New South Wales was the first Australian state in which detailed scientific interest was taken in the problems associated with the unplanned and uncontrolled development in, and adjacent to, waterways. These investigations commenced in the 1960s when the adverse effects of many operations on the aquatic environment and on amateur and commercial fishing, became apparent. The types of activities involved range from minor foreshore structures to large scale changes associated with developments such as residential canal estates, marinas, flood mitigation works, mineral sand mining, commercial sand extraction, dredging and reclamation, garbage disposal, dams, bridges, power stations and sewage treatment works. The NSW Government interest resulted in habitat management guidelines (Dunstan 1968) which were published in The Fisherman, the official journal of the Division of Fisheries, then in the Chief Secretary’s Department.
In 1963 the Fisheries Branch operated under the Fisheries and Oyster Farms Act 1935. Applications for developments on Crown Land (land below mean high water mark) were generally referred to Fisheries although there was no legal obligation on the Department of Lands, and objections were raised only if recognised fisherman’s hauling grounds or oyster leases were adversely affected. At the time the State Planning Authority, the precursor to the Department of Environment and Planning (now separate agencies) was concerned only with planning matters, and the functions of the National Parks and Wildlife Service were the responsibility of the Fauna and Flora Protection Board consisting of three members. Other relevant authorities evinced little or no concern for possible adverse effects of developments in estuaries, whether on the productivity of such habitats or on the environment generally. Municipal and shire engineers and planners, competent in their own fields, often viewed wetlands and waterways as cheap land to be filled and reclaimed, or as a source of commercial sand. The backwaters and mangrove swamps offered the ideal location for the disposal of garbage with little thought given to the tragic effects on the natural environment.
How to Cite:
Dunstan, D.J., 2009. Some early environmental problems and guidelines in New South Wales estuaries.. Wetlands Australia, 9(1), pp.pp. 1–6. DOI: http://doi.org/10.31646/wa.140