A Management Strategy for the Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary System (Kinhill Engineers 1988) was approved for implementation by the Minister for Environment on January 4, 1989.

The Strategy consisted of five elements:

  • Construction of a new channel to the ocean at Dawesville
  • Continuation of fertiliser modification practices
  • Implementation of stricter catchment management measures
  • Changes in land use, and
  • Continuation of weed (macroalgal) harvesting.

The Strategy was ambitious and far sighted, and for the first time drew attention to the need for a whole-of-government integrated approach to solving environmental problems. It also drew attention to the unfortunately common problem of excessive nutrients flowing into our rivers and streams from an array of activities on land (EPA, 2003).

The Minister for the Environment nominated three relevant Ministers (the then Ministers for Transport, Agriculture and Waterways ) as the proponents for implementation of the Strategy. A tripartite statutory policy framework was then developed during 1991-94 to compliment construction of the Dawesville Channel (completed in 1994). The three part policy framework included:

1. Environmental Conditions

Arising from the Stage 2 ERMP, these conditions set management constraints on the three key government Ministers and their Departments. One condition (which has yet to be fulfilled) required the proponents to develop an integrated catchment management plan to meet specific nutrient input targets.

2. Statement of Planning Policy SPP No. 2.1

The Peel-Harvey Coastal Catchment Policy (previously SPP No. 2) was formulated by the Western Australian Planning Commission in February 1992. It recognised the need to ensure that land use changes likely to cause environmental damage to the estuary are brought under planning control. The area of application for the policy is the same as that for the subsequent Environmental Protection Policy (EPP).

3. Environmental Protection (Peel Inlet-Harvey Estuary) Policy (EPP; 1992)

The Environmental Protection (Peel Inlet-Harvey Estuary) Policy was gazetted in December 1992. The policy, formulated by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), is currently under review and has three elements:

• ascribing beneficial uses for the estuary
• setting targets for phosphorus loads entering the estuary, and
• establishing a broad management framework.

The EPP legally defines the Peel-Harvey Coastal Plain Catchment Area for policy application. However the ‘EPP catchment’ represents only a portion of the total drainage catchment and hence is unable to fully address environmental issues that are hydrologically related. Such issues include the contribution of sediment-bound nutrients from areas outside of the gazetted portion of the coastal plain.

Since 1994, there has been a growing view within government and NRM communities that the existing tripartite policy framework requires changing.

In January 2003 the EPA completed a review of the effectiveness of management of the Peel-Harvey estuarine system (EPA Bulletin 1087). It was concluded that while the predicted beneficial environmental changes from the Dawesville Channel had been shown to be valid, the estuarine system remained in a fragile condition and the development and implementation of a Catchment Management Plan (a ministerial condition set in 1989) remained to be done.

The EPA then set in progress a review of the 1992 EPP and instigated the preparation of a ‘Water Quality Improvement Plan’ (WQIP). It is anticipated the WQIP will technically fulfil the 1989 Ministerial requirement for a Catchment Management Plan. However the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council has some areas of concern with this approach to catchment management and further detail can be found in the Peel—Harvey Catchment Plan for NRM (click here for more information about the P-H NRM Plan). (Wells, 2005)