New Ground | Expert Environmental Consultants in Queensland

Significant Updates in Environmental Mapping: Queensland’s Recent Changes

Queensland’s Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government, and Planning (DSDILGP) has provided an update to their mapping system on 29 November 2023. This round of updates included changes to the Koala Habitat Area mapping of the Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation Plan 2017 (‘the koala plan’), Regulated Vegetation Management mapping (i.e. remnant and high value regrowth regional ecosystems) and Queensland Waterways for Waterway Barrier Works mapping. This blog aims to explore the implications of the changes relative to environmental management, planning and development. 

Koala Habitat and Regulated Vegetation Mapping Updates

In our review, both the Koala Plan and Regulated Vegetation Management updates appeared to be consistent with the usual annual updates made to these map layers. The updates don’t seem to have brought widespread changes, although some properties will now reflect a changed designation. You can view a summary of amendments made on the DSDILGP website.

Queensland Waterways for Waterway Barrier Works Mapping Updates

The most notable update is the significant alteration to the Queensland Waterways for Waterway Barrier Works mapping. This change incorporates a substantial increase in the number of mapped waterways, aligning the Waterway Barrier Works layer more closely with the Vegetation Management Watercourse/Drainage Line mapping of the Vegetation Management Act 1999

environmental management
Queensland waterways for waterway barrier works mapping: Department of Resources, Dept.of Environment and Science, Esri, HERE, Garmin, Foursquare, METI/NASA, USGS

According to the DSDILGP mapping amendments, key changes to this map include:

  • Automating the Geographic Information System (GIS) processing for map creation.
  • Reducing the number of purple waterways in western drainage basins, especially in braided waterway systems.
  • Decreasing alternating waterway colours that were not intended.
  • Removing isolated green waterway segments under 500m in length in upper catchments.
  • Adding a grey waterway line to improve clarity on the locations of tidal waterways.

Implications for Development Approvals

This revised mapping will have implications for development activities, notably those that require the construction of a temporary or permanent ‘waterway barrier’ along a Queensland Waterway or Waterway Barrier Works. Many of these projects would now necessitate development approval under the Fisheries Act 1994, focusing on the construction or raising of waterway barrier works in fish habitats (assessed against State Code 18).

Challenges with Mapping Accuracy 

A concern with this update is the accuracy of waterway data. The data used as the basis for the Queensland Waterways Barrier Works map layer is not accurate to a fine scale, often presenting waterways over roads and in heavily developed areas with modified catchments. This inaccuracy presents a problem for newly triggered properties and projects, as they may not actually be impacting a waterway that is of any value to fish passage. 

The Need for a Formal Amendment Process

To remedy any inaccuracies, it is key that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) establishes a formal waterway mapping map amendment request process to occur outside of the development application process, similar to that available to correct koala habitat area mapping. In this way, mapping could be corrected before a project is (unnecessarily) called in for State Concurrence agency assessment against State Code 18.

Impact for Developments

Overall, the Queensland Waterways for Waterway Barrier map changes are likely to disrupt projects that are not actually impacting waterways that are of technical significance to fish movement. It appears that the burden will fall to project proponents to ground truth the new mapping at property scale. If a development had failed to request and obtain corrections for erroneously mapped waterways, they would be required to provide referral documentation as per State Code 18. This process is not only time-intensive and financially demanding, but also puts unnecessary strain on the DAF as a concurrence agency. 

Feel free to reach out if you have any inquiries about these updates in relation to your project.

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