Report lists improvements for wetland management

By Jamie Salter

A raft of recommendations have been proposed to improve the management of Victoria's Ramsar-listed wetlands including Barmah Forest, Gunbower Forest and Kerang Wetlands.

The parliamentary committee report tabled in Victorian Parliament on June 16 handed down 16 recommendations to improve the wetlands management, including updating management plans, reviewing Regional Waterway Strategies to ensure compliance with Ramsar regulations and comprehensive monitoring.

It follows a detailed review that looked at whether DELWP was meeting its obligations to protect Ramsar-listed wetlands in Victoria.

Committee chair Lizzie Blandthorn said the report showed a positive outcome, as recommendations made previously by the auditor-general had been implemented.

The 2016 auditor-general report made a number of recommendations including that DELWP, Parks Victoria and catchment management authorities work together to develop robust governance arrangements for managing Ramsar sites, and that DELWP lead the development of a statewide approach to monitoring the ecological character of Ramsar sites, through a specific monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework.

“I believe that this report will make a positive contribution to ensuring that Victoria’s Ramsar sites are managed in a way that will maintain their ecological character and ensure these unique environments are preserved for generations to come,” Ms Blandthorn said.

The committee has recommended enhanced Traditional Owner engagement across Victoria to inform the implementation of a best practice strategy.

This includes guidance on how Traditional Owners are engaged in the management of Ramsar sites and the representation of Traditional Owners on site co-ordinating committees.

Other key recommendations include updating management plans for Victoria’s Ramsar sites to address high-priority threats, exploring funding arrangements and making the plans for the sites publicly available.

The committee received 457 submissions, held three days of public hearings and conducted two site visits to see some of the work being undertaken to manage Victorian Ramsar sites.

There are 12 wetland sites across Victoria that are internationally significant under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

To read the report, visit: www.parliament.vic.gov.au/inquiries/4521