Revitalising estuaries and wetlands for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, fisheries and the community

Project Number:



Colin Creighton

Principal Investigator:

Colin Creighton AM

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Adoption, Environment

Final Report - 2012-036-DLD - Revitalising Australia’s Estuaries

Final Report
Date Published:November 2013
Principal Investigator: Colin Creighton

Keywords: climate change, estuaries, business case,​ coastal catchments, coastal zones, fisheries productivity


This project puts forward the proposal that stakeholders and government should concentrate on repair of the more developed coastal catchments around Australia where major investment and Australian Government leadership is required to re‐establish estuary productivity. 

It seeks to deliver multiple benefits to the Australian community – to increase fisheries productivity, improve coastal water quality, enhance catchment hydrology, repair coastal biodiversity, finetune flood control, re‐establish carbon sequestration and reinforce foreshore buffering against extreme events.

The business case sets out the rationale and the priority opportunities for investment, to repair and restore, under a 'no regrets' policy, estuary and inshore wetland and floodplain areas. It seeks to maximise community benefits from these important parts of our landscape while minimising costs and impacts upon adjacent land users of the coastal zone. 

It builds upon the Australian love of coastal landscapes and the resources they provide and the Australian community’s and political commitment to implement major natural resources initiatives such as the Natural Heritage Trust, Caring for our Country and the Biodiversity Fund. Like Reef Rescue and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, the business case proposes a major focus, in this case on estuaries and their wetland ecosystems.

Most importantly, through ongoing fisheries productivity, the proposed once‐off five‐year Australian Government investment will return economic benefits year in and year out that will far outweigh the $350M costs of repairing these key estuary assets. Our estimates suggest a break‐even for investment is well less than five years and from then on benefits exceed costs forever.

Further repair and management investment will be required following the proposed once‐off five‐year agenda‐setting Australian Government investment. This business plan recognises this ongoing investment need. Similar to already successful schemes in USA and UK and building on schemes already underway in NSW and Victoria, this plan proposes various instruments and systems to ensure overall benefits can be incentivised into the future. This includes empowering industry groups, private landholders, Local Governments and communities to continue the repair of coastal assets and their management.​


1. Use case studies in NSW and Qld that build on previous activities and that demonstrate the multiple benefits and opportunities for further investment in connectivity & wetland repair

2. Develop an Australia-wide business plan suitable for 5 year investment that focuses on the remedial works, activities, planning, institutional arrangements and legislation to retain and repair ecological function in estuarine and wetland ecosystems

3. Present within 12 months the business case to a wide range of government, industry and community stakeholders so that understanding and support is fostered for the proposed investment initiative

4. Capitalise on a whole host of prior research and wetland mapping activities so that the Australia-wide business case is well foundered and demonstrates the return on investment from repair activities