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Building capacity on the risk-based framework

Published 29 January 2024 Helping waterway managers and industry understand how to apply the 'Risk-based Framework for Considering Waterway Health Outcomes in Strategic Land-use Planning Decisions' through workshops, resources and other tools.
content image Tuggerah Lakes. Photo by: Jocelyn Dela-Cruz


Why is this project important? 

Healthy waterways support people, plants and animals. Managing the health of our waterways helps to support more liveable cities and resilient communities.

The Risk-based framework for considering waterway health outcomes in strategic land-use planning decisions helps councils to assess the impacts of land-use activities on local waterways.

It brings together, and operationalises, the NSW government’s policies and strategies for managing the water quality and health of our waterways.

The Risk-based framework may be useful to anyone developing a Coastal Management Program to manage a waterway, including local councils.

It is a logical, science-based, best-practice, decision-making tool to be used by councils and other organisations with responsibility for water quality.

The Risk-based Framework combines the key parts of the National water quality management strategy into a five-step process.

It does this by:

  • finding out how communities value and use their local waterways
  • identifying waterways that are most sensitive to land use activities and require protection from pollution
  • working out how management actions lessen the impacts of these activities on waterways to make sure the community’s values and uses are being preserved
  • providing a clear and transparent process for management decisions that affect waterways.

The five steps of the Risk-based Framework are outlined in the figure below.

A diagram showing the 5 steps of the risk-based framework. Step 1 is to establish context, steps 2-4 sit within the context of risk assessment and all require communication and consultation. These steps are Step 2 Effects based assessment, Step 3 Compare against waterway objectives, and Step 4 strategic impact assessment. If the risks are acceptable proceed to Step 5 design and implementation, including monitoring and review. If the risks are not acceptable users are directed back to Step 2.

Access the Risk-based Framework dataset for your estuary

We have developed a dataset to help you apply the RBF to an NSW estuary.

The NSW estuary health risk dataset can be downloaded from the NSW SEED portal.

It identifies land-use pressures and consequent risks of impacts on the ecological health of estuaries.

This dataset represents a first-pass risk assessment to help identify priorities for management actions or future studies on the effects of land use activities on the health of estuaries in NSW.

The dataset is accompanied by the report, is also available on the SEED portal.

Learning how to apply the Risk-based framework

We are developing targeted resources, tools and training packages to help industry, councils and other waterways managers better understand and apply the RBF.

Participants attending our training include stormwater engineers, planners, modellers and consultants who may need to apply the Risk-based framework.

We have rolled out our first pilot training program on the Risk-based Framework across coastal NSW.

The training program currently has two stages:

Skills-based training Stage 1:  Getting the RBF Underway in Your Organisation.

  • This one-day training introduces the Risk-based Framework, showcases case study applications and outlines the support resources available.

Skills based training Stage 2: Applying the Risk-based Framework – Steps 1-3.

  • This one-day training focuses on how to apply stages 1-3 of the Risk-based Framework using both an example and projects stakeholders bring to the training.

We are developing the final part of this first pilot training program on Skills-based training.

  • The third stage of the training - Stage 3: Applying the Risk-based Framework – Steps 4-5 will be rolled out in 2024.

What have we achieved?

To date, we have delivered pilot training to 21 local councils and 5 state government organisations across 5 locations in coastal NSW.


Statewide – the toolkit and training program are applicable to all 184 catchments in coastal NSW.

Local government areas - Statewide

Lead agency

NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (NSW DCCEEW)


We have been working with GEMS Environmental Management to develop and deliver training.

More information

Risk-based Framework for Considering Waterway Health Outcomes in Strategic Land-use Planning Decisions

Integrating the risk-based framework with your coastal management program

This document summarises where the key tasks to deliver the 5 steps of the Risk-based framework for considering waterway health outcomes in strategic land-use planning decisions overlap or directly align with the guidance for the 5 stages of developing a coastal management program.

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