New river setbacks 'a setback to environment'

Mar 15, 2013

Researchers from Macquarie University and RMIT have warned about potential major damage to the long-term health of rivers and the local environment following recent changes to New South Wales Government planning rules around development setbacks along watercourses.

In a critical review to be published in the Environmental and Planning Law Journal, Macquarie University's Professor Mark Taylor and Dr Peter Davies along with Dr Christopher Ives from RMIT's School of Global, Urban and Social Studies argue that recent regulatory changes relating to river banks are shifting the balance between environment protection and development interests in an adverse way.

The recent NSW Government changes have been made to provide greater "certainty" to property developers, but according to the authors they are coming "at the expense of certainty for environmental protection".

The principal changes were introduced on 1 July 2012:

(i) A variation to the method used to measure the width of river set-backs – effectively narrowing river setbacks in most cases;

(ii) A decision to merge these with additional spaces previously left available for a further vegetation buffer.

In some cases, a third or more of the buffer zone between river banks and development will now be removed.

Amongst the reasons for their concern, the researchers say:

  • No scientific evidence has been provided to demonstrate that there will no be net loss of environmental quality and biodiversity, despite government assurances;
  • The "new" is based on an antiquated method developed in the south-west United States in 1952, for a purpose other than watercourse and riparian protection.
  • The method used to calculate river set-backs requires reliance on that are often decades old, which do not reflect accurately the true conditions of contemporary rivers.
The "reforms" introduced by the NSW Government are contrary to existing knowledge and best practice with respect to river management and local amenity. These changes are likely to compound the problems identified in the most recent NSW State of the Environment Report (2012) that revealed NSW coastal river aquatic fish were in poor to poor to very poor condition and that 50% of riparian vegetation systems were classified as being below good condition.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dam risk to Murray-Darling wetlands may be underestimated

Jun 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Computer modelling used to develop the Murray-Darling Basin Plan may have significantly underestimated the effects of building dams and diverting water on the internationally listed Macquarie Marshes wetlands, ...

British rivers 'healthiest for 20 years'

Aug 30, 2011

The renaissance of Britain's rivers was underlined on Tuesday when waterways once considered polluted to death were revealed as teeming with life.

Britain's urban rivers bounce back

Jun 29, 2012

Urban rivers throughout England and Wales have improved dramatically in water quality and wildlife over the last 20 years.

River salinisation an urgent ecological issue

Jan 31, 2013

(Phys.org)—A just published review by Australian and European researchers has highlighted the growing global environmental problem of increasing salt levels in the world's rivers. Co-author, Dr Ben Kefford ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

21 hours ago

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...