All rivers within our national park system help protect plants and animals that depend on freshwater and river bank (riparian) habitats.
A wild river may be a river, a freshwater creek, an estuary or a chain of ponds that is in near-pristine condition in terms of animal and plant life and water flow.
Wild rivers are free of unnatural rates of siltation or bank erosion that affect many of Australia’s waterways.
They are of high conservation value and play a potential role in maintaining other parts of water catchment areas. For example, a wild river may:
- benefit river restoration works downstream by providing sources for recolonising plants and animals
- protect biodiversity and provide a source for rehabilitation work outside parks and reserves
- help improve water quality
- assure water supply
- mitigate floods
- protect cultural and historic heritage
- ensure Aboriginal objects and places associated with them are identified, conserved and protected
- be used as a benchmark for environmental monitoring and research about water quality because of their relatively unspoilt biology, geomorphology and hydrology.
Protecting neighbouring parts of the catchment area, particularly upstream of a wild river, may increase the resilience of the river to disturbances.
Declared wild rivers in New South Wales
Wild rivers in New South Wales are declared within national parks and other reserves, and are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act).
The rivers and their catchment areas are assessed and need to be in a relatively natural condition to be declared ‘wild’.
When a river is declared to be wild a management framework to conserve natural resources, such as streams, riparian areas and reserves, is developed. This helps us to manage these freshwater ecosystems and safeguard fresh water conservation at the highly natural end of the spectrum.