People have always been attracted to rivers and lakes to live, work and play. Despite the economic, cultural, social and environmental importance of rivers and lakes, many of the rivers and lakes in the Region have been highly modified over the years. Works to control flooding and erosion, dams, and diversions for hydroelectricity generation can be large scale and have significant effects on the physical nature of the Region’s rivers and lakes. Smaller-scale changes like river crossings and small dams can have negative cumulative impacts. Urban expansion often alters rivers. Utilisation of the Region’s gravel resource provides an economic benefit and there may be flood protection benefits from having it removed from rivers. However, gravel extraction, when not managed well, can lead to increased flooding and erosion risk.

This modification has contributed to the economic growth and wellbeing of the Region, but it has also negatively altered the character and ecology of most rivers and lakes in the Region, impacting on cultural values attributed to them and leading to the loss or fragmentation of indigenous plant and animal populations.