When is a River not a River? Consideration of the legal definition of a river for geomorphologists practising in New South Wales, Australia

Mark Patrick Taylor*, Robert Stokes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Australian landscape is characterised by floods and droughts, so that the form, flow patterns and structure of our rivers reflect the full range of discharge patterns from perennial to intermittent, through to ephemeral. However, legislative descriptions of 'river' are derived from a Eurocentric perspective. In New South Wales, the definition of a river is provided in the Rivers and Foreshores Improvement Act (1948) and the partially implemented Water Management Act (2000). The Rivers and Foreshores Improvement Act implies that a bona fide river should have perennial and intermittent flow. This is quite atypical of many lower order river systems in New South Wales which are normally ephemeral. Herein lies the issue. Development on or adjacent to a river is subject to specific restrictions. As a consequence, numerous disputes regarding the nature and definition of a 'watercourse' have arisen in both the Australian High Court and the NSW Land and Environment Court. This paper considers the utility of the legislative definition of 'river' and 'watercourse' with respect to a range of geomorphological parameters, human perceptions of, and relationships to, these vital natural resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-200
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Geographer
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'When is a River not a River? Consideration of the legal definition of a river for geomorphologists practising in New South Wales, Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this