21 – Water governance in Queensland 217 of Natural Resources and Mines 2011) provides for outcomes, including the maintenance of ecological integrity and natural function of the riverine systems, and maintaining connectivity of waterholes. Even so, beyond limiting take and providing water to an environmental asset, there are limited specific catchment-wide protection mechanisms available under the water planning framework for environmental protection. In contrast, the focus of Wild Rivers Act 2005 and Wild River declarations was on the preservation of natural values, including natural ecosystem values, as well as assets (floodplains, wetlands and the river) on rivers assessed to have natural values worthy of protection (see Chapter 20). The water planning and wild river management frameworks have relative strengths and weaknesses (Table 21.2). Both Acts may be overridden or amended by later legislation to provide for infrastructure or for any other purpose. The Wild Rivers Act 2005 Now repealed, the Wild Rivers Act 2005 (Qld) was a significant improvement for the protection of riverine landscapes. Although its introduction was met with controversy in the Cape York Peninsula in the Lake Eyre Basin, implementation of the Act was welcomed by the Lake Eyre Basin community (Table 21.1 see Chapter 8). Table 21.2. Strengths and weaknesses of water planning under the Water Resources Act 2000 and wild river declarations under the Wild Rivers Act 2005. Water planning Wild River declarations Strengths Water plans are binding on government, water users and the broad community. Under the Water Act 2000 (Qld), plans have a 10-year life, and are required to be reviewed. The statutory planning process initially allowed for participation of the community through mandatory reference panels. However, these provisions have been diluted and the participatory process is now at the discretion of the Minister. Plans must provide for environmental flows and water security objectives. This can provide for quite detailed rules on the management of stream flows when water is most needed for ecosystems. Plans must be based on the best available science. They were statutory instruments that did not lapse after 10 years. However, there was a five-year reporting period when legislation could be amended. One of the few pieces of legislation that could actually take precedence over and limit mining and petroleum and gas legislation. Other laws, including the Water Act 2000, were generally subordinate to the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld). Declarations provided for very targeted protection. The boundaries could be drawn around High Preservation Areas and Specialised Floodplain Areas. Weaknesses May just entrench the status quo of water resource development. Does not adequately include wetlands, and floodplains, specific environmental assets, or wider catchment issues, such as water quality and clearing, other than to provide water. Lack of statutory provisions for participation of the public in the process therefore participation was at administrative discretion. Perceived as ‘locking up’ resources’ because it could stop water and floodplain development. The level of detail could be daunting for the general public.
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