Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy
About Floodplain Wetlands
Floodplain wetlands are essential to the maintenance of the hydrological, physical and ecological health of our life support system - the riverine environment. They provide economic, social and cultural benefits through their ability to enhance water quality, conserve flora and fauna, mitigate floods, sustain grazing after floods have receded and through other forestry, fishing and agricultural activities. They provide many recreational, educational and scientific opportunities and add diversity to our landscape.
Despite their importance, wetlands have been one of the least valued and most abused of Australia's natural resources. Various assessments suggest that nationally, as much as 50 per cent of the area of wetland that existed 200 years ago has been lost. Within the Murray-Darling Basin, many wetlands have been completely lost through drainage and filling. Most remaining wetlands have been altered or degraded through activities within them or within their catchments. These activities have profoundly changed the wetlands' water regimes and the quality, composition and distribution of vegetation communities and dependent animal species. Of particular concern is the degradation of wetlands on river floodplains - the most predominant type, in terms of numbers and area - within the Basin.
In summary, the main causes of wetland degradation include:
The main effects of wetland degradation include:
Degradation of the Basin wetlands continues. In accordance with the goals and objectives of Council's Natural Resources Management Strategy, urgent and coordinated action is required to halt and reverse the degradation of wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Preparation of the Strategy
The decision to develop the strategy recognised the inter-dependent relationship between rivers, their floodplains and associated wetlands, and the alarming rate of degradation of these critically important resources. An important foundation of the decision was the River Murray Commission's 1986 survey of the wetlands of the River Murray.
The development of the Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin commenced in 1992, when a national Floodplain Wetlands Management Workshop was convened. The workshop identified the issues affecting floodplain wetland management, and the high priority activities - involving research, planning, management and education - required for the sustainable management of floodplain wetlands in the Basin.
Using the outcomes of the 1992 workshop, the Commission's Wetland Management Working Group - which comprised members of each of the partner governments - developed a Draft Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy. In June 1995, Council approved the release of the draft strategy for public consultation. An extensive and Basin-wide, community consultation program was subsequently undertaken, guided by Council's Community Advisory Committee.
The final Strategy, which was approved by the Ministerial Council and released in 1998, now incorporates - as much as possible - the desires and views of the Basin's natural resource management, scientific and wider community.
Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy 1998
The Strategy aims to guide and support investment in on-ground action and research to enhance the condition of floodplain wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin. It provides a framework for interstate coordination of management and policy, and for monitoring and reporting the effort and success of floodplain wetland management activity in the Basin.
The strategy's objectives are consistent with the 1995 water reform principles of the Council of Australian Governments. They also help deliver the aspirations of the Natural Heritage Trust and its component programs.
Goal and Objectives
The goal of the Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin is:
To maintain and, where possible, enhance wetland ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin for the benefit of present and future generations.
To meet this goal, the 8 Strategy objectives are:
Implementation of the Strategy
One of the most important intentions of the strategy is to encourage close cooperation between policy-makers, agency staff, researchers and the community. In this regard, implementation of the Strategy will be pursued through a range of existing and future policies and programs. In NSW for example, an annual 'wetlands action plan' is prepared to guide activity in that State, consistent with the principles of the NSW Wetland Management Policy, and the Floodplain Wetlands Management Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin.
The Murray-Darling Basin Commission's commitment to the strategy's goal and objectives is emphasised through a number of recent - and major - initiatives, including:
The Commission will continue to fund investigations of wetland systems, principally through its Strategic Investigations and Education program. For example, the Commission has funded investigations of:
Our understanding of floodplain wetlands is incomplete and while we cannot wait before undertaking on-ground action, ongoing research and investigations is essential. The Commission's strong support for the Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology is again indicative of its commitment to the strategy.
The importance of wetlands is also recognised in the Commonwealth's Natural Heritage Trust. The Murray-Darling 2001 program in particular has supported - and will continue to support - on-ground projects aimed at rehabilitating wetlands. Recent examples of this support includes:
Much of the wetland management works associated the implementation of the recently launched Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment Action Plan, will be eligible for NHT support.
The Strategy Document
The Strategy document presents and elaborates on the goal, objectives and principles of the Strategy. It also discusses:
A selection of key Basin wetlands are also discussed in the strategy document, to provide wetland managers with reference points and so assist their management efforts. Examples of wetland management investigations and on-ground works are provided to show what has been and what can be done to improve the condition of floodplain wetlands in the Basin.
Distribution of the Strategy
Copies of the Strategy are available from the Commission Office or through the partner agencies. Contact details can be obtained here.