The NSW Wetlands Policy promotes the sustainable conservation, management and use of the state’s wetlands.
It stresses the need for all stakeholders to work together to protect wetlands and their catchments.
The policy provides the following guiding principles.
All government agencies should adopt these principles, and all stakeholders should refer to them when making decisions on wetland management and conservation.
- Wetlands are valued as significant parts of NSW landscapes – their conservation and management are most appropriately considered at the catchment scale.
- Water regimes needed to maintain or restore the ecological resilience of wetlands should be provided through water management planning, water recovery and water purchase, recognising that a balance between environmental and human requirements must be reached.
- Floodplains should be managed to maintain the natural distribution of water to and from wetlands, and to allow for the movement of aquatic biota (animal and plant life).
- Wetlands of international, national and regional significance should be identified and given priority for conservation and investment.
- Land management practices should maintain or improve wetland habitats, ecosystem services and cultural values.
- Wetlands should be recognised as places with important cultural values, in particular that wetlands are an important part of Country for Aboriginal people.
- Degraded wetlands and their habitats should be rehabilitated and their ecological processes improved as far as is practicable.
- The potential impacts of climate change should be considered in planning for wetland conservation and management.
- Research into wetland ecology should be encouraged to better support water and land-use planning and management.
- Natural wetlands should not be destroyed or degraded. If social or economic imperatives in the public interest result in a wetland being degraded or destroyed, the establishment and protection of a wetland offset that supports similar biodiversity and ecological functions will be needed.
- Cooperation and incentives among land managers, government authorities, catchment management authorities, non-government organisations and the general community are essential for effective wetland management.
- Regular reporting of wetland extent and condition is vital to assess management performance and understand wetland dynamics.
The policy in action
Many activities are underway to implement these 12 guiding principles. They include:
- water recovery and purchase to increase water flows to wetlands
- environmental water management planning in the Murrumbidgee, Murray and Lower Darling, Lachlan, Macquarie and Gwydir valleys
- promoting and protecting internationally significant wetlands through the Ramsar Convention.
Acts that protect wetlands
The NSW Wetlands Policy recognises that there are several Acts that help to protect wetlands. They include:
- Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016
- Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
- Fisheries Management Act 1994
- Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.