Our Successes · Nature & the Reef

Protecting Queensland’s Wild Rivers

21 November, 2011

Some of Australia’s most majestic and pristine rivers flow in Queensland, and will continue free-flowing due to protection under the Wild Rivers Act 2005 (Qld) with assistance of EDO Qld.

EDO Qld has been the legal advisor for the Wild Rivers campaign by The Wilderness Society and Queensland Conservation since the 2004 election commitment by the Labor Party to enact laws to protect wild rivers.

With the Murray-Darling Basin as exemplar of over-exploitation and mismanagement, EDO Qld is proud to have contributed to the campaign to protect Queensland’s wild rivers while they are still healthy, to ensure they remain healthy.

The Wild Rivers Act passed in September 2005 with support from both sides of politics. Australia’s first stand alone legislation to protect wild rivers, it provides a framework for long-term protection of declared rivers. It prevents new dams and weirs and water extraction of more than 1 percent of the mean annual flow of the catchment, and requires set backs for damaging mining activities. It controls other activities that may damage wild river values.

By the end of 2011, thirteen wild rivers had been declared (see here for list of declared and proposed wild rivers).

The contribution of EDO Qld to the wild rivers campaign has included detailed analysis of consultation papers, draft laws and draft declarations, resulting in advice for submissions and proposals for improvements. We focused on achieving strong community participation and enforcement rights and better ecological outcomes.

The EDO have been a critical partner in the Wild Rivers campaign – they helped shape the formation of the Wild Rivers Act itself through their valuable policy and legal input, and have provided ongoing support as new legal challenges have arisen. Many beautiful places like the Wenlock River on Cape York Peninsula, or the iconic Cooper’s Creek in western Queensland have now been protected under the Wild Rivers Act – the EDO should be proud of what they’ve helped achieve.
– Glen Walker, Wild Rivers Campaigner, The Wilderness Society (Queensland)

EDO Qld was pleased to see adoption of many of our recommendations, including improved public enforcement rights, Parliamentary scrutiny of motions to revoke Wild River declarations, and the inclusion of a public nomination process for Wild Rivers. Unfortunately, lobbying by industry proponents resulted in some weakening of the protection originally proposed  for smaller scale watercourses.

Overall, the Wild Rivers Act enacts a visionary approach to conservation by protecting precious places before they are spoilt.

The Wild Rivers Act has since been repealed and aspects incorporated into the new Regional Planning Interest Act 2014 (Qld).

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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