What is a waterway?

To construct or raise waterway barrier works within a waterway, the works must comply with accepted development requirements or a development application under the Planning Act 2016 needs to be lodged.

First, it is necessary to identify whether the proposed works are within a defined waterway.

The Fisheries Act 1994

The definition of a waterway under the Fisheries Act 1994 includes a river, creek, stream, watercourse, drainage feature or inlet of the sea.

Waterways may flow with fresh and/or tidal waters, and may have permanent and/or temporary flows. Waterways include channels or pathways along which fish are expected to move if they connect isolated water bodies to defined waterways during times of flow. However, it does not include isolated waterbodies where no connectivity is available.

Waterways can be natural but can also include those that have been modified. For example, the landscape may have been modified through the construction of drains, floodways or canals.

The drainage function of a waterway may be of value to land users; however, other functions or services such as fisheries productivity, aquatic biopassage, habitat and biodiversity are also of value to other stakeholders, industry and the community.

Queensland waterways mapping

Please note: The Queensland waterways mapping was recently updated in November 2023 and should be used to inform any proposed accepted development for waterway barrier works. However, if imminent works have been pre-planned and mapping updates would impact on that planning, you can conduct accepted development works in accordance with the colours displayed in the previous version of the mapping until the end of February 2024. You should attach a snip of the previous version of the waterways mapping used to draft your accepted development when submitting your notification.

Queensland waterways for waterway barrier works mapping, helps users identify waterways for the purpose of avoiding or managing impacts of waterway barriers on fish passage.

You can view and download the Queensland waterways mapping through the following platforms:

The mapping was developed to help define the limits of waterways for the purpose of managing impacts of waterway barriers on fish passage.

The mapping must be used in conjunction with the user guide.

Example of waterway determinations taken from the spatial data layer Queensland waterways for waterway barrier works

If development is being planned in an area where a waterway may be present please refer to What is a waterway barrier work? and What is not a waterway barrier work?.

If the works constitute waterway barrier works and cannot meet the accepted development requirements, the development is assessable and it is recommended that pre-lodgement advice is sought prior to undertaking any works on the site.

Physical and hydrological attributes of a waterway

Although the spatial data layer is available to identify most waterways, it is still only a representation of the physical and hydrological attributes that exist on site and subject to the accuracy and scale of the input datasets.

The on-ground physical and hydrological attributes establish whether a feature is a defined waterway.

A waterway must have at least one of the following:

  • Defined bed and banks
    Waterways generally have defined bed and banks, however, can contain less defined sections that connect more defined sections during periods of flow.
  • Flow adequacy
    The flow needs to be sufficient to sustain basic ecological processes and habitats, and to maintain biodiversity within or across the feature. The adequacy of the flow depends on the ecological function of the channel e.g. some waterways that connect to fish habitat like a wetland or waterhole may only need infrequent and short-duration flows to provide connectivity for fish.
  • Fish habitat at, or upstream of, the site
    Most instream features provide habitat for fish under adequate flow conditions or, in the case of pools, during dry periods. Therefore, it is important to have some knowledge of the fish species for the site and their habitat use, particularly in headwater streams. The ability to provide constant or periodic connectivity to upstream and off-stream fish habitat  is also considered a feature of a waterway.

Further information