NSW legislation recognises the environmental importance of fish passage, and by association its social and economic significance. However, the legislation is not underpinned by a strategic framework and strategy that ensures that the intent of the legislation is met. Rather than being driven by ecological priorities, the legislation is instead linked to asset refurbishment schedules to trigger fish passage remediation. In recognition of this ‘disconnect’, the NSW Ministerial Taskforce on Fish Passage was established in 2017 to develop a strategic, coordinated approach to fish passage remediation. The Taskforce has subsequently developed the NSW Fish Passage Strategy, which focuses upon improving waterway connectivity at priority weirs and regulators across NSW over a 20 year timeframe.
The key elements of the proposed Strategy are (1) improved arrangements for the delivery and oversight of fish passage in NSW, (2) the identification of 160 high priority fish barrier sites and their targeted remediation in order to re-establish catchment-scale fish migration along key waterways, and (3) a strategic approach to widening the funding base for fish passage related works through market-based instruments at both the state and federal level.
The aim of this presentation is to detail how the Strategy addresses current limitations to deliver a prudent, cost-effective approach to restoring waterway connectivity. This includes updating policy and guidelines that clarify minimum fishway design requirements, as well as the responsibilities of asset owners to operate and maintain fishways. Moreover, directed research into fishway optimisation and novel technologies will underpin Strategy implementation, along with post-construction monitoring to validate the success of completed projects. A revised funding model will also be developed, underpinned by a Business Case Assessment, to optimise funding opportunities throughout the 20 year Strategy implementation period.