Archer, Lockhart and Stewart


PLAN ASSESSMENT - Baseline Archer_Lockhart-and-Stewart_v1.jpg

The Archer, Lockhart and Stewart basins are located on Cape York in Far North Queensland. They contain some of Australia’s most intact river systems, wetlands and estuarine lakes which support a high number of unique plants and animals.

The declarations are natural resource management plans which include water planning and regulation. The declarations manage surface water and water contained in aquifers considered to be highly connected to the major streams.

The declarations’ primary aim is to preserve the natural values of the river systems while allowing development activities to occur which do not threaten these values. Extractions for consumptive use are limited to less than one per cent of mean annual flows in each of the systems. The declarations provide water for Indigenous communities to achieve their social and economic aspirations.


Index Citeria Finding Comment
1. Is there a plan in place? Yes The Archer, Lockhart and Stewart basins were declared wild river areas in April 2009. The declarations continue in effect unless revoked by parliament.
2. Does the plan include key assessments? Yes Key assessments were undertaken to inform the declarations. Potential risks to the water resource, such as the taking of overland flows and groundwater, were considered.
3. Does the plan address overuse and is there a pathway to sustainable extraction? Yes The declarations do not identify any areas of overuse. Total water allocated or available for allocation amounts to less than 0.5% of mean annual flow. Assessment for additional licences must have regard to the protection of the natural values.
4. Does the plan include clearly identified and measurable outcomes? To Some Extent The declarations include a generic set of environmental outcomes. In some cases a set of special features are specified to be included in the high preservation zone. They do not specify monitoring arrangements.
5. Does the plan facilitate trade? No The declarations do not facilitate water trading. Given the low level of consumptive use, the demand for trading is very low.
6. Is interception appropriately considered and integrated into the plan? Yes Interception through the take of overland flows was raised in submissions. Works for the capture of overland flow are regulated through the declarations. Given the low demand for the taking of overland flows, it was not considered necessary to require the take of overland flow water to be licensed or included in the unallocated water reserves. The take of overland flows is not permitted in high preservation areas unless for stock and domestic purposes.
7. Does the plan include/ address surface water and groundwater connectivity as appropriate? Yes The declarations manage subartesian groundwater extractions within the highly connected high preservation zones through including extractions in the overall allocation limit. Other subartesian groundwater is not managed given a weaker connection with the major streams. Artesian water in the GAB is managed through the GAB WRP.
8. Does the plan contain accountable environmental water management arrangements? Yes The declarations contain provisions to preserve the natural values of the basins through limiting water extractions and development activities which may erode these values.
9. Is there adequate monitoring occurring, and are there compliance and enforcement mechanisms in place? To Some Extent No monitoring reports are due to date. Monitoring of development activity is based on licensing requirements, satellite imagery and through the Wild Rivers Rangers program. Compliance and enforcement is dealt with through reference to relevant Acts, including the Water Act.
10. Does the plan deal appropriately with climate change and extremes in inflows or recharge? Yes The declarations deal with climate variability and change through preserving the natural flows of the system. Given the adoption of a precautionary approach, climate change is not expected to have a major impact on the allocation of water.
11. Is stakeholder engagement in the planning process adequate? Yes The Wild Rivers Act requires extensive consultation to be undertaken prior to the declaration of a wild river area. Extensive engagement occurred at key stages of the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart basin declaration processes with traditional owners and other stakeholders. Public feedback was provided on how submissions were addressed in finalising the declarations, through the publication of a consultation report.
12. Have identified outcomes been achieved during the reporting period? Unable to Assess The first report on the implementation of the declaration is due by 2014, five years after the declaration. Subsequent five‑yearly reports are required to include a summary of findings relating to the preservation of the natural values in the wild river areas.