are independent of state or territory government processes and timeframes for developing and proposing site nominations. The final decision to add a site to the Ramsar List rests with the Australian Government Environment Minister. Once agreed, the Australian Government will forward the nomination to the Ramsar Convention Secretariat for inclusion on the Ramsar List.