Top - The Natural Heritage Trust funds a number of environmental restoration projects affecting tidal wetlands like those in the Daintree River, Queensland.
Top - Tidal margins of the Brisbane River estuary in Queensland have been selectively hardened with special rock walls to protect mangroves during all tides from the frequent wash of city ferries.
Australia’s federal system divides power between the Commonwealth, State/Territory and local governments. All three levels of government are involved in the management of mangroves. However, there are no specific Commonwealth policies or Acts dealing exclusively with mangroves. Mangroves are managed through more general legislation relating to the environment, fisheries, coasts and wetlands. The Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment aims to facilitate a cooperative national approach to the environment and several Ministerial Councils have been established to assist in coordinating governmental activities in the coastal zone. This is coupled with an increased recognition of the value and importance of mangroves, supported by a better understanding of their ecology and, environmental and cross-sectoral linkages. There has been a drive to incorporate this knowledge into management efforts combined with a move to establish integrated strategies to manage both the direct industry uses of coastal resources and their impact on the broader environment.
Since the Coastal Zone Inquiry in 1993, several achievements have been made towards the sustainable use and management of mangrove ecosystems. For instance, no mangrove species is currently considered threatened. And, the total mangrove area in Australia may now be increasing, although this would be largely due to the growth in areas of accreting mud banks, and the incursion into tidal saltmarsh. Furthermore, unapproved clearing and destruction of mangroves has effectively ceased, and mangroves are now generally protected, apart from some high risk sites close to major population centres. In general, there has been an increasing National awareness of the need to protect Australia’s mangroves, and to maintain the unique biological diversity of this valuable natural habitat.
Protecting Mangroves - Legislation & Governance
Australia has long recognized the special importance of mangroves to the marine environment. For instance, mangroves in New South Wales, although previously grouped with land trees, were officially recognized in 1887, as different and worth preserving. Later on, the responsibility for management of mangroves was transferred to the Fisheries Department. In general, Australia’s mangrove resources are protected through a variety of means across Australia’s various legal jurisdictions. Many mangrove areas are protected in formal conservation areas such as marine parks, national parks, fish habitat areas, game reserves, or flora/fauna reserves.
The Commonwealth relies on a combination of its powers to give effect to its legislation through the 1995 Commonwealth Coastal Policy. It may also influence coastal zone activities by granting financial assistance to the States. The Commonwealth’s power in relation to external affairs allows it also to legislate in giving effect to Australia’s international obligations arising from international treaties and conventions. International and bi-lateral agreements, such as: the Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage; the Convention on the Conservation of Biological Diversity; the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance; and, the World Heritage Convention have lead also to the reservation and protection of large areas of mangrove forests in Australia.
Though it is difficult to determine the extent of mangroves protected in these areas, mangroves are included in at least 180 protected areas and protection extends over parts of approximately 28% of Australia’s estuaries. In all, around 8% of Australia’s mangrove communities are in protected areas. However, mangroves in Australia are protected by various other legislative and administrative mechanisms, for instance, the clearing of mangroves in Queensland and New South Wales is prohibited.
Right - Sign indicating protected mangroves area in Careel Bay, Pittwater near Sydney. photo: Chris Harty