Wet Tropics Management Plan Review

Plan review - interactive mapping
Photographer: WTMA

One of the important ways the Wet Tropics Management Authority manages impacts on the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is through the administration of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993 and subordinate legislation called the Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998 While the Plan is under review, the current Plan remains in force.

Frequently asked questions about the Plan and the review 

Phase 1 consultation on the Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998 (the Plan) review is now complete. This page provides responses to some frequently asked questions raised by the general community, Rainforest Aboriginal people, the tourism industry, and state and local governments through online and written submissions, and through a series of workshops and meetings organised throughout the region.

Background questions

What is the Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998?

The Plan is Queensland law, and is required under Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993. It applies only to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

What is the purpose of the Plan?

The purpose of the Plan is to help protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The Outstanding Universal Value of the Wet Tropics includes the natural heritage attributes for which the Area was originally listed when World Heritage status was declared in 1988. These include the unique ecological, biological, evolutionary and scenic landscape attributes.

What type of activities are regulated under the Plan?Gillies Highway repairs after a landslip 2012
Photographer: Campbell Clarke

There are five groups of activities regulated under the Plan:

           1. disturbance to native plants, waterways and earth

           2. control of introduced animals and environmental weeds

           3. waste disposal

           4. building and maintenance of structures and roads

           5. operation of motorised vehicles, boats and aircraft.

How are these activities regulated?

The Plan regulates activities through a zoning and permitting system, so that activities that may have an environmental or scenic impact can be managed and located appropriately. Additionally, there are special management agreements that can be entered into which alter the Plan controls under special circumstances.

Zoning system: The Plan divides the Area into zones, which are depicted on zoning maps and are based on the intended management purpose. These zones allow for a high level of protection in some areas, and for community services infrastructure and existing uses in other areas.

Permits: The Plan uses a permit system to regulate activities in the different zones. For example, there are a range of community services infrastructure that are required to provide for communities, such as water pipelines, power lines, and the road network. These typically require a maintenance permit to ensure that any environmental and scenic impacts are minimized. It should be noted that there are some common sense situations where the requirement for a permit is waived, such as activities for the protection of life, and activities causing no more than a minor and inconsequential impact.

Special management agreements: The Plan includes provision for parties to enter into special management agreements in certain situations (sections 41 and 42). Such agreements allow for variations to the standard Wet Tropics land use controls and can only be entered into where it will result in a positive contribution towards achieving the primary goal i.e. protection, conservation, rehabilitation, presentation of World Heritage values.

Phase 1 Consultation related questions

What happened to my submission?Wet Tropics Management Authority

The Wet Tropics Management Authority Board has now considered all submissions received and a report on the 2018 Report on the Wet Tropics Management Plan Review Phase 1 Consultation can be downloaded at here. (1.5mb)

What is the Plan Review process?

May 2017 to August 2017 – Formal Round 1 of public consultation

August 2017 to June 2018 – collate public comment and continue informal public consultation

July 2018 to November 2018 – Prepare draft amendment plan

February to April 2019 – Formal Phase 2 Consultation

May 2019 – Prepare final amendment plan

How will the Authority contemporise the Plan?

The current Plan acts as a regulation under the Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993. The Phase 1 consultation process and discussions with stakeholders highlighted the need for a more comprehensive and strategic management document. As a consequence, the Board has decided to produce a Wet Tropics World Heritage Plan in two parts: Part A to outline the strategic and broader management functions of the Wet Tropics Management Authority, and Part B being the amended statutory Plan.

How will the Authority increase recognition of Rainforest Aboriginal people?

 A significant proportion of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is subject to Native Title determination or Native Title claims. The consultation process indicated a high level of support for more strongly worded recognition of Rainforest Aboriginal tradition in the revised Plan.  The Authority will continue to work with the North Queensland Land Council, Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate and Rainforest Aboriginal people to address their interests in the Area.

How will the Authority assess the biodiversity conservation values of the World Heritage Area?

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science has commenced a Biodiversity Planning Assessment (BPA's) for the Wet Tropics  bio-region using the Biodiversity Assessment and Mapping Methodology in conjunction with the  Authority. This is the first time such an assessment has been undertaken for the bio region. For more information on the mapping methodology download the information sheet here.

BPAs can be used by WTMA staff, other government departments, local governments, NRM bodies or members of the community to advise a range of planning and decision-making processes. For example:Matters of State Environmental Significance, determining priorities for protection, regulation or rehabilitation of terrestrial ecosystems, development assessment, local and regional planning processes, or contributing to impact assessment of large-scale development.

Will the updated zoning scheme impact on Local Government future infrastructure plans?

The original zone B had two purposes. To identify areas to be reclassified as zone A after they had sufficiently recovered from previous forestry operations, and to allow local government the opportunity to apply for a rezoning for community services infrastructure. As the areas currently zoned B have been rehabilitated and substantial regrowth has occurred, it is proposed that these areas now be converted to zone A. Some submissions raised a concern that this conversion may impact on the ability of local government to build essential community services infrastructure in the future.

The Authority is working with local government to ensure that sufficient areas of zone B are retained, so that future needs are considered. Zone B will be retained around existing infrastructure (i.e. zone C) to allow a buffer for future community services infrastructure needs.

Can the updated Plan support nature based tourism opportunities for the tourist industry?

In the current Plan, zone D sites are areas indicated on maps for tourism and visitor facilities. The need for flexibility and opportunities for nature-based tourism facilities was highlighted in submissions, and is supported by the Authority. To provide for flexibility and expanded tourism opportunities, the Authority is proposing to amend the management purpose and definition of zone C to include opportunities for future tourism and presentation facilities. This will effectively result in all current zone D sites being absorbed into the existing zone C.

The Authority will work with service providers to develop definitions of the types of infrastructure appropriate for zones. For example, a clear definition of the types of visitor infrastructure allowed in each zone will be included in the Plan.

How will the Plan simplify the classification of roads in the Wet Tropics?

Submissions received during Phase 1 Consultation highlighted that there was confusion about the current and proposed road classification system. The intention of the proposed changes is to establish fewer occasions where a permit is required to operate a motorized vehicle. The Authority will continue discussions with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, Transport and Main Roads, infrastructure providers and local governments regarding the best approach to simplify the system, while at the same time retaining some controls to ensure the Area is adequately protected. 

What are the changes currently proposed for the application of section 65 with regard to community services infrastructure?

Under section 65 of the Plan, the Authority may issue a permit to build a road only if it would not have a net adverse impact on the integrity of the Area or there is no prudent and feasible alternative.

It is proposed this requirement apply to all community services infrastructure, not just roads e.g. electricity transmission lines, water supply. 

How will the Authority protect the World Heritage area from adverse impacts resulting from subdivision?

The subdivision of land within the Wet Tropics Area can present a threat to integrity by increasing the number of houses and domestic activities. The Authority is investigating the option of regulating reconfiguration of a lot, so that the potential impacts of subdivisions of land can be assessed, prior to a subdivision being permitted. The Authority will continue to work with stakeholders to determine the role it can play to ensure these impacts are managed.

Can mining still be allowed under the amended Plan?

All but one stakeholder agreed with the proposed prohibition on mining. The Authority will now investigate how best to prohibit mining where it is currently allowed under Wet Tropics legislation, so that the proposed amendments can be considered by the community and industry during the second phase of consultation.


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