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OnlyOnePlanet Australia

OnlyOnePlanet Australia

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OnlyOnePlanet Australia

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  1. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Climate change:challenges facing freshwater protected area planning and management in Australia Jon Nevill, B.E.Mech; B.A.; M.Env.Sc. OnlyOnePlanet Consulting PO Box 106 Hampton Victoria 3188 Australia WWF symposium ‘Protected areas: buffering nature against climate change’, Canberra 18-18 June 2007. Acknowledgements:Richard Kingsford, Sam Lake, Janet Stein, Brian Finlayson, Tony Ladson, Michael Dunlop, Liz Dovey,

  2. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Climate change is affecting Australia’s freshwater ecosystems: Temperatures are rising and rainfall declining over much of the Australian continent. Unfortunately, rainfall declines are most pronounced in areas where water resources are most heavily used.

  3. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Waters have been over-allocated, and streamflow drops faster than rainfall declines. In many places the waters of our natural ecosystems have already been over-allocated for human use. Declining rainfall leads to greater declines in streamflow, and this, combined with over-allocation, is placing freshwater ecosystems under extreme pressure. State government streamflow management is now in sharp focus, highlighting issues of ethics and competency

  4. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Australia’s freshwater protected area programs have not been adequately funded or managed. Against this alarming situation, Australia’s network of freshwater protected areas fails to meet standards and commitments set many years ago in both international agreements and Commonwealth and State government policy, and little is being done to remedy the situation. Urgent action is required. Amongst the recommendations of the supporting paper, five are particularly important:

  5. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Immediate action should be taken to restore and expand Australia’s freshwater protected areas in a way which is both ethically responsible and systematic; a comprehensive national inventory of inland aquatic ecosystems should be developed, leading to a conservation status assessment of these ecosystems; using information already at hand, action should be taken immediately to increase protection of the nation’s freshwater ecosystems of highest natural value. Particular attention should be given to rivers and subterranean ecosystems, partly through the creation of an Australian Heritage Rivers System; a precautionary approach should be applied immediately to the management of the cumulative impacts of small scale catchment developments, with the aim of capping water infrastructure development well before the catchment enters a crisis situation; and weak development approval planning provisions which are failing to protect important natural values should be replaced with stronger requirements for decision-makers to “seek to protect” catchment natural values.

  6. OnlyOnePlanet Australia immediate action should be taken to expand Australia’s freshwater protected areas in a way which is both ethically responsible and systematic; A comprehensive national inventory of inland aquatic ecosystems should be developed, leading to a conservation status assessment of these ecosystems; using information already at hand, action should be taken immediately to increase protection of the nation’s freshwater ecosystems of highest natural value. Particular attention should be given to rivers and subterranean ecosystems, partly through the creation of an Australian Heritage Rivers System; a precautionary approach should be applied immediately to the management of the cumulative impacts of small scale catchment developments, with the aim of capping water infrastructure development well before the catchment enters a crisis situation; and weak development approval planning provisions which are failing to protect important natural values should be replaced with stronger requirements for decision-makers to “seek to protect” catchment natural values.

  7. OnlyOnePlanet Australia immediate action should be taken to expand Australia’s freshwater protected areas in a way which is both ethically responsible and systematic; a comprehensive national inventory of inland aquatic ecosystems should be developed, leading to a conservation status assessment of these ecosystems; Using information already at hand, action should be taken immediately to increase protection of the nation’s freshwater ecosystems of highest natural value. Particular attention should be given to rivers and subterranean ecosystems, partly through the creation of an Australian Heritage Rivers System; a precautionary approach should be applied immediately to the management of the cumulative impacts of small scale catchment developments, with the aim of capping water infrastructure development well before the catchment enters a crisis situation; and weak development approval planning provisions which are failing to protect important natural values should be replaced with stronger requirements for decision-makers to “seek to protect” catchment natural values.

  8. OnlyOnePlanet Australia immediate action should be taken to expand Australia’s freshwater protected areas in a way which is both ethically responsible and systematic; a comprehensive national inventory of inland aquatic ecosystems should be developed, leading to a conservation status assessment of these ecosystems; using information already at hand, action should be taken immediately to increase protection of the nation’s freshwater ecosystems of highest natural value. Particular attention should be given to rivers and subterranean ecosystems, partly through the creation of an Australian Heritage Rivers System; A precautionary approach should be applied immediately to the management of the cumulative impacts of small scale catchment developments, with the aim of capping water infrastructure development well before the catchment enters a crisis situation; and weak development approval planning provisions which are failing to protect important natural values should be replaced with stronger requirements for decision-makers to “seek to protect” catchment natural values.

  9. OnlyOnePlanet Australia immediate action should be taken to expand Australia’s freshwater protected areas in a way which is both ethically responsible and systematic; a comprehensive national inventory of inland aquatic ecosystems should be developed, leading to a conservation status assessment of these ecosystems; using information already at hand, action should be taken immediately to increase protection of the nation’s freshwater ecosystems of highest natural value. Particular attention should be given to rivers and subterranean ecosystems, partly through the creation of an Australian Heritage Rivers System; a precautionary approach should be applied immediately to the management of the cumulative impacts of small scale catchment developments, with the aim of capping water infrastructure development well before the catchment enters a crisis situation; and Weak development approval planning provisions which are failing to protect important natural values should be replaced with stronger requirements for decision-makers to “seek to protect” catchment natural values.

  10. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Ethics and protected areas Australia’s National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity (1996) was endorsed by the Australian Government, all State and Territory Governments, and by Local Government’s peak body. In it we find an articulate ethical statement: There is in the community a view that the conservation of biological diversity also has an ethical basis. We share the earth with many other life forms which warrant our respect, whether or not they are of benefit to us. Earth belongs to the future as well as the present; no single species or generation can claim it as its own.

  11. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Ethics and protected areas The recent water crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin, while exacerbated by climate change, is the direct result of government water management regimes which are both incompetent and unethical. Incompetent in so far as the Basin’s waters (both surface and linked groundwaters) have been grossly over-allocated for human use, and unethical in the sense that adequate environmental flows, while highlighted in government policy documents, have in practice seldom (or almost never) been delivered.

  12. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Ethics and protected areas Very recently this crisis has led to calls, tacitly endorsed by the very agencies responsible for the crisis, for wetlands to be drained to supply ‘urgent’ human needs. This shameful position typifies the unethical, short-sighted views which, at a wider scale, lie behind the ongoing destruction of the world’s natural areas and ecosystems, along with the essential life-support services they supply to planet Earth.

  13. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Protected area standards and commitments A fundamental expectation of a protected area system is that it be comprehensive, adequate and representative. Ramsar Convention, World Charter for Nature, IGAE, Convention on Biological Diversity, National biodiversity strategy, various State biodiversity and water policies… How does Australia’s freshwater protected area network rate? Without fussing too much over definitions…

  14. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Protected area standards and commitments COMPREHENSIVE Australia’s freshwater protected area network is substantially comprised of Ramsar sites, national parks encompassing freshwater ecosystems, and some other legally protected freshwater reserves. Only a few rivers and subterranean ecosystems have effective protection, leaving a major gap in comprehensive coverage. Inland GAB springs, known to contain endemic molluscs, have run dry due to excessive drains on groundwater. EPBC Act protection is inadequate. Victoria’s Heritage River management plans have remained as drafts for a decade… Many other failures can be listed.

  15. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Protected area standards and commitments ADEQUATE Commonwealth of Australia (2001) National objectives and targets for biodiversity conservation 2001-2005.DEH website accessed 22/11/04 www.deh.gov.au. Recommends a protection target of 30% of the pre-1750 (‘pre-disturbance’) extent of terrestrial ecological communities. Australia has around 1400 named rivers, relatively few of which are well protected. The Australian 1:250,000 scale map series shows just under 3 million km of rivers and streams. Of these rivers and streams, only about 111,000 km (or roughly 4%) are dam-free, with 100% of their upstream catchments protected by reserves. Most of these are very small headwater streams, many of which are intermittent or ephemeral. Of Australia’s 166,018 km of named rivers, only 14,517 km lie within reserves, and of these just under 3000 km ( ~ 2%) are dam-free from headwaters to outlet (Stein, unpublished data).

  16. Protection levels in drainage basins ANU Digital Elevation Model Janet Stein, ANU

  17. River disturbance index Janet Stein, ANU

  18. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Protected area standards and commitments REPRESENTATIVE Although every Australian State and Territory is committed on paper to develop a fully representative network of freshwater protected areas, only the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania have funded programs to achieve this goal. Years after these programs were initiated, aquatic protected area networks in Victoria and Tasmania remain substantially incomplete, with little current action to remedy this situation. Nationally, no inventory exists which would allow current protected area networks to be analysed for representative coverage. Note recent work by J. Stein, ANU.

  19. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Protecting reserves within the wider landscape Cumulative impacts of incremental development ·    The need to manage cumulative effects through the establishment of strategic development caps on a catchment basis must be formally recognised in water resource legislation and in NRM planning processes, and appropriate procedures must be established to set and implement the caps in consultation with stakeholders; ·    Caps must be comprehensive and inclusive, stakeholder consultation programs must establish caps covering: water extraction from both surface and groundwaters; the construction of farm dams (number and volume), agricultural drains, impediments to fish passage, and levee banks; the development of irrigated pasture; the clearance of deep-rooted vegetation, and activities (eg: stock access) capable of degrading riparian vegetation; ·    Adaptive management principles must be rigorously incorporated within catchment planning processes; ·    The caps on development must be set well ahead of the point where the catchment enters a stressed or crisis situation; and ·    Last but not least, the caps must be set in a precautionary way (Nevill 2004).

  20. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Protecting reserves within the wider landscape Obligations, not discretion, to protected identified natural values within catchments Most planning provisions at the local government or catchment level in Australia require developments to undergo an assessment process. Usually, decision-makers must take into account the likely impacts of a proposed development on the surrounding area’s natural values. Unfortunately, “take into account” has often meant that detrimental impacts are ignored in the final development approval decision. A far stronger statutory provision, not widely used at present, would require decision-makers to “seek to protect” identified natural values in making development approval decisions (Nevill 2007).

  21. OnlyOnePlanet Australia Summary • Australia’s climate is changing, and these changes are threatening freshwater ecosystems already struggling to cope with excessive water extraction and landuse changes. Our protected area programs are inadequate. • As a matter of urgency, we need: • expansion of freshwater protected areas combined with widespread restoration efforts; • a comprehensive national inventory of freshwater ecosystems; • special programs aimed at high-value rivers and subterranean ecosystems; • precautionary management of catchment cumulative impacts; and • planning provisions which provide more than lip- service protection to catchment natural values.