The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) establishes a framework for managing Ramsar wetlands. Under Schedule 6 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 general principles are outlined for the management of wetlands of international importance. In addition to the Australian Ramsar management principles, other guiding principles are ones established by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
Australian Ramsar management principles cover matters relevant to the preparation of Ramsar site management plans, including community consultation processes.
A management plan for a Ramsar wetland cannot be recognised by the Australian Government as a Ramsar management plan unless it is in accordance with these principles. The principles may also be used for the management of any wetland throughout Australia.
Australian Ramsar management principles checklist
The Australian Government has developed a management principles checklist that builds on the EPBC Act Australian Ramsar management principles, to help in the development of a Ramsar management plan. The checklist provides an overview only. Management Principles Checklist:
- Does a Ramsar site's management plan describe the ecological character of the wetland?
Ecological character is defined under the Ramsar Convention as 'the combination of the ecosystem components, processes and benefits and services that characterise the wetland at a given point in time'. Ecosystem benefits are the variety of benefits the site provides to people (ecosystem services). The phrase 'at a given point in time' refers to Resolution V1.1 paragraph 2.1 of the Ramsar Convention which states that "it is essential that the ecological character of a site be described by the Contracting Party concerned at the time of designation for the Ramsar List, by completion of the Information Sheet for Ramsar Wetlands".
Further information on describing the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands can be found in National Framework and Guidance for describing the ecological character of Australia's Ramsar wetlands
- Does the management plan clearly demonstrate that actions will be taken to maintain the ecological character of the wetland?
- Does the plan promote and describe actions to conserve the wetland?
- Does the plan promote and describe actions for the wise and sustainable use of the wetland for the benefit of all people, in a way that is compatible with and does not impact on the natural properties of the ecosystem?
- Does the plan include public consultation where decisions and actions may have an impact on the wetland and where the public may have an interest?
- Does the plan include the involvement of people who have a particular interest in the wetland and those who may be affected by the management of the wetland?
- Does the plan include processes that provide for continuing community and technical input?
- Does the management plan include a description of the characteristics that make the site a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention?
Under the Ramsar Convention, sites are designated for the List of Wetlands of International Importance "on account of their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology" (Article 2.2). The Ramsar Convention states that a wetland should be considered internationally important if it is:
- a particularly good representative example of a natural or near-natural wetland, characteristic of the appropriate biogeographical region
- a particularly good representative example of a natural or near-natural wetland, common to more than one biogeographical region
- a particularly good representative example of a wetland which plays a substantial hydrological, biological or ecological role in the natural functioning of an major river basin or coastal system, especially where it is located in a trans-border position
- an example of a specific type of wetland, rare or unusual in the appropriate biogeographical region.
- Does the plan describe actions that will be taken to deal with any impacts that endanger the wetland's ecological character?
This should include mechanisms that respond to risks associated with:
- physical loss, modification or encroachment on the wetland
- loss of biodiversity
- pollution and nutrient input
- changes to water regimes
- utilisation of resources
- introduction of invasive species.
- If the wetland requires restoration or rehabilitation, what actions have been identified to undertake this work?
- Does the plan adequately consider monitoring and reporting on the state of the wetland's ecological character on a continuing basis?
- Is the management plan based on an integrated catchment management approach?
- Does the plan allow for a review process within a seven-year period?
- Do all anticipated actions which are likely to have a significant impact on the ecological character of the wetland include assessment under a statutory environmental impact assessment and approval process?
- Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA)
- China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA)
- Republic of Korea-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (ROKAMBA)
- Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (the Bonn Convention)