What is a waterway?

What is a Waterway?

To construct or raise waterway barrier works within a waterway, a development application under the Planning Act 2016, or compliance with the Accepted Development Requirements for operational works that is construction or raising waterway barrier works, is needed. To determine the legislative requirements for assessment, it is first 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 or inlet of the sea.

This definition includes freshwater and tidal waters, both permanent and ephemeral waterways, and includes drainage features. It also includes channels 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.

Waterway spatial layer

The ArcGIS data layer “Queensland Waterways for Waterway Barrier Works”, has been developed to help define the limits of waterways for the purpose of managing impacts to fish passage from waterway barriers.

For those without access to ArcGIS, a version of this mapping can also be found on the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning’s website.

The layer must be used in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries “Guide for the determination of waterways using the spatial data layer Queensland Waterways for Waterway barrier works (PDF, 116.9KB)”.

The responsibility to use the appropriate procedures when identifying a waterway at any site in Queensland, rests solely with the user of the layer and their interpretation of the Guide.

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

Fisheries Queensland should be approached when necessary, to help determine a waterway through pre-lodgement discussions for both development applications, and compliance with the Accepted Development Requirements for operational works that is construction or raising waterway barrier works.

Physical and hydrological attributes of a waterway

Although the spatial data layer is available to make most waterway determinations, it is still only a representation of the physical and hydrological attributes that exist on site.  Where a determination is questionable, it is the onground physical and hydrological attributes that ultimately determines whether a particular feature is a defined waterway that provides for fish passage.

The attributes that define a waterway must have at least one of the following:

    1. Defined bed and banks
    The bed and banks need to be continuous upstream and downstream of the site rather than isolated and broken sections of a depression.
    2. An extended, if non-permanent, period of flow
    Flow must continue beyond the duration of a rain event and have some reliability attached to rainfall. There is a need to distinguish between channels that funnel immediate localised rainfall; and waterways where flow has arisen from an upstream catchment.
    3. 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. waterways that connect to fish habitat like a wetland or waterhole may only need infrequent and short-duration flows to provide connectivity for fish.
    4. 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. Periodic connectivity to upstream and off stream fish habitat  are also considered fish habitat.

Where a determination on the spatial data layer is questionable, consultation with the Fisheries Queensland is mandatory. The Department can provide the procedure for alternative determinations, however all works must comply with the current waterway colour coding until an assessment of that waterway can be undertaken, and if approved the layer is updated to reflect this change.

Defined waterway: Sandy Creek, Homebush QLD

Further Information