The work of Goodrick (1970) documented the loss of wetlands along the New South Wales coast ad highlighted the need for conservation and protective management of remaining valuable wetlands. Throughout the 1970s, growing community awareness of the values of wetlands was increasingly reflected in the gazettal of a number of wetland Nature Reserves and more balanced consideration of development applications potentially affecting wetlands. The 1979 Environmental Planning and Assessment Act provided the legislative basis for environment protection in New South Wales with planning guideline for control at local, regional and state levels.
To support the effective implementation of the Act in rural areas, the Department of Environment and Planning published the Rural Land Evaluation Manual (Woodward and Neilson, 1981) which included rudimentary guidelines for the identification of valuable wetlands and urged the compilation of an inventory of wetlands in each local government area. However, the manual stopped short of giving detailed procedures for comparative assessment of specific wetlands.