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Uses of Public Land


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The river red gum forests have been a majorsource of durable timbers in south-easternAustralia since the earliest days of settlement.While production levels have diminished overtime, and the area from which timber can beharvested has reduced, the forests remain animportant source of these timbers.

The extent, functioning, composition, structureand management of the river red gum forestsvary somewhat across the study area, as do theextent and quality of data about them. As aconsequence, must of the information about theforests has been generalised.

153Discussion Paper

Part C of the DiscussionPaper provides details onthe various uses of landwithin the study area andthe implications of theseuses on the values andattributes of the RiverRed Gum Forests as awhole. It covers chapters10 to 17.

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10 Nature Conservation

Nature conservation is a significant use of publicland in Victoria and includes the protection of floraand fauna species, their habitat and significantenvironmental characteristics. Features ofgeological, geomorphological and scenicsignificance are part of nature conservation as wellas the preservation of processes necessary toconserve species, such as fire and flood regimes.This chapter provides an explanation of thecontribution of public land—and in particular thereserve system—to nature conservation.

As discussed in chapter 5 a great deal of Victoria’sbiodiversity has been lost, largely due to land clearingand the introduction of exotic species. This declinecontinues in many areas. As a result, the maintenance,protection and enhancement of biodiversity havebecome important priorities for many communities aswell as local, state and Commonwealth governments.Many people appreciate biodiversity for its own sake andfor the chance to experience it—and many believe it isimportant to preserve species for future generations.Some also believe that all life forms have an inherentright to exist. In addition to its intrinsic value,biodiversity is essential to maintain the health of naturalsystems more broadly, such as healthy soil andwaterways—the term “ecosystem services” has beencoined recently to recognise the importance of this role.

The conservation of biodiversity is achieved using manydifferent methods on both public and private land.These methods depend upon how many species arepresent, how intact the ecological processes are and

how much human habitation and use there is in an area.Biodiversity conservation can take many forms, rangingfrom conservation reserves, to the sympatheticmanagement of natural areas used for resourceextraction (such as state forests) or utilities (such as roadreserves), to improved management of remnantvegetation on private land through incentives andsupport.

Nature conservation encompasses the protection of boththe living and the non-living parts of the environment,including geological and geomorphological features andscenic natural landscapes.


Protecting natural areas in conservation reserves is acornerstone of biodiversity preservation (Gaston et al.2006). The need for conservation reserves is recognisedworldwide and both the Australian and Victoriangovernments are committed, through the Convention onBiological Diversity, to establishing a representativeconservation reserve system.

Habitat protection within conservation reserves isconsidered to be one of the most efficient means ofconserving biodiversity and reducing extinction rates(Lawler et al. 2003). Protecting biodiversity in naturalareas (in situ conservation) is more likely to maintainnatural evolution and broader ecological processes thanfocusing on a single species outside of its naturalenvironment. Deforestation and habitat fragmentationare generally much higher outside conservation reservesthan inside (Sanchez-Azofeifa et al. 1999). Otherhuman-induced threatening processes such as huntingand grazing are also reduced in conservation reserves(Bruner et al. 2001) and this can improve conservation of

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threatened species in these areas (McKinney 2002).

In situ conservation is usually the cheapest and mosteffective long-term option. In situ conservation ofthreatened species in reserves is cheaper than ex situconservation (Balmford et al. 1995; Lindsey et al. 2005).Numerous studies have compared (on a global scale) thecosts of conserving biodiversity in conservation reserveswith the costs of conserving biodiversity in the generallandscape. James et al. (1999) estimated that a globalnetwork of conservation reserves would cost $27.5billion per year while the conservation and remediationof biodiversity in the agricultural, forestry, coastal andaquatic landscapes would be nearly ten times as great(approximately $290 billion per year). Retaining anintact area of biodiversity may also have greatereconomic benefits than converting the land forproduction. Balmford et al. (2002) reviewed studies thatincluded the benefits of recreation and ecosystemservices (see chapter 5) such as carbon sequestration,water supply and regulation, and storm protection, andconsistently found that retaining the area as intacthabitat was more cost effective than clearing it forproduction. The cost of managing the conservationreserve system is estimated at 0.1–1% of the value ofecosystem services provide (James et al. 2001; Pimm et al. 2001).


The conservation reserve system began early in Victoria’sEuropean history with the first national park declared in1898 although early reserve declarations tended to bead hoc and favoured sites that were scenicallyspectacular or of little use for agriculture, timber ormining. This pattern is common across the world(Margules & Pressey 2000). From 1971 to the mid1990s, the Land Conservation Council conductedsystematic regional studies of public land across Victoria.These studies recommended parks and reserves thatincluded parts of each major land system found in thestate. Most of Victoria’s existing conservation reservesystem result from these recommendations (see chapter9). However, many of the recommendations were madewith the limited ecological information available at thetime. More recent research has changed scientificthinking on bioregional approaches (see chapter 5) orthe appropriate size and configuration for reservesystems. In the 1990s, more sophisticated andsystematic considerations of reserve systems weredeveloped in recognition of their central role inbiodiversity conservation.

Recent developments in terrestrial reserve systems inAustralia have largely come under the auspices of theNational Reserve System (NRS) and the Regional ForestAgreement (RFA) processes, both of which have beenconsistently supported by all state and CommonwealthGovernments since the inception of each process in1992. The Regional Forest Agreement process aims tobalance sustainable forest production (largely throughtimber resource commitments to industry) andconservation (largely through reserves and sustainableforest management outside reserves). As the namesuggests, this process involved a series of regionalagreements (between the Commonwealth and state

governments). In Victoria, five RFAs were signed butonly the North East RFA (Commonwealth of Australia &State of Victoria 1999) overlaps with the River Red GumForests study area—the area of overlap being the currentNorth East Forest Management Area (Map 14.1 inchapter 14 shows the boundaries of Forest ManagementAreas overlapping with the study area).

The Commonwealth funding program for the NationalReserve System mainly focuses on terrestrial ecosystemsother than forests, with particular emphasis on addingpoorly reserved environments to the nationalconservation reserve system, using a bioregionalapproach.

Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative(CAR) reserve systems

Both the National Reserve System and the RegionalForest Agreement processes incorporate the need for acomprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR)conservation reserve system. In the context of the studyarea, these terms are defined as:

Comprehensive: includes examples of the full rangeof ecosystems within each Victorian bioregion withinthe study area;

Adequate: of sufficient size and number, and ofappropriate shape to ensure the maintenance ofecological viability and integrity of biologicalpopulations, species and communities;

Representative: areas selected for inclusion inreserves should reflect the diversity of the flora andfauna within each of the protected habitats andbiological communities.

In summary, the conservation reserve system shouldcontain examples of all types of ecosystems to becomprehensive. For each ecosystem, the reserved areasshould be of sufficient size and configuration tomaintain the integrity of its biodiversity (adequacy).Also, each ecosystem should be represented within eachbioregion to cover the range of biological variation(representativeness). Bioregions are the broadscalemapping units for biodiversity planning in Victoria andcapture the patterns and ecological characteristics in thelandscape (for a full description of bioregions, seechapter 5).

Biodiversity may be defined in terms of species, geneticvariation, habitats and/or ecosystems (see Ricotta 2005).The CAR criteria describe biodiversity at the level of“ecosystem” and assume that other levels of biodiversityare protected if coverage of ecosystems iscomprehensive, adequate and representative.

However, ecosystems may also be difficult to map andthus, Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) have beenused as ecosystem surrogates to measurecomprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness fora number of years (Woodgate et al. 1996; Parkes et al.2003) (see chapter 5 for further details). EVCs are theprincipal unit for vegetation circ*mscription andmapping for land-use planning and management inVictoria.

EVCs may not be the most suitable indicators for thedistribution of all components of biodiversity (e.g. MacNally et al. 2002) and additional measures may be

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needed to identify the conservation requirements ofthese components. For example, restricted colonialnesting species such as pelicans and egrets may not bewell represented with the EVC approach. Thevulnerability of particular EVCs (or ecosystems), speciesor other components of biodiversity to further loss ordecline needs to be incorporated into the priorities forreservation.

Setting Goals to achieve CAR: The JANIS Criteria

A number of goals have been set to help establish aconservation reserve system that is representative,adequate and comprehensive. The Nationally AgreedCriteria for the Establishment of a Comprehensive,Adequate and Representative Reserve System for Forestsin Australia is widely known as the JANIS criteria (afterthe acronym for the group that developed the criteria)(JANIS 1997). Through successive Regional ForestAgreements, these criteria have been the benchmark forregion-based assessments and establishment of forestreserve systems. The Terms of Reference for the RiverRed Gum Forests Investigation require VEAC to haveregard to these nationally agreed criteria.

The JANIS biodiversity criteria specify appropriateminimum representation for ecosystems in eachbioregion according to the status of each ecosystem.Typically, areas most intensely subject to human use arepoorly represented in conservation reserve systems andconsequently are often in most need of protection.More threatened or depleted ecosystems require higherlevels of conservation reserve system representation. TheJANIS definitions of threatened ecosystems—whatconstitutes endangered, vulnerable etc—are similar tomore recent definitions of bioregional conservationstatus in Victoria’s Native Vegetation Framework, see

Appendix 6 (DNRE 2002i). The targets for reservation of each ecosystem are broadly:

1.15 percent of the pre-1750 distribution of eachvegetation type.

2.At least 60 percent of the remaining extent ofvulnerable ecosystems. A vulnerable ecosystem is onewhich is i) has been reduced by around 70 percentwithin a bioregional context and which remainssubject to threatening processes; or ii) is not depletedbut subject to continuing and significant threateningprocesses.

3.All remaining rare and endangered forest ecosystems.A rare ecosystem appears within a small range of lessthan 10,000 ha, occupying a total combined area ofgenerally less than 1000 ha or in isolated patches ofgenerally less than 100 ha. An endangered ecosystemhas contracted to less than 10 percent of its formerrange or former total area, or where 90 percent of itsarea is in small threatened patches.

Although drawn from a limited literature, the minimum15 percent target was based on best advice fromscientific experts and exceeds the targeted 10 percentprotection of current forest area set internationally(Kanowski et al. 1999; Kirkpatrick 1999). Otherssuggest that the targets should be evidence-based(based on the conservation requirements of species andcommunities) rather than policy-based (Svancara et al.2005) and that higher levels of reservation are thereforerequired in some Australian landscapes (e.g. 30 percent:Freudenberger et al. 1997). An over-reliance on broad-scale attributes and an emphasis on ‘representation’ inreserve system establishment has been criticised by somescientists who suggest that unique areas and hotspotsfor biodiversity may be being missed (e.g. Brooks et al.2004). Thus identifying ‘key biodiversity areas’ may be

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an important complementary process in selectingreserves (Eken et al. 2004). In Victoria, ‘Biosites’ (seechapter 5) may provide a framework for identifyingimportant elements of biodiversity not accounted forusing the JANIS criteria.

The recently-released Directions for the National ReserveSystem—a Partnership Approach sets a number of time-lines for achieving CAR outcomes (NRMMC 2005a).

JANIS Criteria for Conservation Reserves

Recognising that the conservation reserve system shouldfirst be selected from public land, the JANIS criteriaidentified three public land components of the reservesystem, in decreasing order of preference:

Dedicated reserves: reserves established by legislationfor conservation purposes and for which a Parliamentarydecision is required to revoke their status;

Informal reserves: areas reserved under other securetenure or management arrangements, where it is notpossible or practical to include conservation values indedicated reserves; and

Protection by prescription: values protected byprescription where protection in reserves is impracticablebecause of the nature of the value.

‘Dedicated reserves’ are equivalent to those reservesmeeting the World Conservation Union definition of‘protected area’ (see below). Informal reserves, mostlySpecial Protection Zones (SPZs) in state forest, resultfrom forest management planning undertaken by DSE(see chapter 14). Other measures taken by DSE, such asSpecial Management Zones and prescriptions for timberharvesting, give a level of protection to natural valuesand complement the conservation reserve system but arenot considered as part of the system.

There are two key points to take into account ininterpreting the JANIS criteria for River Red Gum Forestsand associated ecosystems:

Flexibility: the need for flexibility in the application ofthe criteria to ensure that the CAR reserve systemdelivers optimal nature conservation outcomes as well asacceptable social and economic outcomes is specificallymentioned in the JANIS criteria and is aligned withSection 18 of the Victorian Environmental AssessmentCouncil Act 2001 which specifies that Council is to haveregard to “the potential environmental, social andeconomic consequences of implementing” itsrecommendations.

Context: in the Regional Forest Agreement process, theJANIS criteria were applied to forested landscapes with arelatively large proportion of off-reserve areas supportingsubstantially intact tracts of indigenous vegetation. Incontrast, much of the vegetation in the River Red GumForest study area has been cleared or degraded. Insome areas, only small, highly degraded areas may beavailable for reservation. Such blocks are generally veryexpensive to manage, often with little reason to expect a significant contribution to the conservation ofbiodiversity. This may make it very difficult to meetsome JANIS targets.

When the JANIS criteria were applied in the North EastRegional Forest Agreement, some red gum areas wereprotected through the establishment of SpecialProtection Zoness, although no new dedicated reserveswere created. The JANIS criteria were also used as abasis for Special Protection Zone establishment in theForest Management Plans for the Mid-Murray andMildura Forest Management Plans (DNRE 2002a; DSE2004f), although at that time EVC mapping wasinadequate even to quantify representation targets.

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A protected area is a park or reserve with a primary aimof biodiversity conservation. International thinking hasbeen led by the World Conservation Union (IUCN),which has developed definitions and classifications forprotected areas (see Box 10.1). In Victoria, protectedareas include reference areas; national, state, wildernessand some regional parks; nature conservation reserves;heritage rivers and some natural features reserves (seebelow for details). Some other categories of land knownas ‘parks’ or ‘reserves’ are not considered protectedareas as their primary purpose is not biodiversityconservation (e.g. most regional parks, historic reserves,lake reserves, highway parks).

The National Reserve System (NRS) represents thecollective efforts of the States, Territories,Commonwealth Government, non-governmentorganisations and indigenous landholders to achieve asystem of terrestrial protected areas that samples allregional ecosystems in a comprehensive, adequate andrepresentative manner. It includes all protected areasthroughout Australia, including securely protectedprivate land1.

In Victoria, those public land use categories that meetthe definition of protected area (see below) are includedin the National Reserve System. The existingconservation reserve system is largely a product of thework of the LCC, ECC and VEAC who sought torepresent all land systems or vegetation types indedicated reserves. DSE, through Parks Victoria, isresponsible for management of most dedicated reserveson public land in Victoria.

Dedicated reserve status of land in the categoriesincluded in the reserve system is conferred by one offour Parliamentary Acts. Broadly speaking, national,state and some other parks are scheduled and managedunder the National Parks Act 1975, nature conservationreserves and natural features reserves are reserved andmanaged under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978,reference areas are proclaimed and managed under theReference Areas Act 1978, and heritage rivers areproclaimed and managed under the Heritage Rivers Act1992.

Recognising that the National Reserve System cannotachieve the CAR goals of being comprehensive,adequate and representative from public land alone, theCommonwealth’s National Reserve System Program hasa key role in enhancing the reservation of some ofAustralia’s most under-represented ecosystems, mainlythrough the provision of funds for land purchase.Within Victoria, this is complemented by DSE’sConservation Land Purchase Program which acquires, ona voluntary basis, freehold land supporting high-qualityexamples of key ecosystems to enhance the conservationreserve system. Within the study area, most of the focusfor land purchase has been on native grasslands andgrassy woodlands, specifically in the Patho Plains regionnear Mitiamo. Since 2000, six properties containingendangered Northern Plains Grasslands have beenpurchased in this region totalling almost 1500 ha.Elsewhere, buloke grassy woodlands near LakeMoodemere, cane grass wetlands at Wanalta andsaltbush shrublands at Winlaton have been purchasedand declared as nature conservation reserves (Fitzsimons& Ashe 2003; Fitzsimons et al. 2004; Fitzsimons et al.2006).

1Note that land purchased by private organisations through the National Reserve System Program meets protected area criteria andthus contribute towards CAR targets. The status of various other conservation agreements over private land is currently beingevaluated by DSE.

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Box 10.1 Protected Areas: Definition and Management Categories.

The definition of a protected area adopted by World Conservation Union (formerly known as the IUCN) is: “Anarea of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and ofnatural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means”.

Although all protected areas meet the general purposes contained in this definition, in practice the precisepurposes for which protected areas are managed differ greatly. Thus the IUCN defined a series of six protectedarea management categories, based on primary management objective (IUCN 1994). Note that in Victoria, eachreserve qualifying as a protected area is assigned an IUCN category. In summary, these are:

CATEGORY Ia: Strict Nature Reserve: protected area managed mainly for science

Definition Area of land and/or sea possessing some outstanding or representative ecosystems, geological or physiological features and/or species, available primarily for scientific research and/or environmental monitoring.

CATEGORY Ib Wilderness Area: protected area managed mainly for wilderness protection

Definition Large area of unmodified or slightly modified land, and/or sea, retaining its natural character and influence, without permanent or significant habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural condition.

CATEGORY II National Park: protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation

Definition Natural area of land and/or sea, designated to (a) protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for present and future generations, (b) exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area and (c) provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.

CATEGORY III Natural Monument: protected area managed mainly for conservation of specific natural features

Definition Area containing one, or more, specific natural or natural/cultural feature which is of outstanding or unique value because of its inherent rarity, representative or aesthetic qualities or cultural significance.

CATEGORY IV Habitat/Species Management Area: protected area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention

Definition Area of land and/or sea subject to active intervention for management purposes so as to ensure the maintenance of habitats and/or to meet the requirements of specific species.

CATEGORY V Protected Landscape/Seascape: protected area managed mainly for landscape/seascape conservation and recreation

Definition Area of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant aesthetic, ecological and/or cultural value, and often with high biological diversity. Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional interaction is vital to the protection, maintenance and evolution of such an area.

CATEGORY VI Managed Resource Protected Area: protected area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems

Definition Area containing predominantly unmodified natural systems, managed to ensure long term protection and maintenance of biological diversity, while providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs.

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Protected Areas within the Study Area: Focus onConservation

The following section describes various public land usecategories that generally are protected areas andcontribute to the National Reserve System. Morecomprehensive descriptions of all public land usecategories are provided in chapter 9.

National and State Parks

National and state parks provide the highest level ofprotection for natural features such as flora and faunaand landscapes, and for Aboriginal cultural sites andplaces and historic sites. Accordingly, harvesting offorest products, grazing by domestic stock, and huntingand firearms are normally not permitted, and nationaland state parks are exempt (in most circ*mstances)from exploration and mining under the MineralResources Development Act 1990. There are manyforms of recreation that are compatible with natureconservation and these are generally encouraged innational and state parks. Management plans arelegislatively required for all national and state parks,and all parks in the study area currently havemanagement plans in place. Careful managementplanning and zoning is required to minimise potentialconflicts between human use and the protection ofnatural features.

Regional Parks

Although most regional parks are usually notconsidered to be protected areas, the Murray–KulkynePark is a potential exception because it is listed onSchedule 3 of the National Parks Act 1975 (mostregional parks are listed under the Crown Land(Reserves) Act 1978), which has objectives that meetthe criteria for protected areas. Murray–Kulkyne Park ismanaged in conjunction with Hattah–Kulkyne NationalPark.

Nature Conservation Reserves

Nature conservation reserves (including flora reserves,flora and fauna reserves and wildlife reserves wherehunting is excluded) have a primary purpose ofbiodiversity conservation. They are generally smallerthan national and state parks and declared over areaswith important ecological significance or areas sensitiveto human use. Generally provision for public use islimited to passive recreation such as nature observation.Timber removal, grazing by domestic stock, and huntingand firearms are generally not permitted.

In heavily cleared and fragmented landscapes, such asthe Victorian Riverina, nature conservation reserves arethe primary mechanism for high-level conservation ofbiodiversity. Management planning in these reserves isimportant, particularly for those ecosystems requiringmore intensive management, such as native grasslands.Management statements have been prepared for somenature conservation reserves, while for others,overarching management directions are provided in theConservation Reserves Management Strategy (ParksVictoria 2003).

Natural Features Reserves

Some natural features reserves qualify as protectedareas, particularly those with a strong emphasis on theconservation of species, ecosystems or natural features—bushland areas, scenic areas, geological andgeomorphological features areas, streamside areas,natural features reserves and the River Murray Reserve(DNRE 1996b). As with nature conservation reserves,natural features reserves are often small, and usuallycontain features of less ecological significance.Nonetheless, most retain native vegetation that provideshabitat for native species, often within fragmentedlandscapes, as well as scenic values. A greater range ofrecreational or other activities are usually allowed for innatural features reserves.

Generally natural features reserves receive a lowermanagement priority than the preceding categories,although at certain times of the year, they may beheavily utilised (e.g. the River Murray Reserve duringsummer holidays). Few reserves are the subject ofmanagement plans, but overarching managementdirections are provided in the Conservation ReservesManagement Strategy (Parks Victoria 2003).

Reference Areas

Reference areas are generally small areas of land setaside as representations of different land systems orecosystems for use as a reference for scientificcomparison with similar land under other uses and tomaintain natural ecosystems into the future. Referenceareas exclude entry by all persons (other thanmanagement personnel or those with Ministerialapproval), provide for approved research work andprohibit grazing, mineral exploration, mining,harvesting of forest produce, quarrying, bee-keeping,educational use, recreational activities and all forms of

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harvesting (except water harvesting). Reference areasare usually embedded within other much larger publicland blocks, typically parks or state forest. Not all landsystems can be represented in reference areas, as formany land systems, no suitable public land exists thatcan be managed for scientific reference.

Heritage Rivers

Heritage River are a public land use overlay that setsaside stretches of rivers and streams to protect naturalheritage, cultural heritage, recreational, and/or scenicvalues. The Heritage Rivers Act 1992 commitsmanaging authorities to ensure any heritage river ismaintained without further interference to its free-flowing state, which includes new impoundments anddams and diversion of water. It also commits managersto ‘take all reasonable steps to ensure that thesignificant nature conservation, recreation, scenic orcultural heritage attributes of the area are protected’.The management objectives for other uses in heritagerivers vary according to the underlying tenure. Forexample, in both heritage rivers occurring in the studyarea (the Ovens and the Goulburn), timber harvesting isallowed in areas of overlap with state forest, but not innature conservation reserves.

Other Public Land Use Categories with someConservation Focus

The following public land categories are not consideredas protected areas (with exceptions) and are not part ofthe National Reserve System. However, many havenative vegetation and thus contribute in some part tothe conservation of biodiversity.

Regional Parks

A regional park is an area of public land, readilyaccessible from urban centres or a major tourist route,set aside primarily to provide recreation for largenumbers of people in natural or semi-naturalsurroundings. Regional parks are generally in excess of1000 ha and managed by Parks Victoria. Timberextraction and grazing is often permitted in regionalparks but the ECC Box-Ironbark Investigationrecommended the proclamation of regional parkswhere these activities were not permitted and wherenature conservation is a major objective. Accordingly,these parks may be considered to be protected areasand thus part of the National Reserve System (ECC2001).

Natural Features Reserves

Those natural features reserves that are generally notconsidered protected areas place a stronger emphasis onrecreation or other uses than on the conservation ofnatural features. These categories are public land waterfrontages, lake reserves and highway parks (DNRE1996b). Despite their management emphasis, mostretain native vegetation that provides habitat for nativespecies, often within fragmented landscapes, as well asscenic values. Lake reserves allow for the seasonalhunting of duck species. Generally natural featuresreserves receive a lower management priority than thepreceding categories, although at certain times of theyear, they may be heavily utilised (e.g. lake reserves

which allow intensive water-based recreation). Few of these natural features reserves are the subject ofmanagement plans, but overarching managementdirections are provided in the Conservation ReservesManagement Strategy (Parks Victoria 2003).

Historic and Cultural Features Reserves

Historic and cultural features reserves are established toprimarily protect places with highly significant historicalvalues, including remnant historical features such asbuildings, structures, relics or other artefacts. In someinstances these reserves contain important natural orsemi-natural vegetation. As they are mainly small inarea, their contribution to nature conservation isgenerally small.

Special Protection Zones in State Forest

Special protection zones within state forest aredesignated by Regional Forest Agreements or ForestManagement Plans in order to protect sites ofecological significance, aesthetic areas, streams andwetlands, known sites for certain important flora orfauna species, and to meet CAR objectives. As SpecialProtection Zones exclude the removal of timber and insome cases can be quite large, they potentially play animportant role in nature conservation. However otheruses permitted in Special Protection Zones (e.g. cattlegrazing) may compromise their protected area status.The zones have no legislative basis and can be alteredthrough administrative processes.

Conservation on Other Public Land

The majority of other public land in the study arearetains some indigenous vegetation and consequentlyplays an important role in nature conservation. Stateforest in particular provides extensive areas of naturalhabitat.


Trust for Nature (Victoria)

The Trust for Nature (Victoria) is a statutory bodycorporate constituted under its own Act of Parliament,the Victorian Conservation Trust Act 1972. The Trustaccepts bequeathed land or money for conservation andas well as purchasing properties with high natureconservation values. The Trust can also enter intovoluntary conservation covenants with privatelandowners on their land, permanently protectingsignificant areas of natural habitat. More recently, thedevelopment of a Revolving Fund has enabled the Trustto acquire land for the purpose of conservation and on-sell it with a conservation covenant as a condition ofsale. The proceeds of the sale are then returned to theTrust, which acquires another property for the samepurpose.

The Trust has purchased a number of properties in thestudy area with part funding from the National ReserveSystem Program (i.e. Neds Corner, Korrak KorrakGrassland, Glassons Grassland, and KinypanialGrasslands). These private reserves increase therepresentation of some of the State’s most endangeredor under-represented ecosystems.

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Market-based approaches

In recent years, market-based approaches to increasingprotection and improving management of nativevegetation and other natural assets have been trialed inVictoria. The best-known of these is BushTender, anauction-based approach where landholders competitivelytender for contracts to improve native vegetation ontheir land. Successful bids are those that offer the bestvalue for money, with successful landholders receivingperiodic payments for their management actions underagreements signed with DSE. These actions are basedon management commitments over and above thoserequired by current obligations and legislation (DSE2005b). Within the study area the North EastBushTender trial was completed in 2002.

Other initiatives currently operating within the study areaare Cornella EcoTender project (a tender-based system toallocate funds in a way that delivers multipleenvironmental benefits for landholders at both the localand catchment scale), the North East RiverTender, as wellas initiatives with emphasis on the re-establishment ofnative vegetation (e.g. CarbonTender, Bush Returns).

Land for Wildlife

The Land for Wildlife scheme provides assistance forlandholders who register under the program to manageall or part of their properties for nature conservation.These agreements are non-binding and either party canwithdraw from the agreement at any time.


Landcare is a major, joint government-communityinitiative to promote sustainable land use. Under varioussub-programs, local Landcare groups receive governmentsupport for appropriate activities, many of which havenature conservation as a primary or subsidiary aim.

Environmental Overlays in Local GovernmentPlanning Schemes

Planning schemes provide opportunities to protectnature conservation values on private land. Theplacement of Environmental Significance Overlays onparticular areas of private land can limit use of thosesites for activities that may impact negatively on theirspecific values.


The coordination of nature conservation activities overpublic and private land is increasingly recognised as an

essential element of effectively and efficiently managingbiodiversity at a landscape scale. Within Australia, suchmodels are characterised by Conservation ManagementNetworks (CMNs) and Biosphere Reserves. In Victoria,Catchment Management Authorities also play a largerole in conservation across public and private landtenures.

A CMN is a network of remnants managed forconservation, their managers and other interestedparties. The CMN model essentially coordinates, orhelps coordinate, the protection and management offragmented ecological communities across a range oftenures and with a variety of protection mechanisms(Thiele & Prober 1999, 2000). While originally designedfor a ‘whole of ecosystem’ approach, ConservationManagement Networks have been developed at a moreregional scale in Victoria (Fitzsimons 2004). Within thestudy area, the Northern Plains ConservationManagement Network, centred on the Patho Plains nearMitiamo, seeks to coordinate the management of nativegrasslands on both public and private land.

Biosphere Reserves are concerned primarily withintegrating biodiversity conservation with ecologicallysustainable development across a variety of land tenuresand uses. The theoretical Biosphere Reserve modelrevolves around a ‘core’ protected area managedprimarily for nature conservation, a ‘buffer’ zone whereactivities that impact on the biodiversity of the core areminimised, and a ‘transition’ zone, where the sustainableuse of natural resources is encouraged (UNESCO 1995;Brunckhorst et al. 1997). The international ‘Man andthe Biosphere Program’ is coordinated by UNESCO.

Two biosphere reserves currently adjoin the study area inNew South Wales and South Australia. The RiverlandBiosphere Reserve (formerly the Bookmark Biosphere

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Reserve) incorporates public and private land along theSouth Australian Murray River corridor and large formerpastoral properties in the South Olary Plains. Therecently declared Barkindji Biosphere Reserve is locatedin the southwest of New South Wales, and incorporatesthe Australian Inland Botanic Gardens, a number ofpastoral properties and smaller blocks of public andprivate land. Although the Hattah–Kulkyne NationalPark is a listed biosphere reserve, its boundary does notcurrently extend beyond the national park.

Cooperative tri-state conservation initiatives already existbetween Victorian, New South Wales and SouthAustralia through programs such as the Murray Malleepartnership and The Living Murray program.


Although EVCs are the main surrogate for landscape-scale conservation planning in Victoria, particularelements of biodiversity, or significant features or sitesrequire particular attention. These are outlined below.

Large Old Tree Sites

Sites with a relatively high abundance of large old treescan be a significant factor in reserve system planning inregions where the original abundance of such trees hasbeen greatly reduced (see chapter 5 for more details).They are important for many reasons including thefollowing (not all of which are related only tobiodiversity conservation) their:

• Contribution to biodiversity by providing habitat—including hollows, a distinctive forest structure, andabundant bark and fallen timber—for manythreatened species. For example, Barking Owls, whichare endangered in Victoria, can only breed in largetree hollows. In addition, many of their prey speciesuse tree hollows. Loss of hollow-bearing trees is oneof the factors contributing to the decline of thisspecies in Victoria.

• Importance as places of scientific and management,providing unique insights into the ecologicalfunctioning of what may once have been thedominant forest age-class in the River Red GumForests.

• Irreplaceablity in the short-term, taking hundreds ofyears to re-establish if lost.

• Scenic landscape values, provide landscape diversityand aesthetic appeal—people boating along the rivers,for example, enjoy the picturesque views of large oldtrees along the riverbanks.

• Represention of places of great antiquity andreminders of another age, producing strong emotionalreactions.

• Cultural element to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Large old trees provide a link topeople’s ancestors and their uses of and affinity withthe forests.

Freshwater Ecosystems

Freshwater ecosystems include rivers, anabranches,floodplains, wetlands, and ephemeral lake systems. Theconservation of freshwater ecosystems poses uniquechallenges due to the hydrological connectivity offreshwater habitats. Partial reservation of individualfreshwater habitats may not ensure the long-termsustainability of those sections of rivers, wetlands, andother freshwater ecosystems that are considered‘protected’. For example, by only reserving a portion oreven most of a river or wetland, it is likely that anydegrading processes occurring in unprotected areas willultimately affect the reserved portion of the same system(Fitzsimons & Robertson 2005). Within the study area,of those wetlands with at least some form ofreservation, 51 percent are not completely reserved(Robertson & Fitzsimons 2005g). The variation inhydrological processes between riverine, wetland andgroundwater ecosystems means that a variety ofdifferent strategies are required.

Recent reviews suggest that Australia does not have acomprehensive freshwater reserve system (Georges &Cottingham 2001; Nevill & Phillips 2004; Kingsford &Nevill 2006) and the Directions for the National ReserveSystem paper highlights the need for increased emphasison this issue (NRMMC 2005a). As part of theIntergovernmental Agreement on the National WaterInitiative (Council of Australian Governments 2004), theParties’ water management framework also stated thatthey will “identify and acknowledge surface and groundwater systems of high conservation values, and managethese systems to protect and enhance those values”(s25.x.).

Three important indices in the assessment of wetlandreservation have been identified for assessing wetlandreservation in Victoria: 1) reservation status (area ofdifferent wetland types in reserves, relative to pre-European and current extent); 2) reserve design(percentage of wetland area included in a reserve); and3) reservation categories (type of reserves which protectwetlands) (Fitzsimons & Robertson 2005).

Wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention area arenot considered protected areas in their own right andhave no specific legislative protection in Victoria.Ramsar sites are however considered under theEnvironment Protection and Biodiversity ConservationAct 1999 as a ‘matter of national environmentalsignificance’. The Barmah Forest Ramsar site is mainlystate park and state forest, Gunbower is mainly stateforest, Kerang Lakes a mix of natural features reservesand other public land, while Hattah Lakes are totally

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contained within the Hattah–Kulkyne National Park. TheNSW Central Murray State Forests Ramsar sites adjoinsthe Barmah and Gunbower sites in New South Wales,while the Riverland Ramsar site in South Australiaadjoins the Victorian border.

The Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia(Environment Australia 2001) is a national inventory ofsignificant wetlands. While not providing any increasedlegal protection, the Directory provides information foruse in planning decisions including identifying newRamsar sites and sites of importance for particularspecies, including threatened or migratory species.Numerous Directory wetlands occur in the study area,including the Corop Lakes, Wallpolla Island and LindsayIsland.

The recently established Living Murray Initiative,coordinated through the Murray–Darling BasinMinisterial Council, aims to improve the health of theMurray River and adjoining ecosystems through theprovision of additional water for the environment. Aninitial focus for action is on maximising environmentalbenefits for six ‘significant ecological assets’. Five ofthese sites are at least partially within the study area:Barmah–Millewa Forest, Gunbower andKoondrook–Perricoota Forests, Hattah Lakes, ChowillaFloodplain (including Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands), andthe River Murray Channel (MDBC 2005b).

Threatened Species and Communities

The recovery of threatened species and communities isimportant in the conservation of biodiversity (see chapter5). This is reflected by legislation at the state (Flora andFauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act)) and federal(Environment Protection and Biodiversity ConservationAct 1999 (EPBC Act)) levels. This legislation calls for thedevelopment of Action Statements and Recovery Plans

for individual species and communities. The plansoutline a range of actions required for the conservationand recovery of these species or communities, includingthe management of public land. The amelioration oflisted potentially threatening processes, for example,“degradation of native riparian vegetation alongVictorian rivers and streams”, is also essential for themaintenance of biodiversity and often for the recoveryof threatened species and is covered under thislegislation. The distribution and abundance ofthreatened species and communities, and potentiallythreatening processes requires special considerationduring the process of conservation reserve systemdesign.

Scenic Landscapes

Scenic landscapes focus on the natural beauty andappeal of the landscape which, while essentiallysubjective, typically have in common featuresappreciated by many people. These include natural-looking landscapes with focal points such as waterfallsand rivers, towering mountain ranges with spectacular

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rock formations, or vast forests interrupted by fast-flowing rivers and sheer cliffs. Scenic landscapes allowpeople to enjoy nature and often provide a sense ofpleasure and well-being. They also provide opportunitiesfor recreation and tourism and hence contribute to localeconomies.

The Murray River largely determines the scenic qualitiesof the study area. The importance of water in this dry,and sometimes arid, landscape provides inspiration andrejuvenation for many visitors and residents, as it has forthousands of years. In places, the major rivers formtight meanders and steep cliffs, while other areas havepopular sandy beaches with large river red gumsoverhanging the watercourse.

With such a dominance of water-related features acrossthe study area, the broad alluvial plains extending fromthe Bendigo area to Swan Hill and Echuca may be easilyoverlooked. These flat alluvial floodplain areas, nowlargely cleared of native vegetation, are utilised forextensive and intensive agriculture. The broad expanseshave their own appeal, punctuated by chains of lakesand swamps in shallow depressions, and by elevated hillsof bedrock such as in the Mt Hope–Terrick Terrick area.

Formal scenic landscape quality was assessed for thegreat majority of Victoria’s larger rivers and streams bythe Land Conservation Council (LCC 1989b). A numberof river reaches in the study area were assessed as highscenic quality areas (Table 10.1). The other high scenicareas are located in farm-forest or mixed agricultural andnatural areas, agricultural and small town or suburbanriver settings (LCC 1989b). In addition, particularreference was made to the outstanding values adjoiningthe Victorian banks of the Murray River.

Much of the Victorian landscape has been significantlymodified by human intervention over the last 200 yearsand while changes such as historic homesteads orrailway bridges may enhance scenic qualities, otherssuch as powerlines or communications towers generallydetract and have a negative visual impact.

Scenic landscapes are often protected in national parks,e.g. the Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park.Scenic values are specifically protected as VictorianHeritage Rivers for the river corridors in Table 10.1, withthe exception of the Loddon River (LCC 1991). Smaller

scenic areas such as Red Cliffs Scenic Reserve nearMildura have been set aside as scenic reserves under theCrown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 for the conservation ofareas of natural beauty or interest (LCC 1977b). Otherareas may be set aside as Section 50 reserves under theForests Act 1958 to protect scenic areas frominappropriate resource extraction or other threateningprocesses.

In some places local governments have strived to protectcurrent values and control the change of character orinappropriate development through EnvironmentalSignificance overlays under the Planning andEnvironment Act 1987. For example, the SignificantLandscape overlay listed under the Moira Shire PlanningScheme for Lake Mulwala water and shoreline environsis designed to preserve and enhance the speciallandscape and natural attributes of the area frominappropriate development or visual intrusion. Howeverthe planning scheme process is limited to a role that isonly triggered by new applications and does not haveongoing influence on land management practices.

Register of the National Estate

The Register of the National Estate is a nationalinventory of natural and cultural heritage placesmaintained by the Australian Heritage Council.Although not directly applicable to conservation reservesystem design, the Register provides relevant informationon some areas of high nature conservation value. Areas

River Section(s)

Ovens River Killawarra to Lake Mulwala

Goulburn River

Loddon River

Murray River Wodonga west to the Ovens River junction

abutting Barmah State Forest and State Park

abutting Gunbower State Forest

Mildura area

Wentworth west to the SA border

Table 10.1 High scenic quality rivers and streams within the River Red Gum Forests study area.

Source: LCC (1989b).

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such as the Barmah–Millewa Forests and Terrick TerrickNational Park are listed on the Register of the NationalEstate. Cultural heritage values are discussed extensivelyin chapter 12.

Sites of Geological and GeomorphologicalSignificance

Many localities in the study area display geological andlandform features of interest for educational, research orconservation purposes. Some sites show rare or unusualminerals, fossils or landforms. These features varywidely and include natural outcrops or landforms, aswell as exposures in road and railway cuttings, quarriesor other excavated sites. Geological sites generallydisplay features developed in earlier times, such as anoutcrop with sediments and fossils. Manygeomorphological sites are important for displayingactive land forming processes, such as dunedevelopment or stream erosion and deposition.

Sites or features may be rated according to a definedscale of significance. Significance is often ascribed tofeatures because they are outstanding in some way orrare. Outstanding sites are excellent examples of afeature, either in the region or on a wider scale. Rarefeatures are uncommon or unique, either regionally orfurther afield. However, recognition of only outstandingor rare sites is insufficient to identify all importantgeological elements or values. Representative sites areexamples of features typical of a region and complimenthigh significance features.

A geographic scale is also necessary to comparesignificance, for example whether the site is of local,state, national or international significance. Theseratings may be applied in combination, for example arepresentative feature for a region may also be anoutstanding or rare example on a state or national level.

Significance ratings contain a degree of subjectivitydetermined partly by what is known about the specificsite, but also the level of knowledge of similar siteselsewhere. Geological and geomorphologicalsignificance are not necessarily the most aestheticfeatures of a landscape (see scenic landscapes above).Some sites of very high significance may not be at allaesthetic, e.g. quarry faces or road cuttings, whereasaesthetically pleasing views may have no geologicalsignificance.

To be considered for assessment, sites consist of at leastone of the following:

• type section (reference location) or type example of ageological unit

• important fossil locality

• exposures of a range of characteristic or unusualfeatures of the rock unit, or boundary relationshipsbetween units

• unusual or rare occurrence of a particular geologicalfeature, rock type or mineral

• illustration of tectonic and/or volcanic processes

• attributes which enable palaeoclimatic reconstructions

• demonstration of the effects of weathering, erosionand/or deposition, or geomorphological process (activeor relict) such as landform evolution

• representative example of a landform type.

For this Investigation, geological and geomorphologicalfeatures within the River Red Gum Forests study areahave been assessed as outstanding, rare and/orrepresentative and rated as of local, regional, state,national or international significance as described byWhite et al. (2003). The assessment of significance wasundertaken by an expert volunteer panel of theGeological Society of Australia Inc. (Victoria Division),Geological Heritage subcommittee. Sites are identifiedusing an alphanumeric system conforming with thatused by the Geological Heritage subcommittee referringto the relevant 1:250,000 geological map sheet (BDBalranald and Deniliquin; BN Bendigo; SH Swan Hill; SRSt Arnaud; MD Mildura; TL Tallangatta and WNWangaratta and part of Jerilderie) and an assignedunique number as described in Joyce and King (1980).

The study area

Significant geological and geomorphological sites of theriver red gum forests of northern Victoria are generallyCainozoic rather from the earlier Mesozoic or Palaeozoicperiods (see chapter 2). A few isolated sites of olderrocks are identified but the geology of the riverine plainsis dominated by sedimentary, tectonic andgeomorphological processes of the last 30 million years.

Significant geological features in the region include rockunits and structures visible as natural outcrops and inexposures created by mining and quarrying operations,road and railway cuttings and water bores. Importantgeomorphological features include those related to thecomplex hydrology of the River Murray and itstributaries: the Kiewa, Ovens, King, Goulburn,Campaspe, and Loddon Rivers. The extensive lunettelakes of the Murray Basin and their distinctive crescentshaped dunes are significant parts of the landscape.Sites where hydrological and hydrogeological processesare important are the most common geological sitesidentified.

A list of all 145 sites of geological and geomorphologicalsignificance identified in the study area is provided inAppendix 13, derived from field investigations, scientificl*terature and personal accounts related by earth scienceprofessionals. Sites of high significance (international,national and state) both within and near the study areaare presented in Table 10.2. Important sites located nearthe study area have been included in these lists toprovide context. Specific sites are represented as pointlocations on Map 10.1.

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168 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Sites of high significance

Currently, three sites of international significance havebeen identified which lie just outside the study areaboundaries: the Murchison Meteorite fall site (BN 079),Raak Plain boinka (MD 009) and Lake Boga granitequarry mineral type locality (SH 002) (Joyce & King 1980;King 1988; White et al. 2003).

The Murchison Meteorite is rare in a worldwide context— by the nature of its scale, state of preservation anddisplay, and is comparable with examples knowninternationally. The Murchison Meteorite Shower wasobserved on September 28, 1969. The meteoritefragments found are of the rare carbonaceous chondrite(CM2) type and many are housed with the Museum ofVictoria meteorite and tektite collection. The largestpiece in the collection is 1.3 kg in and the entirecollection weighs 11 kg although it is estimated that atleast 100 kg has been recovered in total. This meteoritehas been widely studied as it contains organiccompounds such as simple amino acids, important forunderstanding the origins of life (Henry & Lyle 2003).

Lake Boga granite quarry located to the south of thetown contains an unusual suite of minerals. Thisworking quarry is the locality for the mineral ulrichitewhich was first discovered there in the mid-1980s (andhas not been found anywhere else) and bleasdaleitefound in 1995. Most of the 50 mineral species thathave been identified from this site comprise secondaryphosphates of copper, calcium and uranium. Other newminerals are being investigated from this rich deposit(Birch 2003).

The Raak Plain is a boinka (a large saline groundwaterdischarge lake) landform complex, and consists of avariety of features including sandplains, salt pans,saltbush flats gypsum flats, gypsite hills, and salinas(ephemeral lakes). The boinkas occupy a broad flatdepression within a linear dunefield. The Raak Plain isthe largest of the Murray Basin boinka (~500 km sq) andis an excellent example of a feature which is unusual ona world scale. This area is also an example of naturalsalinisation processes, as opposed to salinisationresulting from human activity.

Five sites of national significance have been identifiedwithin and near the study area. The extremely complexhydrological system where the Goulburn River andBroken Creek enter the River Murray (BN 053) is ofnational significance (Bama-Goulburn drainage complexBN 053). In times of high flow from the Goulburn, theMurray is ‘dammed’ and ‘flows backwards’ or in reverse.This hydrological complexity is rare in Australia andresults in the flooding of the Barmah forest area (BD003). The other nationally significant site is Hattah Lakessystem comprising the natural anabranch lakes,channels, lunettes and dunes (MD 001) and the LindsayIsland floodplain, scroll bars, active and abandonedchannel complex (MD 007). The significance of the KowSwamp (BD 001) is largely related to the culturalheritage sites in a low lunette on the eastern margin ofa former lake depression. The site is now used for waterstorage. A description of the archaeological significanceof the site is provided in chapter 12 Cultural Heritage.

Eighteen sites of state significance have been identified

(Table 10.2). These sites are important in defining thegeology and geomorphology of Victoria. They vary fromtype-sections of rock types restricted to Victoria e.g.Shepparton Formation type-section (BN 086) at KiallaWest, to major tectonic features e.g. Tawonga Fault (TL139). Other state level sites include Cainozoic climaticand hydrological sites such as Palaeolake Kanyapella atEchuca (BN 052), and complex modern hydrological orgeomorphological sites such as Bumbang Bend recentmeander cut-off (avulsion) near Robinvale (BD 009) andCowanna Bend neck meander and potential avulsion site(MD 022) Redgrove, where the River Murray is currentlymodifying the landscape.

Sites of low significance

Sixty-five sites of regional significance have beencurrently identified (see Appendix 13). These sitesinclude landforms or geological features representativeof regions of about 60-km radius. Examples include theRochester shire quarry (BN 006) where underlyingPalaeozoic bedrock is exposed and is one of the fewexamples of accessible bedrock in the study area orTyntynder choke (SH 016.1) near Vinifera where theRiver Murray is narrow compared to nearby reaches.

Although not of high value, the fifty-six sites have beenidentified as locally significant for educational purposesand should not be disregarded just because other morehighly significant features exist. Documentation of thesefeatures may also be important particularly if a featureof higher significance is destroyed or its values reducedin some other way. Features of local significance aretypically representative of smaller areas within a region,e.g. Bullock Creek palaeo-drainage, Leitchville (BD001.2). Such sites are typically related to either a localmunicipality or an area with a radius of 20 km.

Significance assessments are not regarded as fixed orpermanent as sites are reassessed periodically oftenwhen new sites, research or information comes to light.


Systems of protected areas are the cornerstone of natureconservation. A number of criteria and goals have beendeveloped in Australia to ensure the conservationreserves network is comprehensive, adequate andrepresentative and thus gives a level of protection tobiodiversity and other natural values including scenicvalues. Ecological vegetation classes are used as ameasure of biodiversity to achieve the CAR goals butother values are also considered important whendesigning the conservation reserve system. In addition,it is recognised that examples of all environments cannotalways be protected on public land and consequentlymany complementary conservation programs have beeninitiated on private land. However, the protection ofother natural values such as sites of geological orgeomorphological significance are not documented insuch a rigorous way, and as a consequence are largelyrepresented in the reserve system based upon acoincidence with biodiversity, scenic or recreation values.

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Table 10.2 Geological or geomorphological sites of high significance.

Site Site name and Location Land status Significancenumber

BN 079 Murchison Meteorite fall site, Murchison East Mostly freehold International

MD 009 Raak Plain boinka, 16 km NW of Hattah Mixed freehold/ public land International

SH 002 Lake Boga granite quarry mineral type locality, Lake Boga Public land International

BD 001 Kow Swamp lake and lunette, 3 km S of Leitchville Public land National

BD 003 Barmah forest alluvial fan and anabranch network, Barmah Public land National

BN 053 Bama–Goulburn drainage complex , Murray / Goulburn rivers confluence area, E of Echuca Public land National

MD 001 Hattah lakes overflow lake and anabranch systems, Hattah Public land National

MD 007 Lindsay Island floodplain, scroll bars, active and abandoned channel complex, W of Neds Corner Public land National

BD 003.4 Moira and Barmah lakes digitate delta and silt jetty, Barmah Public land State

BD 003.7 Barmah Choke River Murray constriction, Picnic Point to Barmah Public land State

BD 006 Ulupna Creek and Island floodplain complex, ~ 10 km N of Strathmerton Public land State

BD 009 Bumbang Bend recent meander cutoff (avulsion), Robinvale Public land State

BD 013 Wakool Junction abandoned channels and plains, Kenley Public land State

BN 052 Palaeolake Kanyapella area, E of Echuca Mixed freehold/ public land State

BN 053.3 Murray and Goulburn confluence area, E of Echuca Public land State

BN 057 Cadell Fault, Kanyapella South to NSW Mixed freehold/ public land State

BN 081 Lake Cooper quarry mineral locality, Colbinabbin Public land State

BN 086 Shepparton Formation Type-section, Kialla West Public land State

MD 007.2 Websters Lagoon and Websters Island Reference Area disrupted drainage and scroll plain Public land State

MD 011 Kings Billabong and the floodplain between Butlers and Psyche Bends, Irymple Public land State

MD 018 Olney Bore Eocene to Miocene Olney Formation Type-section, SW of Pollard Island Public land State

MD 019 Wallpolla Island and Creek anabranch and floodplain, W of Mildura Public land State

MD 022 Cowanna Bend neck meander and potential avulsion site,Redgrove Public land State

SH 006 Kerang groundwater discharge area, Kerang to Lake Boga Mixed freehold/ public land State State

TL 139 Tawonga Fault, Kiewa Valley Highway Mixed freehold/ public land State State

WN 042 Wodonga Quarry outwash fans, 6 km W of Huon Hill Public land State

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11 Recreation and Tourism

The study area is a major destination for recreationand tourism. It is valued for its warm, sunnyweather, sandy beaches, grand river red gums andnatural surroundings. The River Murray and itstributaries provide for tranquility and wateractivities prized by millions of annual visitors.Recreation and tourism in the River Murray regionare important for people living both in and outsideof the study area. The first section of this chapterdiscusses the key recreational activities in the area.The second looks at the importance of tourism toVictoria and to local communities as well asexploring more detail about tourism activities inthe study area.


Recreation is an important part of modern life. As ourlives become busier, the chance to take a break becomesmore valuable. There are many opportunities forrecreational activities in parks and reserves and stateforests within the study area. Visitors to the regionenjoy the feeling of remoteness and the unstructuredactivities. The most popular activities for people visitingthe River Murray parks and reserves are camping,fishing, water-skiing, swimming, motor boating, cyclingand having a meal (such as a picnic). However, prioritiesdiffer slightly between people from Melbourne andpeople from regional Victoria. People from Melbourneare most likely to have water-skied on their previous visitwhereas people from regional Victoria are most likely tohave gone fishing on their previous visit (Newspoll2005).

Activities range from passive activities where there islittle discernible effect on the social (including quality oflife) and biological environment, to activities that havelarge and varied impacts on an area. Each of theseactivities also contains a spectrum of impact fromminimal to a large impact on the surroundingenvironment.

Land managers report a long-term trend of increasingpopularity for recreation and associated developments inthe study area, however with no fee or booking systemfor many activities, it is very difficult to get accurate dataon visitor numbers, reasons for visits, expenditure andpreferences. Consequently, some of the data reported inthis chapter is for only parts of the study area.


Camping within the study area is focused on the riversand adjacent lakes (Figure 11.1). There is no fee forcamping on public land in the study area except in thevarious caravan parks on public land and at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. Campers are not required tonotify anyone or use booking systems which are used inother areas of Victoria. People camp on beaches, in theforest, on riverbanks, on the banks of tributaries andbeside billabongs. Campsites are generally accessed bycar but a number of sites can only be reached bywalking or by boat.

Figure 11.1 Camping at Hincheys beach on theRiver Murray.

There are 76 sandy beaches with camping areasbetween Yarrawonga and Tocumwal, which become verycrowded in the peak season (Figure 11.2). Facilities aregenerally limited at campsites in state forests and parks,reserves along the River Murray and tributaries, oftenconsisting of only picnic tables and signs or simply acleared spot. People also camp at commerciallyoperated caravan parks where there are more facilitiessuch as hot showers and flushing toilets. There are 14caravan parks between Lake Hume and Robinvale with atotal of 4480 sites and 3624 cabins (Hassall & Associates& Gillespie Economics 2004). The caravan park atTorrumbarry Weir operates under a lease managed byGoulburn Murray Water (Figure 11.3).

Figure 11.2 Crowded camping and boating area onthe banks of the River Murray near Yarrawonga.

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Figure 11.3 Caravan park at Torrumbarry Weir.

Parks Victoria surveyed people visiting five parks over theEaster weekend in 1998 and found that the main reasonpeople came to the area was “relaxing/getting awayfrom it all” (Peaco*ck & Reed 1998). The main reasonsfor choosing the specific location were tradition orfamiliarity, relaxing or peaceful location, or social reasonssuch as being with friends. Camping with friends mayrequire a specific location that provides sufficient space,facilities or particular qualities such as a shallow beach ordeep section of a river for a boat. Visitors were alsoasked about park management. In general, theythought positively about the area as a cheap holiday, thesense of being in the “wilderness” and the quality of thebeaches. In contrast, they thought negatively about thelack of information on natural and cultural/historicalfeatures of the park, ranger availability, litter control andaccess to toilets and other facilities. People like to campin relatively large groups (the average group size was tenpeople) and most groups described themselves asfamilies with kids. Fifty percent of these groups haddogs with them.

The Easter survey found that 44 percent of visitors werefrom Melbourne and 43 percent were from countryVictoria. Of those surveyed, 50 percent of visitors wereon their first visit to the Murray parks and reserves in thelast 12 months, and about 12 percent were from otherstates. About half the campers stayed four to sevennights (Peaco*ck & Reed 1998).

Because there are no fees, bookings or access control,

detailed information on the numbers of people campingin the study area and how this is changing over time isdifficult to establish. However, rough estimates ofcamper numbers (based on counts of cars) in the areabetween Yarrawonga and Tocumwal are shown in Table11.1. The most popular times for camping in the studyarea are Christmas and Easter (see below Figure 11.15for the peak in tourism in March-April). While fewerpeople visited the area over Christmas compared withEaster, the longer school holiday break over Christmasmeans the number of visitor nights was greater atChristmas than Easter. Indications are that theMelbourne Cup weekend is also increasing in popularity(Parks Victoria, unpublished data). This part of the river isprobably the most popular area for camping given thesandy beaches and proximity to Melbourne. However, itis likely that other river frontage in the study area hassimilar numbers.

People participate in numerous activities whilst camping.These include the many activities described in theremainder of this chapter as well as swimming, daywalks, picnicking and having a meal, drinking andsocialising with friends and family, touring local towns,participating in local festivals and events, travelling tolocal towns to shop, going to the local hotel for a drinkand a meal. Many of these activities bring money intothe towns and although this is highly seasonal, itcontributes greatly to local economies.

Camping Issues


Many campers enjoy having a campfire. In fact, theymay choose their camping location partly based onwhether or not wood fires are permitted (compared withareas that only allow gas units). Campers use fire formany purposes including cooking, keeping warm andheating water as well as for social enjoyment andambience.

However, in some popular camping areas, such as alongthe Murray at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, the LowerOvens, and near Yarrawonga, Cobram and Tocumwal,the current rate of use of firewood is unsustainable, withfirewood becoming very scarce. Roadsides aroundYarrawonga have been stripped of their fallen timber,affecting flora and fauna that require the fallen timberfor habitat (as discussed in chapter 5). It is not only thesmall, easily handled wood that is taken (Figure 11.4).Some campers attach very large logs to their four-wheel-

Table 11.1 Estimated Numbers of Campers between Yarrawonga and Tocumwal.

Time of year Approx. no. vehicles Average stay Average /vehicle Visitor nights

Christmas/New Year 2003/4 2080 8 nights 3 people 49,920

Easter 2005 3320 3 nights 3 people 29,880

Source: Estimates were made by Parks Victoria rangers on patrol and based on counts of cars in reserves managed by Parks Victoria(Parks Victoria, unpublished data).

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drives and drag them through the forest causing soildisturbance and erosion. Campers have also beenknown to ring-bark standing living trees to use forfirewood the following season, despite the possibility ofprosecution and heavy penalties (Figure 11.5). In someVictorian parks, such as Wilsons Promontory NationalPark, rangers supply firewood over the periods fires arepermitted in established fireplaces. Campers and dayvisitors are not allowed to gather their own supplies.

Figure 11.4 Large amounts of firewood arecollected from the river red gum forests bycampers.

Many wildfires are started by unattended andabandoned campfires. In response to this issue, theDepartment of Primary Industries in New South Walesfirst introduced a ban on solid fuel fires in State Forestsin 1990. This ban extends along the Murray River fromHowlong (west of Albury) to Tooleybuc (north of SwanHill) during the summer high fire danger period (NSWDepartment of Primary Industries 2004). Fire managersreport that this ban appears to have reduced thenumber of wildfires caused by summer campfire escapesbut appears to have increased camping and firewoodpressures on the Victorian side of the Murray. A ban onsummer campfires similar to that in New South Waleswas proposed a couple of years ago by the River MurrayUsers/Water Watch Committee but has not beenintroduced for public land along the Murray in Victoria.

Figure 11.5 Ring-barked tree in the Lower OvensRegional Park.


Permanent long-drop or pit toilets are provided atseveral beaches. These toilets are pumped out regularlyat times of high visitor use and before floods so thefaecal matter does not get washed through the forest.However, at beaches and campsites without permanenttoilets and at those with toilets but high visitor demand,campers must either bring their own toilets or makeother arrangements. Portable chemical toilets arerecommended but pit toilets can be acceptable if wellmaintained. Pit toilets must be at least 100 m awayfrom any waterway or from the high bank of the river(Parks Victoria 2004a). Some campers do not bury theirfaecal waste and the bush becomes littered with toiletpaper and waste. At the start of the recent summerholiday periods, Parks Victoria published “The MurrayRiver Guardian”, a newspaper distributed free tocampers and visitors, in an attempt to reduceenvironmentally damaging practices. The risk campers’waste—buried or left at the surface—poses to waterquality and the health of water consumers downstream,remains unclear.


Campers leaving rubbish in the bush is a major issue forpublic land managers who previously provided bins forcampers and collected large amounts of rubbish. Forinstance, from Christmas 2003 to the beginning ofFebruary 2004, Parks Victoria collected 1114 cubicmetres (an average car trailer is about one cubic metre)of rubbish between the Lower Ovens and Ulupna Island(Figure 11.6).

As part of the “Don’t waste the Murray” campaignpromoted by Parks Victoria and local shires, Easter 2005was the final year in which bins were provided at themain entry points to riverine public lands in the Moiraand Campaspe shires. Thereafter, signs were erected todirect campers to transfer stations for which hours wereextended to meet campers’ needs. Campers can leaverubbish at transfer stations for $2 per bag andrecyclables are free of charge. This initiative is intendedto encourage campers to take their rubbish home or toa transfer station, reducing the amount of rubbish left inthe bush.

Figure 11.6 Rubbish dumped illegally in a park.

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Long-term Campers

Itinerant workers in the horticultural industriessometimes camp for long periods on public land in thestudy area—particularly in the Yarrawonga, Cobram andMildura regions. The itinerant workers stay in theseareas at no charge and are relatively close to seasonalwork locations. However, when people camp in oneplace for extended periods firewood typically becomesscarce and human waste, including faecal material,accumulates. Vegetation under tents and caravansbecomes degraded and trampled. Additionally, there isan equity issue, as other people are denied access to thepublic land.

Campers cannot stay on Crown land for more than 21days without a valid permit, lease or licence (Land Act1958). Dealing with long-term camping requiresconsiderable management resources and land managersreport difficulties in evicting long-term campers.

Figure 11.7 Campsite of an itinerant worker.


Boating is a common recreational activity in Victoria. Itwas estimated that in 2000 there were over 170,000boats (including jet skis, canoes, sailing boats, row boatsand power craft) owned in Victoria with an estimatedvalue of $620 million (Henry & Lyle 2003). Figures arenot available for boat usage in the study area. Althoughissues of boating on the River Murray are reviewed inthis section, the River Murray is actually in New SouthWales and therefore the ability of Victorian governmentagencies to address some of these issues is limited.

Canoeing, kayaking and other rowing are activities thatare unlikely to cause pollution or physical damage to theriver and lake systems. Canoeing is a popular way toaccess shallow areas during flooding and provides goodtransport for birdwatching (Figure 11.8). There is acanoe trail on and around Gunbower Island. TheMurray Marathon is the longest flat-water canoe race inthe world, extending 404 km from Yarrawonga to SwanHill. It has been run each year since 1969 and is afundraiser for the Red Cross. The Marathon is a majorevent and thousands of people associated with theevent (competitors, organisers, and support crews) campin football grounds in major towns.

Figure 11.8 Canoeing on Barmah Lake.

The major rivers within the study area are popular water-skiing spots because the surface of the water is oftenflat throughout the day (unlike lakes where the windand thermals create waves on a long reach of water)and the water level does not change significantly (Figure11.9). Some places within the study area specificallycater for water-skiers and water-skiing clubs withpermanent slalom courses and jump ramps set up (e.g.Lake Moodemere near Rutherglen). Water-skiing isparticularly popular in the Lower Ovens River. Someareas of the Murray do not have sufficient water andhave too many snags for safe water-skiing (e.g. aroundHattah-Kulkyne National Park).

Figure 11.9 Water-skiing and other water sportsare popular activities on the River Murray.

The “Southern 80” is an annual high-speed 80 km skirace between Torrumbarry and Echuca. It is organisedby the Moama Water Sports Club and attracts up to 350 competitors in several classes and over 40,000spectators. The event attracts many campers, many ofwhom stay in reserves and parks along the River Murray.Whilst many of the campers are environmentally and

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socially conscious, the combination of groups ofspectators and alcohol requires considerable Police andParks Victoria resources to retain a pleasant atmospherefor all. In 2006, 30 cubic metres of rubbish was pickedup by Parks Victoria following the Southern 80. Otherraces include the Mildura 100 held over Easter whileseveral ski schools and ski clubs are located along theRiver Murray, on Lake Mulwala and on Lake Hume.

Wake-boarding has risen in popularity over the past tenyears. Like skiing, wake-boarders are towed behind apowerboat, but unlike skiing, participants favour a verylarge wake from which they can jump and performtricks. Wake-boarders often put a plastic bladder ofwater or other ballast into the stern of the boat toachieve this large wake. Unfortunately, this wake alsoaffects other river users. The large wakes cause bankerosion in rivers (Shoalhaven City Council 2005)although it is also likely that rising and falling waterlevels for irrigation contribute to bank erosion in theRiver Murray. Placing bans or restrictions on wake-boarders on some sections of the River Murray(particularly around Yarrawonga) has been discussed bythe River Users/Water Watch Committee (convened byNSW Maritime which has responsibility for River Murraywaters) and other stakeholders, but these are yet to beinstituted.

Jet skis and other personal watercrafts are alsocommonly found on the Murray River and can be hiredfrom a number of locations. Riders of these crafttypically like to jump waves and “do donuts” rather thantravelling long distances in a straight line. Thispotentially creates noise pollution and contributes tobank destabilisation.

Houseboats are a popular means to relax and explorerivers (Figure 11.10). Houseboats can be hired at mostmajor centres along the River Murray includingWentworth, Mildura, Swan Hill and Echuca, however,mooring places along the River Murray are limited andcan be costly. There are approximately 50 houseboatsfor hire and 250 private houseboats just in the areabetween Robinvale and the South Australian border(Hassall & Associates & Gillespie Economics 2004).

Figure 11.10 Houseboat moored nearing sunset onthe River Murray at Mildura.

Houseboats on the River Murray are required to haveonboard wastewater treatment systems connected to aholding tank, which must be discharged to an approvedsewage pumpout facility. Grey water is also a potentialproblem with houseboats. This may contain solid andliquid foods, soaps, washing powders, detergents, skin,hair, and microbial pathogens such as bacteria andviruses (Laginestra undated). In the past grey waterfrom houseboat showers and sinks was disposed ofdirectly into the river carrying with it the soaps anddetergents that contribute to pollution and possibleeutrophication. Recently, regulations have beenintroduced that require grey water to be stored in aholding tank and then disposed of away from the River(Section 120 under the NSW Protection of theEnvironment Operations Act 1997). Companies andindividuals risk fines of up to $1M and $250 000,respectively, for polluting New South Wales waters. Thissection of the legislation is enforced by New SouthWales Maritime. In Victoria, the Water Act 1989, LakeEildon Houseboat Regulations: Houseboat Regulations2001, Schedule 2 provides the requirements for sewagedisposal from houseboats.

Paddlesteamers are a major tourist attraction in theEchuca–Moama area, which was once the biggest inlandport in Australia (see also chapter 12), but are alsolocated at Mildura, Swan Hill and Albury-Wodonga.Historically, paddlesteamers transported produce, timber,mail and passengers up and down the River and todaythey provide a link back to early European settlement.Several boats, badly damaged over time, have been fullyrestored at Echuca. Some paddlesteamers can bechartered for private functions or overnight stays.

Other tour and cruise boats also provide opportunitiesfor visitors to explore the rivers of the study area andsocialise. These include the Kingfisher at Barmah, theParadise Queen and the Lady Murray at Yarrawonga, theKookaburra at Swan Hill and the Mundoo at Mildura.The commercial cruise boats at Lake Mulwala require anoccupational licence arrangement with Goulburn-MurrayWater although the authority for this water is NSWMaritime.

At Lake Mulwala there are six public boat ramp facilities.Each has rubbish removal and three have public toilets.Goulburn-Murray Water licences about 175 privatejetties and concrete boat ramps along the shore of LakeMulwala. The annual licence fee is currently set at $165per annum and each licence holder is required to havetheir own public liability insurance policy. There has notbeen a formal study to determine the environmentalimpact of these structures but the numbers have beencapped since 2002.

Boat licences are required to drive all poweredrecreational vessels (including hire boats but excludinghouseboats) and personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis) inVictorian (regulated by Marine Safety Victoria) and NewSouth Wales waters (regulated by NSW MaritimeAuthority). The Victorian General Boat Operator Licenceis recognised on the River Murray but boat operatorsmust understand and obey the New South Walesregulations as the Murray falls under the jurisdiction ofNew South Wales (through NSW Maritime). Goulburn-Murray Water is the boating authority for Greens Lakeand Loch Garry.

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Recreational fishing is a popular recreational activity inVictoria. It is promoted as a healthy and fun familyactivity (Fisheries Victoria 2000). The fish species of thestudy area are described in chapter 5. This sectiondescribes recreational fishing habits in Australia, Victoriaand the study area.

A 2000-2001 study of recreational fishing (Henry & Lyle2003) found that 550,000 (12.7 percent) of Victorians(aged five years and older) went fishing at least once inthe 12 months prior to the survey period and there wereapproximately 2.6 million fisher days/year in Victoria.Just over 40 percent of Victorian’s fishing effort wasspent at rivers, lakes and dams (compared withestuaries, offshore and coastal locations). In dollarterms, Victorian fishers spent an estimated $396 millionon fishing per year. This equates to approximately $721per Victorian fisher per year. An earlier study estimatedthat approximately $200 is spent per kilogram of fishcaught and kept (National Institute of Economic andIndustry Research 1997).

Fishing was more popular with males than females andthe main method was line fishing (over 85 percent offishing effort in Victoria). The most popular primarymotivation for going fishing was “to relax and unwind”(37 percent of respondents), with the second mostpopular being “sport”. “Fishing for food” as a primarymotivation was only listed by 7.5 percent ofrespondents (DAFFA 2003).

The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and ForestryAustralia Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Surveyasked respondents about the numbers of fish takenannually by recreational fishers (Table 11.2). This surveyindicated that recreational fishers harvestedapproximately 136 million aquatic animals in the surveyyear across Australia (Henry & Lyle 2003).

In the study area the popular recreational fish species arebrown and rainbow trout in the upper reaches of thetributaries and Murray cod and golden perch in thelower reaches of tributaries, and the River Murray. Theareas accessed for fishing have increased over the past

few decades with newer, more reliable outboards (Figure11.11). Use of 4WD vehicles for access is also becomingmore common.

Figure 11.11 Fishing from a small boat on the RiverMurray near Barmah.

A Victorian fishing licence is required to fish in allVictorian waters while a NSW fishing licence is requiredto fish in the River Murray. In 2004-05, 245,230recreational fishing licences (administered by theDepartment of Primary Industries) were purchased inVictoria, producing revenue of more than $4.5million.This was a $300,000 increase compared with theprevious year. Revenue from the fishing licences inVictoria goes to the Recreational Fishing Grants programfrom which it is dispersed to projects designed toimprove recreational fishing such as new fishingplatforms, improved fish habitat and increased stocking.In 2004-05, over $759,000 was allocated to 35 suchprojects.

In addition to fishing licences, there are also closedseasons and size- and bag-limits for many species in an effort to maintain sustainable fish populations.

Table 11.2 Estimated annual harvest (rounded to the nearest thousand) for all of Victoria in 2000-01,including the River Murray for species found in the study area.

Recreational Fishing species Estimated number Estimated weight (kg)

Native species

freshwater crayfish 1,887,000 75,000

golden perch 142,000 85,000

Murray cod 11,000 27,000

Introduced species

redfin 949,000 237,000

trout/salmon including rainbow and brown trout 345,000 173,000

European carp 328,000 246,000

Source: Henry and Lyle (2003).

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For example, Murray cod have a minimum legal size of50 cm, the bag limit is two (of which no more than onefish may be equal to or exceed 75 cm in length) and theseason is closed from the beginning of September to theend of November to protect reproduction. Incomparison, trout cod (which are very similar inappearance to Murray cod) are a fully protected species.

Fish stocking is carried out in many Victorian rivers, damsand lakes to address the conservation status of somespecies and to improve the recreational fishingopportunities of other species (Table 11.3). Fish stockingis coordinated by the Department of Primary Industries.Some of the funding for fish stocking comes fromrecreational fishing licence fees.

Bardi grubs are popular bait for fishing, especially as baitfor Murray cod. Digging for grubs is not permitted inparks, the River Murray Reserve or public land waterfrontage reserves and only permitted in State Forest witha permit under the Forests Act 1958.

Four-Wheel Drives, Motor Bikes and Trail Bikes

Four-wheel driving is an activity that allows participantsto access remote areas. Experienced drivers can safelygain access on slippery tracks without damage. Fourwheel-driving is legitimate on formed tracks that areopen to the passage of vehicles. Driving off formedvehicle tracks is illegal under the Land Conservation(Vehicle Control) Act 1972. Parks Victoria hasestablished a Memorandum of Cooperation with FourWheel Drive Victoria to work towards common goals for4WD use in parks and reserves in Victoria (Parks Victoria& Four Wheel Drive Victoria 2004). The Department ofSustainability and Environment has published a 4WDTouring code that promotes safety and care of theenvironment. It advises that vehicles should only bedriven on formed roads and vehicle tracks, and thatdriving off-track can cause erosion and damagevegetation. Participants should avoid using muddytracks and remove fallen tree branches from the trackrather than driving around them. Care should be takenin creek crossings to disturb the creeks as little aspossible.

Unfortunately, some 4WD participants do not adhere tothe code recommended above. This often results in

roads and tracks being badly damaged with rutting,potholes and corrugations. As a consequence, largeproportions of land managers’ budgets are consumedwith continually repairing damaged tracks. This isparticularly the case in areas around Mildura, GunbowerIsland and Yarrawonga. Road damage also leads toerosion, damage to vegetation and water pollution.

Rallying is conducted on formed mapped roads and is highly regulated. Rallying is conducted in closecooperation with forest managers from the Departmentof Sustainability and Environment with processes forscheduling events, financial provision for road damageto be compensated, insurance cover and communityconsultation.

Many people enjoy motor bike and trail bike riding as itgives them an exhilarating way to see rugged andbeautiful country that many other people don’t get tosee. It also fits in well with other similar activities suchas spending time in the outdoors and camping (Figure11.12). Public land in state forest and national parksprovides large tracts of land with well-formed tracks fortrail riding. All bikes ridden on public land must beregistered, the rider must be licensed and must wear theappropriate safety equipment as required by law.Additionally, bikes must stay on formed tracks, similar to 4WDs.

Some areas of State Forest have been temporarily orpermanently closed to trail bikes due to environmentaldamage. In New South Wales, Benarca State Forestwest of Moama and parts of Moira State Forest adjacentto Barmah Forest were closed to trail and motor bikes in2004 (NSW Department of Primary Industries 2005b).Inappropriate use of bikes was degrading vegetation onsandhills and in the forest, and spreading weeds such asspiny burr grass. Bikes also often cause noise pollutionand disturb wildlife. Some bike riders cause damage toIndigenous heritage areas as they use midden and burialsites as ramps from which to jump. Fencing is requiredat some sites to prevent this.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment hasdeveloped guidelines for trail bike riders to limitenvironmental damage. The Australian Motorcycle TrailRiders Association (AMTRA) advises riders to follow theTread Lightly principles and aim for minimal impact.

Table 11.3 The growth stage, species, number, location and cost of fish stocked (in the study area)through the Recreational Fishing Grants program.

Stage and species Number Location stocked Cost ($)

Yearling brown trout 10,000 Lake Hume 10,780

Fingerling Murray cod 5000 Goulburn River from Murchison to Mooroopna 6818Fingerling golden perch 15,000

Yearling Murray cod 3000 Kow Swamp, Reedy Lake,Fingerling golden perch 40,000 Lakes Charm, Kangaroo, & Boga 23,636

Fingerling golden perch 150,000 Lake Hume 27,273

Fingerling Murray cod 10,000 Campaspe River & near Greens Lake 17,727Fingerling golden perch 50,000

Source: DPI (2005)

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Figure 11.12 Trail bikes at a campsite along theRiver Murray.


Hunting is a permitted recreational activity during theprescribed season on both public and private land withinthe study area. The land categories that permit and donot permit hunting game and feral animals on publicland are shown in Table 11.4. This section provides briefinformation about hunting in the study area.Recreational hunters should consult the VictorianHunting Guide for further information.

Duck hunting is a popular recreational activity in Victoriawith over 22,000 hunters licensed to hunt ducks in 2006(DSE 2006j). The wetlands in northwest Victoria are animportant area for recreational hunters as this areaprovides suitable wetland habitat. The most visitedwetlands tend to change between years as the waterlevels change and the ducks move from area to area. In 2006, duck hunting was permitted on a number ofGoulburn–Murray Water storages in the study areaincluding Greens Lake (near Corop), Lake Boga, LakeCharm, Little Lake Charm, Racecourse Lake, YarrawongaWeir (Victorian waters), Lake Tutchewop and KangarooLake. Duck hunting is not permitted onGoulburn–Murray Water irrigation channels.

The Wildlife Act 1975 provides for the hunting of eightspecies of native duck that have been declared “game”.The prescribed open season starts on the third Saturdayin March and finishes at sunset on the second Mondayin June each year. This is reviewed annually. In additionto the restricted seasons, bag limits are also imposed toassist in sustaining duck populations. The regulationsspecify a notional bag limit of 10 birds per day butdrought and declining habitat mean that the bag limitshave been reduced in recent years. The aerial survey ofwetland area index and wetland bird counts help to setthe bag limits each year (Kingsford et al. 2005).

The number of ducks counted in the Summer Waterfowl

Count was high in 2004 because populations frominterstate were concentrated on Victorian waters.Numbers reduced close to the long-term average in2005 but the wetland area index (conducted acrosseastern Australia and incorporating 1500 wetlands) forthe 2006 duck hunting season was the second lowest in23 years (DSE 2006a).

In 2006, the bag limit was imposed at seven ducks perday including a maximum of one Blue-winged Shoveler.Eight species of native duck were permitted to behunted: Pacific Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Hardyhead(White-eyed duck), Australian Shelduck (Mountain duck),Pink-eared duck, Maned Duck (Wood duck) and Blue-winged Shoveler.

Hunters require a Firearms Licence as well as a GameLicence. To hunt ducks they must also pass a WaterfowlIdentification Test that requires them to successfullyidentify bird species, and hunters are required to followthe ethical guidelines set out by the Department ofSustainability and Environment. Firearms are prohibitedin Murray River parks and reserves (Parks Victoria 2004a).

In February 2004, there were in excess of 11,100licensed deer hunters in Victoria, an increase of 60percent over the last eight years. In 2005 the numberhad risen to approximately 14,600. Deer species legallyhunted in Victoria include sambar deer, hog deer, reddeer and fallow deer. Only sambar may be hunted withgundogs and scent-trailing hounds (in restricted areas).Scent-trailing hounds can only be pure beagles or purebloodhounds as both of these breeds are slower thanother dog breeds, putting less pressure on deer beingtrailed. Hunting of Sambar in the study area does notseem to be as popular as in other areas of Victoria dueto smaller areas and limited populations.

Fallow deer have been found in Barmah Forest buthunting of this species is only permitted on private land.Red deer and hog deer are probably not found withinthe study area. Other game species hunted in Victoriainclude stubble quail, and introduced game birds such aspheasants and partridges. While stubble quail is apopular game species, with about 8000 active shooters,they are mostly hunted on private property.

Hunting of feral species is also undertaken within thestudy area. A Firearms, but not a Game Licence, isrequired. Species hunted include pigs, foxes, hares,rabbits, wild dogs and goats. Instead of setting out tohunt a particular species as in duck or deer hunting,people hunting feral animals will generally shootopportunistically at whichever feral species is found.People generally hunt feral animals to be in theoutdoors, to socialise, to help reduce feral animalpopulations and, for some species, for food. Huntersalso participate for trophies including horns, tusks, skinsfor tanning and heads to mount. Increasingly, huntersfilm the hunt and associated activities, with the filmsforming a type of trophy.

Pigs are generally hunted by walking through the bushwith a rifle or spotlighting at night. Dogs can be usedto track pigs but must not be used to hold the pigs.Foxes and rabbits are generally spot-lit at night althoughhunters are more likely to shoot rabbits during the day ifthe rabbits are for food.

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Numerous horse-riding clubs are located in the studyarea. These include the Cohuna Trail Riding Club, theMurrabit Riding Club, the Murray Darling Trail HorseRiders Club and the Shepparton Adult Riding Club.Such clubs provide the opportunity for beginner riders(both children and adults) to gain experience and seemore country. Most clubs organise rides on public aswell as private land. The Australian Trail Horse RidersAssociation, ATHRA, also holds rides in the study area.

Trail riding businesses conducting trail rides in the studyarea include the River Murray Horse Trails atStrathmerton, Billabong Horse Trail Rides at Echuca,Riverland Trail Rides at Wodonga, Cohuna Trail Ridingclub and Murray–Darling Trail Horse Riders Club inMildura.

The major annual horse-riding event in the study area isthe Barmah Muster, held over a week in April (Figure11.13). The Muster culminates when as many as 150riders assemble and bring the cattle into the musteryards. Several other events are held in association withthe Muster including a dance and trail ride that attractup to 2000 visitors from across Victoria and interstate.The Barmah Cattleman’s Association estimates the eventhas a turnover of approximately $50,000 andcontributes to the local economy.

Horse-riding is permitted in State forests in the studyarea but permits are required for some activities.Impacts on the environment from horse-riding includingsoil compaction and erosion, making new tracks andweed introduction are generally highest in areas withouttracks or where tracks are wet, boggy or steep.

Figure 11.13 Horse-riders checking the cattle in themuster yards during the Barmah Muster.

Thus, riders are required to stay on track, avoid easilydamaged areas and use buckets to carry water fromstreams to horses (Cook 2003).


Bushwalking, both overnight hiking and day walks, arepopular activities in Victoria. There are many clubswhere novice bushwalkers can join more experiencedpeople. Formed, walker-only tracks are not as numerousin the study area as in other areas of Victoria (e.g. theGreat South West Walk) and bushwalkers generally usevehicle tracks and camp at sites that are also accessible

Table 11.4 Public land use categories in the study area where hunting is generally permitted or notpermitted (specific details should be obtained from a DSE office).

Land Category Game species Pest species

National parks and state parks (with some exceptions) (with some exceptions)

Nature Conservation Reserves and Flora and Fauna Reserves

Natural Features Reserve-wildlife areas, classed under the Wildlife Act 1975 as:

• Sanctuaries at any time.

• State Game Reserves during open seasons only. at any time (unless specifically authorised by DSE).

State forest during open seasons only. at any time.

Licensed Crown land (including licensed during open seasons only unless at any time unless licensed underwater frontages and unused roads) licensed under the Land Act 1958. the Land Act 1958.

Private land during open seasons only & with only with permission of landpermission of land owner/manager. owner/manager.

Source: Table modified from DSE(2006j).

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by car. Presence of public land with frontage alongmost of the rivers and streams in the study area meansthat walkers have access to long stretches of river. Thiscontrasts with New South Wales where the riverfrontage is private in many areas.

Enjoyable bushwalking is diminished by lack of practicalaccess and degraded areas which have lost some of theirnatural beauty. The latter may be caused bydevelopment on adjoining private land, resourceextraction and degradation of the natural environment,for example spread of weeds or a high density of cow pats.

Dog walking

Many pet owners consider their dog as ‘part of thefamily’ and make decisions about where to go onholiday based on whether they can take their dogs.Also, many people living in the study area enjoy walkingtheir dogs in areas of high scenic value. While dogs offthe leash are known to chase wildlife and disruptbreeding birds, dogs on leads can also cause lesserimpact simply by leaving the scent of a predator in thearea. To minimise the disruption to breeding birds, dogsare better kept on the leash (Burger et al. 2004) andshould not be permitted in key areas for native species.

Other Recreational Pursuits

The study area is used for a number of other passiverecreational activities including sightseeing, car andbicycle touring, picnicking, birdwatching, wildflowerstudy (e.g. orchids) and photography (Figure 11.14).Birdwatching is particularly popular at Hattah–KulkyneNational Park where a number of different habitat typesintersect allowing the possibility of observing manydifferent bird species. The ibis rookery at Reedy Lakenear Kerang also attracts many bird watchers. Thenorthern plains grasslands are of special interest towildflower specialists as a number of species grow thereand are very difficult to find elsewhere in Victoria. Theseactivities do not require many facilities and bring touristsdollars to the local economy.

Sightseeing is an activity enjoyed by many in the studyarea. Visitors can see many natural attractions,Aboriginal historic sites including middens and canoetrees and European historical attractions such as the portprecinct at Echuca, homesteads such as Tyntynder andByramine, and the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement (seechapter 7).

The Dharnya Centre is an information and educationresource located on Sand Ridge Track in the Barmahforest. It was established in the 1980s to enable groupsand individuals to learn about the heritage and ecologyof the forest and originally offered accommodation.Aboriginal Cultural Officers are on hand to help visitorsgain an appreciation of the culture and history ofAboriginal people such as the Yorta Yorta. The numberof visitors to the Centre (Figure 11.15) demonstrates itsimportance as a tourist attraction in the area. Thesecond figure demonstrates that the greatest number ofvisitors come to the Centre in April although the numberper month is highly variable between years.

Figure 11.14 Picnic tables and BBQ facilities at near Howlong.

Figure 11.15 demonstrates the high degree ofseasonality found in recreation and tourism along theRiver Murray generally. The peak in March and April isdue to the relatively warm (but not too hot) dailytemperatures and the Easter holiday. The peak in visitorsto the Dharnya Centre in April may also be due to theBarmah Muster attracting people to the region at thattime. The lower numbers in November and Decemberprobably reflect the decline in numbers of peoplecamping in the Barmah forest while it is flooded inspring.

Rail trails provide pleasant and often scenic ways ofexploring the landscape for walkers and bike riders.Horses can also use some sections of these trails. Thereare three Rail Trails established (or in development) in orclose to the study area. The Murray to the MountainsRail Trail follows the edge of the study area along theOvens River from Bright to Wangaratta. This trail hasthe gentle gradient common to most rail trails andprovides great views of the Alpine Country. The HighCountry Rail Trail begins near Bonegilla and heads eastalong the shores of Lake Hume (just to the east of thestudy area). Like many rail easem*nts in Victoria, thisrail trail has significant remnant vegetation as historicallyit was not grazed heavily or cropped but was burntfrequently (see also chapter 9 and 17). The BonegillaStation Bushland Reserve and School Bushland Reservehave remnant populations of the threatened orchidWedge Diuris and Western Golden Wattle and alsorepresentation of White-Box Grassy Woodlandcommunity. There are plans to develop a third rail trailfrom Whitfield to Wangaratta along the King Valley.

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Figure 11.15 The total number of visitors to theDharnya Centre in Barmah forest from 1992 to2005, and the average (mean and one standarddeviation) number of visitors per month.

Source: Parks Victoria, unpublished data

Economic Values associated with Recreation

A study was conducted in 2004 that looked at the valueof a range of recreational activities in the River Murray,the Lower Darling and the Goulburn Broken systems(Hassall & Associates & Gillespie Economics 2004). Theyaimed to quantify in dollar terms the total economicvalue of river dependent industries in these areas. Theyestimated the total economic value of ‘non-consumptive’industries (i.e. those other than irrigated agriculture andurban water) that are dependent, or partially dependent,on healthy rivers in the Southern Murray-Darling Basinaround $1,620 million.


Tourism is an extremely important part of the economy.Tourism Victoria estimates that in 2003–2004, tourism

contributed $10.9 billion to Victoria’s economy (5.3percent of GDP). This is an almost 50 percent increasefrom six years previously. Approximately half (46percent) of this reflects Victorians travelling withinVictoria, about one quarter is interstate visitation (25percent) and the other quarter is international visitation(29 percent, equating to $3,108 million) (TourismVictoria 2005a).

Tourism expenditure in the Murray Tourism region in2004 was estimated at $696 million from domesticovernight visitors, $229 from domestic day trip visitorsand $51 million from international visitors. This equatesto an average of $273, $89 and $848 per person pervisit, respectively (Tourism Victoria 2006).

The Murray Tourism region received a 19 percentmarket share of all domestic visitors to regional Victoriafor the year ending June 2005. The region also had over2.5 millions domestic day trip visitors (12 percentmarket share) (Tourism Victoria 2006). There were 5.7million visitor nights (number of visitors multiplied by thelength of stay) making the region the second highest forvisitor nights in Victoria (Tourism Victoria 2005b). Table11.5 shows the number of overnight visitors to theMurray Tourism Region from within Victoria, interstateand overseas. 54 percent of interstate visitors to theregion in 2005 were from New South Wales.

The River Red Gum Forest study area overlaps in areaswith the Murray Tourism region, which covers the localgovernment areas of Towong, Wodonga, Indigo, Moira,Shepparton, Strathbogie, Mitchell, Campaspe,Gannawarra, Swan Hill and Mildura. Approximately7000 people were employed directly in the tourismindustry in the Murray region in 2003–2004 (DITR 2005).This was a 4.3 percent increase from 1997–1998. Thisincrease is relatively small compared with some areas.For instance, the areas with the largest increases intourism employment were the Mornington Peninsula(24.1 percent) and Great Ocean Road (21.5 percent).For further information on the economics andemployment associated with tourism, see chapter 8.

The Legends, Wine and High Country area (Figure11.16), which also takes in a small part of the studyarea, received 1.1 million domestic overnight visitors forthe year ending June 2005 (9 percent market share).The regional also had over 828,000 domestic day tripvisitors (4 percent market share). The Legends, Wineand High Country region received 17,000 internationalovernight visitors (5 percent market share).






1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005







Jan F eb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug S ept Oct Nov Dec


Table 11.5. The number of overnight visitors (000s) to the Murray Tourism Region.

1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

Victorian 1 605 1 576 1 860 1 615 1 739 1 773 1 656

Interstate 577 517 526 596 665 687 442

International 44 49 36 46 50 60 39

Source: Tourism Victoria (2005b; 2005c).

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Figure 11.16 A vineyard in the Rutherglen area.

Over 80 festivals and events bring large numbers oftourists to the study area and adjacent areas. A sampleof these includes:

• The Peaches and Cream Festival in Cobram/Barooga inJanuary;

• Riverboats Jazz Food and Wine Festival held inEchuca/Moama in February;

• The Music on the Murray event in Swan Hill in March;

• The Barmah Muster in Barmah Forest in April (Figure11.17); and

• The Golden Rivers Red Gum Forests to FurnitureShowcase (Figure 11.18) in Koondrook in November.

Figure 11.17 Preparing for the Barmah Muster.

Figure 11.18 Wood-chopping competition duringthe Golden Rivers Red Gum Forests to FurnitureShowcase in Koondrook.

Visitation to Victorian parks and reserves has increasedslowly since 2001–2002. Parks Victoria surveyedVictorians and people from interstate and overseas todetermine what types of parks they visited (Table 11.6).The total number of people visiting non-metropolitanparks in 2004/2005 was 28.6 million(—Visitation Statistics).

Table 11.6 The estimated number of peoplevisiting areas within the Parks Victoria estate(derived from a phone survey of 12,000 people).

Type 2001/02 2002/03 2004/05

National Parks 26.8 m 24.9 m 28.6 m

Metropolitan Parks 13.5 m 11.6 m 14.1 m

Piers 29.9 m 29.9 m 30.8 m

Total 70.2 m 66.4 m 73.5 m

Source: —Visitation Statistics.

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Approximately 0.65 million people visited parks andreserves along the River Murray in 2004/05 (Newspoll2005). Forty-two percent of these visitors went tonational or state parks whereas 58 percent went toMurray River reserves (Figure 11.19). It is estimated that32 percent of visitors were from Melbourne, 58 percentwere from regional Victoria and the remaining visitorswere mostly from New South Wales. The averagenumber of nights stayed was two; with approximately1.3 million total overnight stays. Parks Victoria estimatesthat the largest numbers visit River Murray Reserves(Central), Yarrawonga Regional Park, Barmah State Park,River Murray Reserves (West), Hattah–Kulkyne NationalPark and Murray Kulkyne Park.

Figure 11.19 Campers enjoying beach activities atEaster on Ulupna Island in Barmah State Park.

Eco-tourism is a fast-growing industry that is focused onnatural environments. However, due to its fast growth,it can lack strategic planning and this may lead to thedegradation of the environmental resources that wereattracting the tourists initially. This has beendemonstrated in several studies examining disturbanceof wildlife by tourism, resulting in reduced breeding andfeeding capacity (Burger et al. 2004; McClung et al.2004). In other areas both eco-tourists and generalvisitors/campers place stress on natural resources. Eco-tourism may alternatively lead local tourist operators toplace a higher value on the natural resources and thusmay encourage sustainable use and protection.

Australia has signed the Convention on BiologicalDiversity, which has produced international guidelines foreco-tourism, specifically activities related to sustainabletourism development in vulnerable habitats of majorimportance for biological diversity and protected areas.The guidelines state that any tourism developmentrequires policy-making, development planning andmanagement. These comprise the following steps:baseline information and review, vision and goals,objectives, review of legislation and control measures,impact assessment, impact management and mitigation,decision-making, implementation, monitoring andreporting, and adaptive management. These guidelineshave implications for the planning and management oftourism in Victoria.

Community and Tourism Values of the River Murray Region.

Parks Victoria, Monash University, Tourism Victoria andthe Department of Sustainability and Environment havecommissioned a study into the community and tourismvalues of the River Murray region. This studycommenced in March 2006 and will conclude inDecember 2006.

The project will evaluate community and tourism valuesassigned to specific conservation or camping sites alongthe River Murray. The aim of the project is to provideParks Victoria, Tourism Victoria and the Department withkey insights into community values regarding RiverMurray sites, for the specific purpose of allowingappropriate prioritisation and development that isconsistent with community values. Specifically theproject will provide:

• A set of survey instruments that provide communityvaluations for sites within an area.

• Information on the main locations and tourismattractions along the River Murray mapped fromdifferent community valuation perspectives.

• The community perspective on the importance ofspecific sites along the River Murray.

• The community’s assessment of values in the area.

• GIS spatial analysis of this information.

An important potential use of this information is tostrategically benchmark and prioritise a specific group ofsites for service provision and development consistentwith the community’s values. Similar work haspreviously been undertaken by Greg Brown (University ofSouth Australia) in the Otway Region.

Strategic Directions and Plans for Tourism

Many nodes within the study area are major tourismdestinations. These include Albury/Wodonga;Yarrawonga; Cobram; Echuca; Barmah; Swan Hill andMildura.

Tourism Victoria has developed Regional TourismDevelopment Plans 2004–2007 (RTDPs) for both NorthEast Victoria and The Murray regions. These plansoutline the types of tourism activities identified as“product strengths” for both regions. These include theprimary segments: food and wine (Figure 11.20); natureand water-based tourism; adventure tourism; and golf.Secondary segments include Aboriginal tourism, touring,arts and cultural heritage. The Regional TourismDevelopment Plans also identify infrastructurerequirements for both regions. For example, the plan forNorth East Victoria 2004–2007 has a key strategy of“upgrading visitor service facilities and interpretation ofkey natural attractions”. The accompanying action is to“work with Parks Victoria to improve visitor servicefacilities and interpretation in the North East Victoriaregion, as well as conducting an audit of facilities andinterpretation in the region”. For specific detail on theseproposed projects and a copy of the Regional TourismDevelopment Plans, refer

The tourism industry is increasingly focused onenhancing the value of tourism by increasing the lengthof stay, spreading seasonal visitation patterns, improving

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visitor dispersal and avoiding duplication of experienceacross sites. The economic result of this is described asvisitor yield. Increasing visitor yield is favoured as analternative to building capacity for more short stay visitsthat often provide increased demand on resources butlittle economic return for input.

The Shire of Campaspe and Murray Shire Council (NSW)recently released a tourism development plan that aimsto increase visitor expenditure and increase visitordispersal both geographically and seasonally (TourismDestination Plan Steering Committee 2006). A positiveaspect of this plan is that it integrates tourism planningin Victoria and New South Wales. However, it does notintegrate planning with other shires along the RiverMurray. Instead it perceives other regions ascompetition. An integrated tourism development plan isdesirable for the length of the River Murray. Such aplan, similar to the Victorian Coastal Strategy, wouldhave a different focus from the plans described aboveand set directions for priority geographic locations forgrowth and development given increasing popularity andresulting pressures.

Recently, Tourism Victoria released Victoria’s AboriginalTourism Development Plan 2006–2009. Tourism dataindicates that international visitors have a high interest inexperiencing distinctly Australian culture, including ourIndigenous culture. Aboriginal tourism visitors represent18 percent of all international visitors to the state. ThePlan identifies key issues and objectives to promote theexpansion and success of Indigenous cultural tourismbusinesses (Tourism Victoria & Victoria’s AboriginalTourism Industry 2006).

Tour Operators Licences

Much tourism and recreation is dependent on access topublic land. Public land is regularly used for non-commercial recreation and tourism purposes, either in aformal organised sense (e.g. community or sportingevents), or an informal sense (e.g. family outings). Thereis a growing market for Indigenous heritage tourism.

All commercial recreation and tourism businessesoperating on land managed by DSE directly or by Parks

Victoria require a permit/licence. Licensees are givenlegal access to run a trade or business, subject toconditions. Conditions may relate to the activity,location or more general matters. Operators whobreach their licence conditions can have their licencesuspended or revoked.

Different activities require different settings, hencecertain tourism and recreation activities may be moreprevalent in one area (or category of public land) thananother. Conditions are applied to licensed tourism andrecreation activities to reduce environmental impacts.Local land managers help to determine these conditions.

Parks Victoria (PV) is responsible for managing the TourOperator Management System, governing all commercialrecreation and tourism businesses operating on landmanaged by DSE or PV. The costs of the licences do notallow full cost recovery of the Tour OperatorManagement System but operates at about 25 percentcost recovery.

Licence reform

Currently, DSE has released a directions paper aimed atreforming current licensing systems for tour operatorsand activity providers on public land (DSE 2005c). This isin order to encourage a viable, growing nature-basedindustry on public land, and ensure safe and sustainableuse of that land. DSE sought public consultation on thedocument (March 2006), which will assist in finalisingthe policy on the tour operator licensing system. It isexpected that this will be available before VEACcompletes its Final Report for the River Red Gum ForestsInvestigation.

The Economics of Tourism

Tourism Victoria commissioned Access Economics toundertake a study into the value of tourism in 2003/04(Tourism Victoria 2005a). It addresses tourismexpenditure, employment in the tourism industry,tourism in regional Victoria, “export” income andtourism’s contribution to gross state product. Detailedinformation in relation to this study can be found onTourism Victoria’s web-site. Further information on theeconomics of tourism is located in chapter 8.

Figure 11.20 Events in neighbouring regions, such as a wine and food event on Pfeiffer’s Bridge overSunday Creek, bring visitors to the River Murray.

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12 Cultural HeritageCultural heritage places and objects are a tangiblelink to the past. They illustrate Victoria’s writtenand verbal history. These irreplaceable resourcesevoke a strong spiritual connection to the past formany people. The landscape itself forms a spiritualand cultural heritage place for many Indigenouspeoples and reflects deep spiritual connections totraditional lands or country.

This chapter focuses on the management and protectionof both Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural heritageon public land within the River Red Gum Forests studyarea.

Aboriginal cultural heritage places and sites existthroughout the landscape of Victoria and are often onlyidentified or clarified after disturbance such asinfrastructure works. As such, many sites have been lostand the landscape has changed significantly since thearrival of Europeans. The connection and relationshipthat many Indigenous people have to traditional lands isprofound and deeply spiritual after 50,000 years ofoccupation (see chapter 6).

During the 200 years of European settlement, majorchanges in technology and patterns of land use haveoccurred. Initially people were attracted by the promiseof vast grazing lands, while other waves of settlementwere associated with the discovery of gold andexploitation of natural resources, which underpinned theeconomy of the state. Over time, many people havegrown to appreciate the land and feel a strongconnection to many places, particularly along the RiverMurray, despite or perhaps because of the often harshand variable environment. Visiting cultural heritageplaces or objects provides an opportunity for visitors andresidents alike to connect to the past. A thematic non-Indigenous history of the River Red Gum Forests studyarea is presented in chapter 7.


Pre-European Contact

Aboriginal people have occupied the Australiancontinent for many thousands of years, and there isample physical and oral evidence that the areas withinthe Murray Valley supported a rich culture for much ofthe last 50,000 years.

Archaeological sites from the Willandra Lakes (LakeMungo)—about 100 km to the north of the RiverMurray—have yielded remains of some 135 individualsand provide evidence of Australia’s oldest humanremains dated at between 45-50,000 years beforepresent (BP) utilising new techniques that reach beyondthe reliable range of radiocarbon dating (Bowler et al.2003).

The Murray Valley region contains numerous burial sites,including the unique occurrence of extensive cemeteries.Human remains in the area have been found to date tothe late Pleistocene-early Holocene times. More recently,Indigenous groups have reburied ancestral remainswithin the study area. Sites such as Kow Swamp

(Thorne & Macumber 1972; Stone & Cupper 2003) andnear Robinvale (Bowdler 1983) show evidence ofoccupation continuing intermittently through to recenttimes, and an apparent continuity in cultural practicesincluding complex burial rituals and rights. The KowSwamp site in particular is one of the largest collectionsof late Pleistocene human burials at one site. Dating ofthe site has yielded ages in the range 13,000 to 9500years before present (BP). Of particular importance isthe complex range of human physical characteristicsobserved across approximately 40 individuals. The siteincludes men, women, juveniles and infants with someindividuals being anatomically quite distinct from bothother ancient people—such as those at Lake Mungo—and modern humans, leading to theories regardingmultiple waves of occupation of the Australian continentover time by discrete populations (see Flood 2004).Much debate has continued over the description of therugged or robust characteristics of some Kow Swampskeletal remains. A similar robust individual from about6500 years ago recovered from northwestern WAindicates that this physique was not specific to a singlepopulation located on the east coast of Australia(Freedman & Lofgren 1979). The Kow Swamp remainswere re-buried several years ago at the request ofAboriginal communities in northern Victoria and the fulldescription of the materials has not been published,although documentation and casts exist within museumand research collections (see Flood 2004).

Freshwater shell middens also attest to early andextended Aboriginal use of food resources along theRiver Murray and its tributaries (see Box 12.1; Figure12.1). Aboriginal mounds, some of which also containhuman remains, are common. Likewise, Aboriginalscarred trees are common, including the largest Victorianconcentration of these trees on Bumbang Island nearRobinvale. Other types of Aboriginal sites in the studyarea include hearths, kitchen mounds and artefactscatters. Aboriginal cultural heritage places are oftenlocated close to resources required for their way of life.This is of particular interest in the study area given thegenerally poor preservation of remnant landscapes, suchas prior and ancestral streams (see chapter 2 and 3),which may have contained cultural heritage sites. Muchof the landscape of the Murray valley has beensubstantially modified by water management andagricultural practices, particularly on freehold land.

Written descriptions of Indigenous culture, economy andsociety are generally restricted to those of earlyEuropean explorers (e.g. Sturt, Mitchell), settlers (e.g.Curr, Krefft, Beveridge) and government-appointedofficials such as G.A. Robinson, Aboriginal ChiefProtector. These descriptions come from a specificallyEuropean perspective which is unlikely to reflect howIndigenous communities might describe themselves. Theintimate relationship that Indigenous people had, and inmany cases still have, with the landscape is only nowbecoming apparent to the wider community.

Aboriginal associations with the study area also includebroader spiritual values and Aboriginal cultural heritageplaces associated with the post-contact period. Thelatter include campsites, meeting places, historicreserves, massacre sites and stations.

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European Impact on Indigenous Communities

Recognition of the history of cultural contact, conflict orresistance, adaptation, adjustment, and an awareness ofplaces reflecting that history, are important forunderstanding our shared, and at times, poorlydocumented or acknowledged past. These places alsoprovide a historical reference to explore the changingand evolving culture and values of both Indigenous andnon-Indigenous societies within Australia.

European settlement significantly disrupted the lives ofIndigenous people in the River Red Gum Forests studyarea. Even before widespread European settlement, awave of introduced diseases, perhaps from earlierexplorers in other parts of the country, had alreadyspread with devastating effects. Smallpox and influenzaepidemics in particular are believed to have significantlyreduced the Indigenous population prior to the firstpastoral settlers reaching the Murray valley area in the1830s and 1840s (Atkinson & Berryman 1983).

In 1838 Sturt commented that although the Indigenouspeople he saw at the junction of the Goulburn andMurray Rivers were good-looking, strong and active,“disease had been busy with them” and there weremany burials in the sandhills, which appeared “to havebeen recently tenanted” (Sturt in Hibbins 1978). Curr(1883) commented that both the state of disuse and thenumber of cooking ovens indicated that the populationof Indigenous people in the Barmah region was muchgreater prior to the arrival of white settlers.

The wave of European settlers that followed the earlyexplorers saw a clash of cultures with very differenttechnologies, attitudes to the land and concepts ofownership, social values and spiritualities. Dispossessedand forcibly removed, Aboriginal people were in manycases relocated to missions and reserves outside theirtraditional lands. Many deaths occurred, particularlywhen Indigenous people resisted the occupation orinvasion of their country (Clark 1996).

Today, the places of these interactions betweenexplorers, settlers, including massacre sites, missionstations and reserves are often especially significant toIndigenous people as they form part of their culturalheritage. At a more individual level, many people losttheir families and ancestors at these places. Theprotection of these locations is therefore vitallyimportant to some Aboriginal communities, even if thereis no remaining physical evidence of such events.

Protection and Management of Indigenous CulturalHeritage

Identification and documentation of Aboriginal culturalheritage places, sites and objects are important forfuture management and protection. Aboriginal AffairsVictoria or AAV (Department of Victorian Communities)has prepared information sheets to help identify physicalcultural heritage such as middens, scarred trees, grindingstones, artefact scatter sites, stone tools and burials. Adescription of freshwater middens is provided in Box12.1. AAV also funds regional Aboriginal heritageofficers throughout the state to work in partnership withland management agencies, investigate reports ofpotential sites, carry out community programs andprovide advice to the public, developers, or othergovernment agencies about Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Aboriginal cultural heritage places, sites and objects areprotected through cultural heritage legislation (describedbelow). Traditional owners and other relevant Aboriginalgroups have an interest in the long term survival of theircultural inheritance and are actively involved in ongoingprotection and management of these places, sites andobjects.

Identification of Sites and Survey Coverage

As described above, sites of Indigenous cultural heritagemay have a material or physical nature (such as burials,middens, scarred trees, missions) or may be related toevents or spirituality and have no tangible on-groundpresence (meeting places, massacre sites, mythology).The documentation, identification, protection andmanagement of Aboriginal cultural heritage places arethe responsibilities of all land managers and land ownersin Victoria. Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (AAV) and otherstate government authorities work in partnership withtraditional owners and other relevant groups in allAboriginal cultural heritage investigations andassessments. This includes surveys to locate and recordAboriginal sites and places as well as assessments of thepotential impact of proposed works on heritage values.

Only some sections of the study area have beensystematically surveyed for Aboriginal cultural heritageplaces. Although the coverage is not comprehensive, anumber of notable and important archaeological andcultural heritage sites are known, such as the uniquecultural landscapes associated with the Murray Valleyincluding the mound and cemetery complexes, evidenceof old shell middens, Kow Swamp and the Robinvaleburials, and Bumbang Island sites (Figures 12.1 and12.2). Many systematic surveys have been associatedwith the planning and development of specificinfrastructure works, such as the construction of roadsand forestry activities (e.g. Presland 1981; TerraCulture2005) while others have been more regional in approach(Bonhomme 1990; Craib 1992; Greenwood 2003;Johnston & Webber 2004).

AAV maintains a Heritage Register of all knownAboriginal sites and places in Victoria, in accordance

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with cultural heritage legislation. This includes detailedsite information and historical information for somepost-contact places. In addition, AAV holds copies of allreports relating to previous Aboriginal cultural heritageinvestigations throughout Victoria. Records forindividual sites are generally subject to accessrestrictions. However maps of sites portrayed on a 1x1km grid cell are available as an indicative tool toestablish if sites have been registered and what generaltype of site is present. The distribution of these siteswithin the River Red Gum Forests study area is shown in

Map 12.1. More than one site or cultural heritage typemay occur within a grid cell. The absence of grid cells inmany areas does not mean that there are no Indigenouscultural heritage sites, but that the area may not havebeen surveyed or sites documented.

The Aboriginal Community Heritage InvestigationsProgram in 2001-2002 provided opportunities forAboriginal communities to increase their capacity andparticipation in cultural heritage management. Theprogram involved a series of training and fieldwork

Box 12.1 Aboriginal Shell Middens.

Many freshwater shell midden sites occur along themajor waterways and wetlands within the study area,including both relatively recent ones and those createdmany thousands of years ago when the climate wasmuch wetter. The middens are accumulations ofmaterials from cooking and eating freshwater mussels.Often middens contain charcoal, ash, fire-stones,burnt earth or clay, and animal bones or shells. Somecontain stone tools or, occasionally, burials.

The shells may form a discrete layer or an extensivearea associated with a range of activities and theremains of meals eaten over thousands of years at apopular campsite (Bonhomme 1990). The shells aretypically the freshwater mussel (Velesunio ambiguus)and river mussel (Alathyria jacksoni).

Some particularly good examples of middens occur

along major waterways throughout the study area. Asa consequence of this location, the meandering ofrivers and erosion of river banks over time is a threatto some middens. Active conservation may berequired to preserve the sites for future generations.

Freshwater shell middens provide valuable informationabout the past including Aboriginal economy andland-use, the local climate, as well as providing arecord of events such as floods and droughts. Theshells in middens provide information about theenvironment, and whether the shells were collected atthe same time or at a number of different times.Dating techniques ascertain the time when Indigenouspeople occupied an area. Middens provide animportant link to the past, and those that containburials are particularly significant to Indigenous people(AAV 2003).

Figure 12.1 A stairway cut into a midden along the banks of the Murray River, Echuca Regional Park.It is against the law to disturb or destroy an Aboriginal cultural heritage site or object withoutwritten consent from the relevant local Aboriginal community.

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activities and included an oral history component—recording the stories and memories of communityelders—extensive field surveys, archaeologicalexcavations, training in cultural heritage managementand administration procedures and site protectionprograms.

Some of the results have been the recording of over 400new Aboriginal cultural heritage sites; participation ofover 170 Aboriginal community members in theprogram from a diversity of backgrounds and theemployment of seven program participants in culturalheritage management positions in various Victorianorganisations. The success of this program hasdemonstrated an ongoing need for Indigenouscommunities to undertake cultural heritage field surveysand training exercises in partnership with landmanagement agencies.

Another recent survey of Indigenous cultural heritage ofthe alpine area of Victoria following the 2002-03 alpinefires, has demonstrated extensive and widespreadevidence of past Aboriginal occupation (DSE & ParksVictoria 2005). As a result of the fires, good groundsurface visibility was provided through removal of densevegetation, allowing many artefacts including flakedstone scatters, stone axes and rock shelters to befound. This survey revealed that identified individualsites are only point locations within a broader culturallandscape that contains not only artefacts but alsoplaces and associations of spiritual significance forAboriginal people.

Additional surveys are likely to improve the existing levelof knowledge and identification of cultural sites andplaces within the study area. Aboriginal people reportthat new sites are found regularly in the study area andthere are likely to be many sites and places known totraditional owner groups that are not recorded ongovernment registers. As part of the assessment ofpublic land values throughout the study area, VEAC willcommission a desktop study of available cultural heritageinformation, and where necessary, fill any data gapsrevealed.


Victorian and Australian legislation recognises theimportance and value of identifying and protectingcultural heritage such as sacred sites, burial sites, placesof significance and other important sites where there isevidence of Aboriginal occupation of country.Indigenous cultural heritage is protected specificallyunder two acts administered by AAV: the VictorianArchaeological and Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act1972 and the Commonwealth Aboriginal and TorresStrait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 Part II A.Under these acts it is an offence to wilfully deface,damage or otherwise interfere with an Aboriginal objector place without prior written consent from the relevantlocal Aboriginal community as listed in a schedule to theCommonwealth Act.

The Victorian Act protects sites and materials relating toIndigenous cultural heritage, with the exception ofhuman remains interred after 1834. This includesartefacts, stone tools, rock art sites, ancient campsites,middens, burial sites, scar trees and ruins associated withAboriginal missions or reserves. The Commonwealth Act

provides additional protection for cultural property in abroader sense including places, objects and mythologyfrom pre-historical through to contemporary sites. TheCommonwealth Act takes precedence over matterswhere there is conflict with the state legislation.

The Victorian government is in the process of updatingAboriginal cultural heritage legislation. The newAboriginal Heritage Act 2006 will come into effect fullyin late 2006 or early 2007 and will replace both theState and Commonwealth Aboriginal heritage legislationand provide for more effective protection and broaderinvolvement of Indigenous people in cultural heritagedecision making processes. It is anticipated that the newlegislation will result in a more integrated andstreamlined process for dealing with cultural heritagemanagement issues between land owners, developers,local governments and Indigenous traditional ownergroups.

Significant changes under the new Act include clarity forprotection of Indigenous heritage in planning and landdevelopments, including developments that requireHeritage Management Plans, cultural heritage audit andstop orders, and dispute resolution mechanisms throughthe Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).Additionally, a Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council willbe established to consider applications and registerAboriginal organisations as cultural heritage decision-making bodies for specific areas. The composition ofthis Council will be broader than the existing culturalheritage ‘communities’ described under the schedule toPart II A of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait IslanderHeritage Protection Act 1984 to include traditionalowner groups. This Council will also provide advicerelating to the protection of Aboriginal heritage to theMinister for Aboriginal Affairs (Victoria).

Registered Aboriginal parties will advise on the culturalsignificance of heritage places/objects, participate inheritage investigations and assessment processes,evaluate and endorse Aboriginal Cultural HeritageManagement Plans and permits, and negotiate anyCultural Heritage Agreements. Under the AboriginalHeritage Act 2006, a range of measures will beintroduced to improve compliance and enforcement orpenalties will be increased.

The Act builds upon the Regional Cultural HeritageProgram established by AAV as a resource agency toadvise on a range of planning, development and culturalheritage management. This program was staffed byIndigenous people with expertise in cultural heritagematters. Existing arrangements for the Regional CulturalHeritage Program will be wound up when the AboriginalHeritage Act 2006 is fully enacted. Inspectors will beemployed under Part 3 of the Public Administration Act2004 and appointed by the Victorian Aboriginal HeritageCouncil.

The Planning and Environment Act 1987 also applies toAboriginal cultural heritage values including Planningscheme overlays (e.g. Kow Swamp is protected by aheritage overlay under the Campaspe Planning scheme).The Commonwealth Environment Protection andBiodiversity Conservation Act 1999 also applies toIndigenous cultural heritage.

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Management of Indigenous Cultural Heritage Sites

Aboriginal cultural heritage places are frequently fragileand may be disturbed or destroyed as a result ofnumerous activities and natural processes, includingtimber harvesting, controlled burns and bushfires,grazing, road building, sand extraction, channelconstruction, bardy grub collection, trail-bike riding,camping, pest management, water and wind erosion.The survival of living sites, such as scarred trees, hasbeen affected by fires, land clearing and timberharvesting over the last 150 years. In places wheretimber harvesting and land clearing have been minimal,a substantial number of scarred trees remain.

Public Land

Within the study area, reservation of public land hasbeen undertaken in order to specifically or exclusivelyprotect Indigenous cultural heritage at Bumbang IslandHistoric Area (LCC 1989a) and in 2005 the WallpollaIsland Archaeological and Natural Interest Reserve wasdeclared under the Forests Act 1958. A committee ofmanagement has been formed to manage the latterforest reserve located in the western area of theexisting Wallpolla Island State Forest. The committeeconsists of a partnership between Governmentagencies and Indigenous communities. Bucks Sandhillin Barmah forest is currently covered by a Declarationof Preservation enacted under provisions of Part II A of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HeritageProtection Act 1984 (declared in 2001).

The Yorta Yorta Co-operative Management Agreementbetween the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporationand the State of Victoria, provides for traditionalowners to have a voice in natural and cultural resourcemanagement within the public land of Barmah Forest,Kow Swamp water supply reserve, lower GoulburnState Forest and other designated areas. Thismanagement arrangement is discussed in greater detailin chapter 6.

In other places throughout Victoria and the River RedGum Forests study area, specific Indigenousmanagement bodies have acquired land—throughvarious arrangements—to serve specific communityneeds such as housing and welfare (e.g. MungabareenaAboriginal Corporation centre, Wodonga; RumbalaraAboriginal Co-operative, Mooroopna). The land tenureand management arrangements in both Victoria andother states are described in chapter 6.


Sites of European historic significance are locatedthroughout the study area and largely relate to themajor historic themes identified in chapter 7 such asexploration and settlement, transport, water supply, andindustries such as timber harvesting and agriculturaldevelopment.

Significant periods of change—such as closer settlement

Figure 12.2 Aboriginal mound fenced and sign-posted at Nyah State Forest.

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and agricultural development—are closely linked to theestablishment of transport and water irrigationinfrastructure throughout the study area. Early Europeansettlement is often described in waves associated withpastoralism, gold mining, selection and agriculturaldevelopments in closer settlements with intensivefarming linked to Government funded irrigationschemes.

Timber harvesting has a history within the study area.Paddle-steamers, plying the rivers, used large quantitiesof wood in their boilers and stacks of wood weremaintained for use on the banks. Logging of the redgum forests began in earnest in the 1860s and by 1877all suitable timber in Barmah Forest and along theMurray bank was cut back for an average of 2 miles (3.2 km) and partly or entirely worked, sometimes for asecond time (Fahey 1987). Forestry records indicate thatareas were cut depending on size and age of the standand, in some areas regeneration events were noted(King 1963). The timber was exported to England forbuilding wharf piles and much of the timber from nearMathoura and Deniliquin in New South Wales wasexported to India, for railway construction (Mulham1994). It was also used extensively in Victoria for railwaysleepers, mine supports, bridge culverts, for wharf andjetty construction and most of Melbourne’s streets werepaved with red gum bricks until the 1960s (Lawrence etal. 1979).

Some cultural heritage objects or artefacts can berelocated without compromising cultural heritage values.For example, Big Lizzie constructed in 1917, is on displayat Barclay Square, Red Cliffs as a monument totechnology and design development. Its dreadnoughtwheel was designed to overcome the difficultiesexperienced with clearing sandy soils and outbackconditions (Figure 12.3).

Protection and Management of European Cultural Heritage

Heritage Site Documentation and Lists

Sites and places of cultural heritage are recorded onmany lists and registers, although none of these arecomprehensive. At the same time, many lists andregisters overlap but generally have a confined scope

such as sites of national or state significance, or those ofnatural or historic values. Such registers include thefollowing:

• Register of the National Estate, now maintained by theAustralian Heritage Council, is a record of more than13,000 places of natural, Indigenous and historicplaces throughout Australia.

• Sites of outstanding national heritage value listed onthe National Heritage List are protected under theEnvironment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation(EPBC) Act 1999. These places are selected by thefederal Minister for Environment and Heritage,protected by Australian laws and managed underspecial agreements with state or territory governmentsand with private land owners. Examples of suchplaces are the Sydney Opera House, Budj Bim NationalHeritage Landscape (Tyrendarra, Mt Eccles-LakeCondah areas) and the Royal Exhibition Building(Melbourne).

• Places of state significance are listed in the VictorianHeritage Register which is maintained by the VictorianHeritage Council. This register is available to thepublic and may be searched on the internet. Theregister includes a range of significant places andobjects including extensive land areas, gardens andtrees, and archaeological sites.

• Historic archaeological sites and relics are documentedon the Heritage Inventory maintained by HeritageVictoria (DSE). Sites listed are protected under theprovisions of the Heritage Act 1995.

• Historic places on public land are listed in the HistoricPlaces database (DSE).

• Sites of local or regional significance may be listed in alocal municipal planning scheme and protected underprovisions of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Sites older than 50 years may be recorded on theHeritage Inventory and those of state significance arerecorded and assessed in greater detail for inclusion onthe Victorian Heritage Register. This includes both thosesites that have been included on a register of culturalheritage places, relics and objects, and those previouslyunknown sites uncovered during excavations or works.

Sites are identified and then listed on the HeritageInventory or Victorian Heritage Register. Those sitesidentified on the Victorian Heritage Register within theRiver Red Gum Forests study area are listed in Table12.1. Management of cultural heritage sites isundertaken in a manner consistent with the VictorianHeritage Strategy 2000–2005 (Heritage Victoria 2000).

Identification of Sites and Survey Coverage

In addition to the resources described above for highlysignificant sites, many local municipal councils haveconducted cultural heritage investigations, largelyfocussed on specific sites, townships and historicbuildings or local or regional significance. Examplesinclude Greater Shepparton Heritage study (Allom Lovell& Associates 2003), Indigo Shire Heritage study (PeterFreeman and Associates 2005), and the Mallee AreaReview—Study of Historic Sites (Andrew C. Ward andAssociates 1986). These studies typically identify historicplaces and recommend conservation actions to landmanagers. This information supports decisions made inregard to municipal planning schemes and overlays.

Figure 12.3 Big Lizzie, on display at Barclay Square,Red Cliffs.

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Historic Places section (DSE) has surveyed extant historicgold mining sites on public land across Victoria. Suchsites vary in terms of the nature of materials and state ofpreservation and include mine workings, industrialmachinery such as batteries, and habitation sites.However there are some major cultural themes that lackrepresentation on the lists and registers and have notbeen systematically surveyed within the study area (i.e. forestry, and water management). As part of theassessment of public land values throughout the studyarea, VEAC will review available cultural heritageinformation, and where necessary, fieldwork and surveywill be undertaken to fill any data gaps revealed.

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is a not-for-profit community organisation that owns and operatesseveral historic buildings and museums throughoutVictoria and maintains a register of sites. Sites listed onthe National Trust Register provide an indication that thecommunity values the attributes present, but does notafford any legal protection. The Trust has compiled avast body of information since it was established in1956, and is a strong advocate for nominating andprotecting historic places on government registers.


In Victoria, the Victorian Heritage Act 1995 protects allnon-Aboriginal archaeological sites older than 50 years.Anyone who damages or excavates an archaeologicalsite without obtaining the appropriate permission, facesa penalty under the Act. Legal recognition andprotection under this Act encompasses a range ofplaces, objects, precincts or landscapes, gardens andtrees, and archaeological sites. Specific protectionmeasures apply to places listed on the Victorian HeritageRegister.

The Planning and Environment Act 1987 containsprovisions for local municipalities to govern culturalheritage values through provisions of planning schemesand overlays. An example is a heritage overlay, ordesign and development overlay that informs decisionmaking by local councils in response to planningapplications and permits.

The Commonwealth Environment Protection andBiodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is administered bythe federal Department of Environment and Heritagewhich implements programs and legislation to protectand conserve Australia’s cultural and natural heritage.

Historic places on reserved Crown land are alsorecognised under the land management objectives andprovisions of relevant acts. A number of historic sitesand places are currently within parks and reserves andstate forest throughout the study area and are protectedunder the provisions of each relevant act (see sectionbelow).

The Burra Charter

Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous historic andcultural heritage places on public land are managed inaccordance with principles of the Burra Charter ofAustralia ICOMOS (International Council on Monumentsand Sites) 1999 which provides principles for theprotection and conservation of cultural heritage placesand sets a national standard for best practice adopted bymany heritage organisations. The Charter can be

applied to all types of places of cultural significanceincluding natural, Indigenous and historic places withcultural values. The Charter embodies seven basictenets:

• Recognise that the place is important

• Understand the significance of the place

• Understand the fabric

• Let significance guide decisions

• Do as much as possible and as little as necessary

• Keep records

• Do everything in a logical order.

In general the principles embodied by the Charter are tomanage and conserve sites of cultural significance in situwhere possible with minimal intervention, alteration ordisturbance. The degree to which this can be achieved,and to which management and conservation activitiesimpact with cultural heritage values, is largely dependentupon the type of values present, such as rarity, age,condition, integrity, significance, and aesthetic values. Inthis context, conservation means that the values ormeaning of a site are retained.

Public Land

Many historic places or sites of cultural heritagesignificance are located on public land and typicallythose with the most outstanding values are withinCrown land reserves. Some sites such as historicbuildings may remain as functional institutions andentertain current community use. A number of landstatus and zoning mechanisms are applied to sitesassociated with European cultural heritage as describedbelow.

Previous studies of public land in the study area haveidentified a number of historic places. The LandConservation Council’s 1997 special investigation intohistoric places across south-western Victoria overlapsslightly with the current River Red Gum Forests studyarea. In that study eleven historic sites of statesignificance were identified, as well as a range of othersignificant and notable historic places on public land.Other LCC studies undertaken as part of the NorthCentral Investigation (LCC 1981a) and Mallee Review(LCC 1989a) identified a number of historic sites (JacobsLewis Vines & Architects and Conservation Planners1979; Andrew C. Ward and Associates 1986). As aconsequence, reserves were established to protect placeswith highly significant historical values that were notwithin other permanent reserves or parks.

National Parks

National Heritage Park is a relatively new public landcategory recommended by the ECC in the 2001 BoxIronbark Forests and Woodlands Investigation FinalReport. The category was developed to recognise theoutstanding and largely intact cultural heritage valuespresent in the Castlemaine area from the gold miningera, whilst recognising that the natural values presentdid not warrant national park status. The CastlemaineDiggings National Heritage Park is reserved under theCrown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and listed underschedule 4 of the National Parks Act 1975. This park isthe largest protected non-Indigenous cultural landscapein Australia and is registered on both the Victorian

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Heritage Register and the National Heritage List. Placeson the list are protected under the provisions of theEPBC Act 1999.

Historic and Cultural Features Reserves

As described in chapter 9 Public Land Use Categoriesand Management, areas of historic significance withinthe study area have been reserved and protected usingexisting legislation. These historic sites are reservedunder the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 forprotection of the identified historical values. Typicallythese reserves are small, often containing a singlebuilding or group of structures, or remains of structures(e.g. Murchison Waterworks Trust Historic Area, 1 ha).However, some reserves may be more extensive such asKinipanial Creek Historic Area (61 ha) and BumbangIsland Historic Area (639 ha).

State Forest Historic Sites

In state forest, known historic places are listed inDepartment of Sustainability and Environment (DSE)forest management plans or regional inventories. In2002 there were over 1400 historic places recorded instate forests throughout Victoria (DSE 2005h). Typicallysites within state forests relate to resource use andinclude timber mills, railways, cattle muster yards,campsites and buildings. Statewide managementprocedures for Timber Harvesting Operations (DSE2005h) apply management procedures for protection ofhistoric heritage values. There are also requirements to

protect historic places in the Code of Forest Practiceand the Code of Practice for Fire Management. Forestmanagement plans specify management actionsdesigned to protect each site from potentiallydamaging processes. Significant sites are alsoprotected through forest management prescriptions orheritage management plans. Prescriptions may includebuffers, which exclude various activities within aspecified area, and filter strips, in which machineryentry and felling of trees may be only be permitted incertain circ*mstances and under specified conditions.

Information on the location and significance of historicplaces is incorporated into annual forest managementoperational plans including the Wood Utilisation Plans,fuel-reduction burning plans and road managementplans. Conservation management plans for historicplaces, or groups of places, may also be developed forthe most significant or vulnerable sites. These plansdocument the cultural heritage significance of the placeand make recommendations that will ensure the placeis conserved to protect and enhance its identifiedvalues. An example of such a site is the Barmah musteryards located at Goose Neck, in Barmah State Forest, orMurray’s timber mill in Echuca.

New sites discovered in the course of forestmanagement activities or as the result of furtherresearch are documented and assessed by DSE.

Table 12.1 Historic places list of sites of state or regional significance for public land in the study area.

HP No Site Name Significance

2969 Condidorio’s Bridge State

119 Echuca Courthouse State

1626 Lake Hattah Regulator State

1671 No 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot State

1552 Pumping Station State

140 Rochester Shire Hall State

1711 Yelta Railway Station State

3592 Dockendorff and Heach’s Boorhaman Sawmill Regional

1705 Lock 9 Lockmasters Residence & Former Post Office Regional

1574 Locomotive Depot Regional

6509 Porepunkah Area Regional

1672 Railway Storage Shed Regional

1674 Tresco Main Pumping Station Regional

Source: DSE July 2006.

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13 Primary ProductionAlthough primary production in the River Red GumForests study area is largely conducted on privateland it exerts considerable influence on theeconomy, community and environment of thewhole study area. This chapter therefore, providesan overview of primary production in the studyarea before focusing on grazing and beekeepingwhich are the predominant primary productionuses on public land.


Both irrigated and dryland agriculture are major forms ofprimary production and are the dominant land uses inthe study area region1 and across much of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) as a whole. The Murray-DarlingBasin accounts for one third by value of Australia’sagricultural output, and the value of agricultural producefrom the Murray-Darling Basin now exceeds $10 billionper year (MDBC 2002). As one of the mostagriculturally intensive parts of the Murray-Darling Basinthe area along the River Murray and its tributariescontributes substantially to this output.

Irrigated agriculture replaces or supplements rainfall withwater from another source in order to produce cropsand pastures. The water may be sourced fromgroundwater, irrigation systems and channels or recycledand re-used irrigation water and wastewater. The scaleof irrigation production in the study area is largely dueto the land development and settlement policies ofVictorian governments over a century and a half. Thesepolicies resulted in closer land settlement patterns aswell as the development of large-scale water supplyinfrastructure systems, as discussed in chapters 7 and15. This use of water for irrigation purposes has majorimplications for environmental values across the studyarea, particularly on public land.

The total value of all primary production across theMallee, Loddon, Goulburn and Ovens–Murray statisticallocal government areas is in the vicinity of $3.5 billion:approximately $1.3 billion for Mallee, $400 million forLoddon, $1.5 billion for Goulburn and $253 million forOvens–Murray. Most of this revenue comes fromirrigation-based production such as fresh and dried fruit,wine grapes, dairy products and fodder for stock. Map13.1 shows the distribution of various types of irrigatedand dryland agriculture around the study area. Outputfrom irrigated agriculture in revenue and products areexpected to increase in the future (GBCMA 2003),primarily due to improved irrigation efficiency and a shiftof water resources from irrigated grazing to higher valueactivities such as horticulture. For example, in northcentral Victoria horticulture expanded on average 6.3percent per annum between 1997 and 2001 (NCCMA2003). Similar trends are evident in the Mildura andShepparton irrigation regions of Victoria (GBCMA 2003,MCMA 2003a).

Dryland agriculture occurs where agricultural productionis based solely on natural rainfall and the resulting soilmoisture availability. This form of agriculture is moresusceptible to climate variation. Dryland agricultureconsists mainly of grain and oilseed cropping as well aslivestock production—mostly sheep (for wool and meat)and beef cattle. Like irrigated agriculture, drylandagriculture is an important industry in the study areathrough its contribution to regional economies and theVictorian economy as a whole, with a total value ofapproximately $1.5 billion.

A key difference between irrigated and drylandagriculture is the much higher value of production perhectare of land used under irrigated agriculture. A briefdescription of irrigation and dryland agriculturalindustries follows.

Livestock Production

Northern Victoria is one of the three major livestockproduction areas in Victoria and beef-, sheep- and pig-meat production are all significant. Production is forboth export and domestic markets. The major beef andsheep-meat producing areas are illustrated in Map 13.2.The value of these industries, including egg productionand pig-meat production to the regional economy is$8.7 million per year.

Livestock production is conducted on both irrigated anddryland production systems. Dryland livestockproduction is more prominent in the north east part ofthe study area where rainfall is higher (DPI 2006b). Indryland areas sheep-meat production is often preferredover beef because sheep offer additional benefits ofwool production and more effective grazing of cerealstubble. Sheep-meat production is therefore moreprominent around the grain producing areas of north-western Victoria.

Other livestock activities situated close to the study areainclude poultry and goat meat production (DPI 2006b).


The dairying industry is one of the major agriculturalindustries adjoining the study area, particularly in theirrigated areas around Kerang, Echuca and Shepparton(as shown in Map 13.3). Victoria dominates theAustralian dairy industry producing approximately 6.4billion litres of milk. The total value of dairying for thestatistical local government areas linked to the studyarea is $5.38 million per year.


Cropping includes the production of hard grains (such aswheat, barley and oil seeds) and fodder but nothorticulture. It may be based on irrigation or drylandproduction techniques.


Cereal production, including all grains, legumes andoilseeds is a significant industry for Victoria. Cerealgrains are predominantly found around the central andwestern part of the study area region as shown on Maps13.1 and 13.2 above. For example, in the Mallee region

1 Note: Agricultural land-use is not a major activity on public land in the study area. However the information regarding agricultureon private land is important to provide some context for the Investigation. To provide some spatial context for the overview ofa*griculture the area under discussion will be referred to as “study area region”.

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cereal production was worth more than $3.9 million in 2003–04.

Major grains produced in the vicinity of the study areaare wheat, barley and oats. In most cases these grainsare produced under dryland conditions and are thereforemost vulnerable to climate variation such as drought andwaterlogging. Other grains produced include nitrogen-fixing plants such as field peas, lentils, faba beans,chickpeas and lupins. Production of these grains is oftendependent on irrigation.

Oilseeds such as canola and sunflowers are otherimportant crops produced in the study area, albeit not as much as the cereal grains. Oilseeds may be producedthrough dryland or irrigation techniques and supply boththe domestic and export markets.

Rice is also produced in the central part of the studyarea, abutting the large rice production area of the NewSouth Wales Riverina. Rice growing is totally dependenton irrigation.

All cereals are produced for both the domestic andexport markets and for both stockfeed and humanconsumption.


Hay production, particularly lucerne, clover and peastraw-based hay under irrigation, is an increasinglyimportant industry for both the export and domesticmarkets (GBCMA 2003). Straw hay is also sourcedthrough the harvesting of cereal crop stubble such aswheat, oats and barley. This hay is largely used on thedomestic market, particularly in the horse industry.Pastures and grasses, including hay production had avalue of $2.13 million across the four statistical localgovernment areas in 2003–04.



Fruit production is the largest horticultural industry inVictoria and, in 2002–03, had a market value of $966million. Fruit in the study area is predominantlyproduced around the Goulburn Valley and near SwanHill and Mildura, as illustrated in Map 13.1 and 13.2.Major fruits produced in the Goulburn Valley region arepears, apples and stone fruits such as peaches,nectarines, plums, cherries and apricots (GBCMA 2003).In 2002–03 stone fruit production from this area was

worth $137 million. Because of the concentration offruit producers in the Goulburn Valley, the region alsosupports Victoria’s largest cannery.

Citrus production is another major fruit crop withproduction mainly concentrated around theRobinvale–Mildura and Cobram regions of Victoria.Production is for both the fresh fruit and juice marketsand for domestic and export markets.

Grape production is also a major fruit crop industry.Grapes are sold fresh (table grapes) or used to producewine (see below) or dried fruit as shown in Table 13.1.Table grapes make up 43 percent of all Victoria’s freshfruit exports at a value of $65 million per year (DPI2006a). Most of these grapes are sourced from theMildura region, as are dried fruits such as raisins andsultanas.

All fruit production is dependent on irrigation for itsproduction and is for either the domestic foodprocessing industry or for the domestic and export freshfruit markets.


Vegetable production is second to fruit production as amajor horticultural industry and its relative value acrossthe four statistical local government areas is shown inMap 13.2. This map also illustrates the concentrationsof horticulture around Shepparton, Swan Hill andMildura regions. The major products by volume includetomatoes and asparagus (GBCMA 2003; DPI 2006b).

Other Horticulture

Several other horticultural crops are produced in thestudy area. Some, including olives, strawberries, kiwifruit, avocadoes, mushrooms, potatoes and nuts such asalmonds and walnuts, have the potential to expand interms of production area and income dollars (GBCMA2003; DPI 2006b). These crops are also dependent onirrigation and are produced for both the export anddomestic markets, including the Victorian foodprocessing market (GBCMA 2003).

Finally, cut flowers such as proteas have recently beengrown commercially in some parts of the study area.These are for both domestic and export sales. Whenvegetables and other horticulture such as nurseries,flowers and turf are included horticulture across the areahas a value of approximately $220 million per year.

Table 13.1 Yields and value of grape production around Victoria.

North-west 25,098 224,322 122,221 346,543 $132.0 m

North-east 3514 22,430 172 22,601 $23.3 m

Central 3,798 15,072 345 15,418 $19.2 m

Other 5874 20,615 231 20,856 $36.0 m

Total 38,284 282,439 122,970 405,409 $208.5 m

Source: DPI (2006b).

DPI agriculturalproduction zone

Total area ingrapeproduction (ha)

Wine grapeproduction (t)

Dried and tablegrapeproduction (t)

Total grapeproduction (t)

Estimated value of winegrapes

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Several of Victoria’s major wine producing areas arelocated in proximity to the study area, including areasin central and north-eastern Victoria and the Sunraysiain the northwest. Due to the diversity of conditionssuch as soil types, rainfall, sunlight hours, aspect andfrost frequency across these regions different wines areproduced using different production techniques. Forexample, some wineries concentrate on small-scale,labour-intensive, low-volume, high-quality products toservice the boutique wine outlets. Other wine-makingtechniques are highly capital intensive and concentrateon high volumes for the supermarket-type winemarket. Often this form of production involvessourcing grapes through annual contract arrangementswith growers rather than through grapes beingproduced on-site by the wine producers themselves. In2003, the northwest region of Victoria produced 66percent of all wine grapes in Victoria (Table 13.1). Thewine industry services both the export and domesticmarkets.


The history of public land grazing within the study areais closely aligned with the development and expansionof European settlement across Victoria. Initially, theregion was occupied by squatters grazing sheep andcattle on their runs, followed by consolidation into pre-emptive rights (for the squatters) and large selections.From the 1840s, at least one squatter regularly drovesheep from southern Victoria to the Moira grass plainsof Barmah forest for the summer months (Curr 1883).Gradually grazing was brought under governmentcontrol and licences or land holdings were issued (seechapter 7).

Over time a preference for cattle grazing becameestablished on much of the river red gum forest andfloodplain areas, although downstream of about SwanHill sheep grazing is more common. Most cattle onpublic land are beef cattle but the widespreadestablishment of irrigated dairy farms in many areas—mostly between about 1920 and 1970—has lead tosome public land grazing by dairy cattle, particularlyalong water frontages in the irrigation districts.

Grazing on floodplain river red gum public land hasbeen an additional or alternative source of forage forlivestock, provides access to water and managementflexibility on private holdings, and reduces the need forfencing. However, with changes in emphasis andimprovements in land management over time, theoverall economic importance of stock grazing on publicland has declined and few graziers depend substantiallyon public land.

Despite its declining economic importance, public landgrazing remains an important cultural tradition for manypeople, with a history of some 150 years. This traditionis epitomised at the Barmah Muster. Each autumn cattleagisted in Barmah forest over the preceding year aremustered. Since the 1950s the Muster weekend hasbecome a festival and celebration of cattlemen whichattracts many visitors, particularly for the associatedsocial activities that include a bush dance and storytelling (yarn spinning) competition.

In the decades after the arrival of European stock,grazing probably occurred on nearly all public land in thestudy area, amounting to several hundred thousandhectares at that time. Currently, the area of public landin the study area authorised for grazing by domesticstock is around 117,000 ha (see Map C) although thereis a number of qualifications to this figure (see below).The vast majority of grazing occurs on state forest, theRiver Murray Reserve and public land water frontages.Other areas grazed include some streamside and othernatural features reserves, unused government roads,unreserved Crown land, Barmah State Park, and someland held by public authorities, such as Goulburn MurrayWater. National parks, state parks, nature conservationreserves and reference areas are the only public landcategories for which stock grazing is specifically excludedas a general rule.

Grazing of domestic stock on public land was addressedin detail in two major LCC investigations that overlapwith the River Red Gum Forests study area: the MurrayValley Area (LCC 1985) and the Mallee Area Review(LCC 1989a). The LCC (1985) stated that where publicland is managed for the maintenance and enhancementof ecosystems, domestic stock grazing is inappropriateand the land manager should take all steps practicableto exclude it. Recommendations described some areaswith high natural values where grazing should beexcluded, while the administration and conditions forcontinuation of grazing in Barmah State Forest andGunbower State Forest were also outlined. The MurrayValley Final Recommendations (1985) also recommendedthat domestic stock grazing be phased out of BarmahState Park no later than three years after acceptance ofthe recommendations because of its incompatibility withthe objectives of a state park. This recommendation wasaccepted by government but following Parliamentarydebate on the National Parks (Amendment) Bill 1987,specific provision was made for grazing in Barmah StatePark. Grazing in Barmah State Park is discussed ingreater detail in Box 13.1 below.

Following the Mallee Review Final Recommendations(LCC 1989a), stock grazing was removed from parks andmany reserves in the Mallee study area, but permitted tocontinue on other public land (including the floodplainforests) at the discretion of the land manager andsubject to a management plan. However, the LCC(1989a) also recommended that no areas of state forestbeyond those licensed at that time should be used fordomestic stock grazing. The government accepted theserecommendations.

A key step in the implementation of theserecommendations has been the preparation of ForestManagement Area (FMA) plans. Under the Mid-MurrayFMA Plan (DNRE 2002a), grazing management strategieswere to be developed by May 2003 for sites with highconservation values and priority areas such as thosealong parts of the Goulburn and Ovens Rivers which areVictorian Heritage Rivers (LCC 1991). These strategiesare still being developed, although details of conditionsand principles established by the Department ofSustainability and Environment (DSE) for grazingmanagement are described in more detail below.

The Mildura FMA plan (DSE 2004f) has generalmanagement guidelines for grazing activities which

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emphasise the maintenance or enhancement of naturalecosystems. The plan allows grazing land managementplans to be prepared in consultation with the licenceholder for each licensed area on the floodplain. Initially,priority was given to areas over 1000 ha with plans tobe developed by August 2005. A review of grazingwithin special protection zones, ephemeral wetlands andcarpet python special management zone are alsodescribed in the plan. The Mildura FMA plan alsorecognises the need for research into tactical grazing onfloodplain state forests for management purposes (suchas through limited agistment permits) and annualvegetation monitoring using photo points to monitorgrazing pressure.

The LCC Rivers & Streams Special Investigation FinalRecommendations (LCC 1991) for public land waterfrontages replaced all equivalent earlier LCCrecommendations, envisaging an integrated system ofhabitat networks along water frontages. Grazing underlicence by adjoining landholders was to be allowed onlywhere it did not conflict with: conserving native floraand fauna, maintaining and restoring indigenousvegetation, protecting adjoining land from erosion andproviding for flood passage, protecting scenic quality ofthe landscape, protecting cultural heritage features, andproviding access for recreation.

Administrative Arrangements

Domestic stock grazing on public land is authorised andmanaged under (1) Crown land licences (most areas),(2) agistment permits (Barmah forest and, until recently,parts of Gunbower forest), and (3) commercialarrangements set up by public authorities over land forwhich they hold title. Terms such as ‘licensed grazing’ or ‘grazing licences’ are commonly used—includingthroughout this Discussion Paper—to encompass allthree of these arrangements collectively. Note that thereis no public land leased for grazing in the study area(and little elsewhere in Victoria for that matter). Leasesare generally for longer terms and provide additionalentitlements (often greater exclusivity of access forpeople as well as stock) than the arrangements forgrazing that currently apply in the study area.

Crown land licences have three components: a scheduledescribing the licence area and details about thelicensee; a map showing the extent of the licence area;and standard licence conditions including fees, duration(typically one year), maintenance, fire protection worksand other requirements. Licences usually specifyallowable stock numbers and requirements for control ofstock and pest plants and animals. Crown land licencescurrently cover approximately 75,000 ha—with largelicences over state forest and some regional parks (about400 licences with an average size of approximately 140ha), and small licences over public land water frontages(1200 licences, 10 ha average) and unused roads (30licences, 3 ha average). Usually these licences do notoverlap—that is, only one licensee’s stock grazes in eachlicence area (however public access remains unaffected).Water frontage and unused road licences are nearlyalways held by adjoining land owners, who manage thegrazing as part of their overall grazing operation. Theseareas are often used, for example, to hold temporarily ortransfer stock, to provide water, or to maintain usagerights over the area. Many licence areas are not fenced,

although in recent years some Catchment ManagementAuthorities have overseen successful programs to fencemany water frontages (see chapter 19). In circ*mstanceslike these a licensee may agree to implementconservation related-conditions (i.e. fencing andrevegetation programs), and even convert to a non-productive licence under Section 138 of the Land Act1958 at a significantly reduced fee (e.g. $1 per year)compared to the productive agricultural licence rate.

Grazing conducted under Crown land licence is chargedaccording to the carrying capacity of the land, expressedas ‘dry sheep equivalents’ (see Glossary). This applies topublic land water frontages, unused government roadsand unreserved Crown land. Licences over unused roadsfor agricultural use are generally annual but can beissued for up to 99 years. They may be cancelled ifconditions are not met or the road is required for trafficpurposes.

Some licences over state forest and regional park sharecharacteristics with Crown land licences but many aremuch more intermittent, with licensees changing andlicences frequently lapsing and resuming. Recently somelicences for state forest grazing have been reviewed andoffered for a ten-year period in conjunction with acustomised grazing management plan developed inpartnership with the licensee. Under these agreements,grazing timing and intensity may be modified orexcluded from specific areas to conserve or protectimportant environmental or cultural values.

Grazing under agistment permits occurs in Barmahforest and, until recently at least, in parts of Gunbowerforest (and there are other areas where land managershave the discretion to issue agistment permits).Currently and historically, agistment permits generallyapply to a specified time period and number of head ofstock and cover relatively large areas of land, often withstock from more than one grazier. Specific details ofcurrent agistment permit grazing in Barmah Forest areprovided in Box 13.1.

Control of pest plants and animals is the responsibility ofthe licensee on areas held under licence as described inthe licence conditions. In state forests, this includes theprohibition of feeding out unless specifically approved bythe DSE forest manager. Agistment permits do notrequire pest plant and animal control to be undertakenby the permit holder.


State forest grazing is permitted under Section 52(1)(a)of the Forests Act 1958 and management guidelinesunder forest management plans (DNRE 2001, 2002a;DSE 2004f). On public land water frontages, someregional parks, unreserved Crown land, unusedGovernment roads, and some land reserved under theCrown Land (Reserves) Act 1978, grazing is conductedas an agricultural activity under Sections 130 and 133 ofthe Land Act 1958 and is largely restricted to the ownersor managers of adjoining private land. Section 32E ofthe National Parks Act 1975 provides for grazing inBarmah State Park, although no relevant licences havebeen issued under that Act. The grazing that occursthere administered under the Forests Act 1958 (see Box13.1). At least partly because of the difficulty inmaintaining fencing in the flood-prone public lands

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along the major rivers in the study area, it is notuncommon for grazing to be authorised under one Actto spread onto adjoining land where that authority doesnot permit grazing—most frequently along thenumerous long boundaries between the River MurrayReserve and adjoining state forest. The River MurrayReserve (Natural Features Reserve) is managed by ParksVictoria to protect a range of natural and cultural values.Grazing is only permitted where it is compatible withsuch values. It is administered by the land managers inassociation with adjoining DSE public land: under theprovisions of the Land Act 1958 consistent with publicwater frontage licence arrangements in the MilduraFMA; and under the Forests Act 1958 in the Mid-MurrayFMA; and under both arrangements in the North EastFMA.

Some areas of public water frontage and other publicland abutting the Ovens and Goulburn Rivers, which arewithin a Victorian Heritage River overlay (LCC 1991) areheld under grazing licences for both public land waterfrontages and state forest. Also, the Victorian portions

of the Barmah–Millewa, Gunbower,Koondrook–Perricoota and Chowilla Floodplain(Lindsay–Wallpolla) Living Murray significant assets (seechapter 15) are also partially or wholly held under publicland grazing tenures.

Controlled sheep grazing for ecological outcomes isutilised at Terrick Terrick National Park and other landcontaining northern plains grasslands purchased fornature conservation reserves on the Patho Plains area.Intermittent, adaptive and seasonal grazing at lowstocking rates has maintained conservation and habitatvalues present prior to the acquisition of this land (Diez& Foreman 1996; Tscharke 2001). This grazing patternlargely reflects past grazing practices in these areas.Grazing is in accordance with guidelines that arereviewed every three years and subject to future researchoutcomes (Parks Victoria 2004b). A particular emphasisis on maintaining habitat structure for the plains-wanderer—a threatened bird species. Future researchwill inform and guide the use of grazing, ecologicalburning or other management tools to enhance the

Box 13.1 Barmah Forest Grazing

Cattle are grazed in Barmah forest except in referenceareas (300 ha) —29,660 ha comprising Barmah StateForest (21,600 ha) and Barmah State Park (8360 ha)under agistment permits issued under the Forests Act1958. Grazing within most of Barmah State Park maybe licensed under Section 32E of the National ParksAct 1975 with annual licences issued for termscommencing 1 May. However, even though grazing isallowed to occur in the park, because no licences havebeen issued for the park under the National Parks Act1975, current grazing is technically unauthorisedthere.

Cattle agistment is restricted to members of either theBarmah Forest Cattlemen’s Association (grazing thewest end) or the Yielima Forest Grazier’s Association(the Yielima or east end). Currently there are 31 and7 owners respectively in each organisation.

A Barmah Forest Grazing Advisory Committee, whichpredated the park, currently comprises threerepresentatives from DSE, one from Parks Victoria, andfour representatives from the cattlemen’s associations(three from Barmah and one from Yielimaassociations). Following inspection of the forest, thecommittee makes a recommendation to DSE NorthEast Regional Director and Parks Victoria CentralRegional Manager on stocking numbers for each ofthe summer (1 November to 30 April) and winter (1May to 31 October) terms. Once the stock numbersare decided by both DSE and Parks Victoria, theCattlemen’s associations allocate quotas to individualmembers for each section of the forest.

In the past stock numbers have been varied accordingto seasonal conditions in the forest and the occurrenceof ‘rain-rejection’ floods (see chapter 15 WaterResource Use and Environmental Flows) which, even indry conditions, occur as a result of the need totransmit large volumes of water downstream at short

notice. An average indication of stocking rates isabout 2000 head of cattle in the summer term andabout 800 head in the winter term, although therehas been an overall reduction in number with thepersistent dry conditions recent years.

The current fees (set by the Valuer General in 2003)for grazing under existing agistment arrangements inBarmah forest are $14.08 per steer for the summerterm and $10.12 for the winter term (including GST).While this value may be less than that commerciallycharged elsewhere—depending upon seasonalconditions and location—there are significant costs interms of time and logistics expended in associationwith agistment, especially transportation andmustering and maintaining facilities. Land managersalso have significant grazing related managementcosts that typically exceed the revenue generatedthough agistment fees.

Note: The National Parks Act 1975 specifies thatgrazing in Barmah State Park involve a Barmah ForestGrazing Advisory Committee appointed by theMinister for Environment, advising the Minister onvarious matters relating to grazing in the park. Underthe Act, the committee has eight members of whom:

(a) One is appointed convenor;

(b) Three are nominated by the Barmah Forest Cattlemen’s Association;

(c) One is nominated by the Yielima Forest Grazier’s Association;

(d) Three are officers of the [former] Department of Natural Resources and Environment

Although it has not been formally appointed for thepark, the existing Barmah Forest Grazing AdvisoryCommittee operates in the spirit of Section 32 of theNational Parks Act 1975.

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grassland values on these sites. Unlike grazing on otherpublic land, grazing in the Terrick Terrick National Parkand Patho Plains nature conservation reserves is strictlyfor ecological purposes. It is administered throughshort-term contracts rather than under licence.

Overall Extent of Grazing

In total, there are some 1790 licences held by around1425 licensees (many of whom hold more than onelicence), and covering approximately 117,000 ha (seeMap C), however this overall impression of public landgrazing must be qualified by the following variables:

• Changes in stocking rates. While many licence detailsinclude a stocking rate, that does not mean that stockare maintained at that level at all times—indeed therewill be times (in some cases more or less permanently)when there are no stock on all or part of many licenceareas, even though the licences remain current. Inaddition, there are permanent ‘exceptions’ such as thetwo reference areas in Barmah forest which, althoughshown in Map C as not subject to grazing licences,are poorly fenced from the surrounding forest.Barmah Lake, by contrast, is shown in Map C aslicensed for grazing but is only grazed on its marginbecause it is permanently inundated.

• Types of licences. DSE issues licences for manyactivities on public land other than grazing, and it isnot always clear whether grazing is permitted or not—when the licence is for ‘non-primary producers’, forinstance. VEAC has categorised these licences asaccurately as possible in consultation with DSE.

• Turnover and intermission. While the majority ofgrazing licences have been continually renewed forlong periods, occasionally licences are not renewed,are modified to exclude grazing (see below), or newlicences are granted. More significantly, some licencesare issued for relatively short periods and renewed ornot at the discretion of land managers in response toseasonal conditions or for particular managementpurposes such as to reduce adverse impacts or pestplant control. The most notable example ofintermittent grazing is Gunbower State Forest, muchof which was grazed until about five years ago, whenpermits were not renewed—largely to reduce theimpact of prolonged below-average rainfall andflooding. Grazing could, however, be reinstated inthe future.

DSE Grazing Licence Review Program

DSE advises that a review of grazing practices andlicences is currently being undertaken in some of thedesignated priority areas described in the Mid-MurrayFMA Plan (DNRE 2002a), not including Barmah forest,triggered by applications for renewal or transfer ofindividual grazing licences. The review process is guidedby a set of ‘Ecological Grazing Principles’. The Principlesare:

• That grazing management in the river red gum forestestate will be based on sound scientific data andrationale to optimise biodiversity benefits andenvironmental outcomes.

• To utilise grazing as an ecological management tool toachieve biodiversity benefits and to restrict adversechanges in the floodplain forest environment.

• The grazing of stock should assist in the consolidationand recruitment of native plant species by helping tomaintain or shift the vegetation composition to theEVC benchmark.

• Grazing livestock selection should be based on thestock type that will facilitate the intended ecologicaloutcomes.

• Stocking rate adjustments for grazing livestock needto be based on Ecosystem condition.

• Appropriately timed rest and graze periods can beused to protect and enhance ecological attributes.

• Vulnerable ecological and cultural attributes can beprotected by the appropriate management orexclusion of grazing herbivores.

• Supplementary feeding and watering of stock has the potential to increase the risk of negativeenvironmental outcomes.

• That all grazing herbivores impact on ecosystemcondition regardless of whether they are introduced or native.

• Total grazing pressure can reduce or eliminate theseed store of shrub and understorey plantcommunities necessitating action to restore orrehabilitate these areas.

Exclusion of grazing through fencing has occurred inother non-priority areas reviewed during routine licencerenewal or transfer. Stock grazing has been removedfrom three sites following a review utilising theseprinciples and an ecologically-based grazingmanagement regime has been trialled at a fourth site onthe Lower Goulburn in consultation with the licensee.

Management of Grazing on Public Land

It is important to note that throughout much of thestudy area there is no physical barrier between publicland of different tenure e.g. Barmah State Park andBarmah State Forest, other state forests and the RiverMurray Reserve. In many cases it is impractical andcostly to fence on a floodplain, particularly given thelength of the River Murray Reserve frontage. Frequentflooding and the associated large debris damage fences.Where fencing has been erected on floodplains, such asthose fences within Barmah forest, maintenance costsare met by the land manager and not the licensee oragistor. However, unrestricted stock access to thewater’s edge has significant effects on water quality inparticular (DNRE 2002h). Catchment ManagementAuthorities and land managers are undertaking projectsto revegetate and fence along stream frontages andinstall off-stream watering points for stock (DNRE2002h; MCMA 2003b; NCCMA 2003; GBCMA 2004;NECMA 2004). The fenced areas provide limited orseasonal grazing along the river’s edge in the riparianzone.

A major impediment to fencing riparian land is theadditional cost of fencing and installing alternative stockwatering points. Investigations undertaken by CMAsinto catchment health and riparian grazing practicesindicates that fenced stream frontages were insignificantly better environmental health than thoseunfenced, reflecting a reduced level of grazing pressureand reduced rates of land and water degradation (e.g.Robinson & Mann 1998).

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In addition, overseas studies have shown that cattlegrowth rates or weight gain was up to 20 percentgreater for animals drinking from a piped water sourcecompared to those allowed unrestricted access to awater hole or stream bed (Kondinin Group 1996; Waterand Rivers Commission 2000; Landerfeld & Bettinger2002). These results reflect the lower volume of waterconsumed by stock when it is polluted or muddied,which in turns relates to a reduced level of production.Initial fencing and stock water point installation costs arelikely to be recovered through increased production, inaddition to the ongoing environmental benefits andpreservation of infrastructure damaged by stream bankerosion.

Unlike some other economic activities undertaken onpublic land (e.g. timber harvesting), the revenuegenerated from public land grazing is returned to thestate through consolidated revenue.

Livestock grazing is sometimes promoted as amanagement tool with the ability to reduce the groundvegetation component of wildfire fine fuel and provide ameasure of fire protection. Grazing has not beenidentified or used as a primary broad-scale fuelmanagement tool under the Mildura or Bendigo fireprotection plans but may be used as a short-termmethod for fuel reduction where the effect onconservation values is minimal (DCNR 1992; DSE 2003f).Additionally, because livestock have preferences forspecific vegetation types including native grasses,relatively intense grazing would need to occur for this tobe an effective fire control measure. Unpalatable speciesand woody material remain, both of which cancontribute to the intensity of wildfires (DSE 2004f).Grazing intensities required to significantly reduce fuelwould be likely to result in adverse biodiversity impacts.

Grazing may compromise natural values and can resultin habitat loss or modification, introduction and spreadof exotic plants and inhibition of native vegetationestablishment and growth (particularly river red gumsand other seedlings—see chapter 5). Damage towetlands has also been demonstrated to affect habitatvalues for animals such as frogs and birds (Jansen &Healey 2003; Jansen & Robertson 2005). Livestockgrazing may also adversely affect on flora, fauna, soilstructure and water quality (Robertson & Rowling 2000;Spooner et al. 2002; Jansen & Healey 2003; Dorrough etal. 2004; Jansen & Robertson 2005). Grazing mayreduce capacity for riparian zone vegetation to act as anutrient ‘filter’ by compacting the soil, increasing erosionand sediment input into waterways. These effects arestrongest where grazing is continuous (DSE 2004f). Thestudy area as a whole is an environmentally sensitivelocation encompassing riparian zones, wetlands andfloodplain forests. Most public land grazing in the studyarea is close to waterways and wetlands. Thesewaterways play a vital role not only in biological systemsbut also in sustaining agriculture and potable water forrural communities.

Fencing (particularly on floodplains) presents logisticaldifficulties for land managers as does governance andadministration, and the ability of land managers tocontrol overgrazing, stocking rates and potentialbreaches of licence conditions, while maintaining publicaccess. To date there has been little consistency in

management of grazing on public land across Victoria,either administratively or environmentally. The diversityof grazing practices and ecological values across such abroad area has made consistency difficult. In manyplaces Crown land, in particular water frontages andunused roads, has been used as part of the adjoiningprivate enterprise with limited assessment of its impacton natural or ecological values.

A consistent approach to grazing across all public landwould provide a clear framework for deciding where itis appropriate for grazing on public land, the economicvalue of grazing a public resource and equitable feerates comparable across all available land usecategories. These matters are discussed further inchapter 19.


Apiculture based on the introduced European honeybee(Apis mellifera) dates from the early days of Europeansettlement in Victoria. When flowering prolifically, theindigenous eucalypt species found in the River Red GumForests study area are keenly sought by beekeepers, andorchards and pastures on nearby private land also have asignificant role in the apiculture industry (and vice versa).Flowering of river red gum and black box trees is largelydependent on suitable flooding so, although thesespecies produce high quality honey, significantproduction is relatively sporadic. Yellow and grey boxtrees also produce premium honey, although they arenot as abundant in the study area.

As well as honey, beekeepers sell pollen, beeswax andqueen bees, and are paid by farmers to enhancepollination—and hence productivity—of some pasturesand orchards, especially almonds. For both thesepurposes, beekeepers leave appropriate numbers ofhives at locations on private land for bees to accessorchards, pastures, or native forests (including those onadjacent public land), as well as on designated publicland bee sites for bees to access native forests. There isevidence that bees forage as far as 20 km from theirhives (Schwarz & Hurst 1997), although beekeepersreport that most bees range no further than a kilometreor two. There are two types of public land bee sites:

• permanent sites, which are licensed for 12 monthsand have a radius of 1.6 km (i.e. there must be atleast 3.2 km between adjacent permanent sites); and

• temporary sites, which are licensed for 6 months andhave a radius of 0.8 km.

As part of the implementation of the ECC (2001) Box-Ironbark recommendations and in response to theexpansion of the Murray Valley almond industry, an‘Apiculture on Public Land Liaison Group’ has beenestablished by DSE. This group provides a forum forrepresentatives of the apiculture industry, DSE, ParksVictoria and DPI to discuss relevant issues anddevelopments as they emerge.

Beekeeping is generally permitted in most public landcategories. Reference areas and wilderness areas andzones are the only categories in which bee sites are notpermitted at all, although they are also excluded fromother public land within two kilometres of these areas.

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There are currently six reference areas and no wildernessareas or zones in the River Red Gum Forests study area(Map A). Some people have suggested that—as acommercial venture based on an invasive species withpotential to adversely affect natural values (see below)—beekeeping is not an appropriate activity to allow innational parks. In practice, there are very few Victoriannational parks suitable for apiculture from whichbeekeeping is excluded. Map C shows that bee sites arewidely distributed on public land in the study area.There are 237 public land bee sites in the River RedGum Forests study area (Map C), constituting just over10 percent of the total number of bee sites on publicland in Victoria.

Beekeepers are highly mobile, often moving largenumbers of hives considerable distances—includinginterstate—to capitalise on favourable flowering eventsand to avoid frosts. In addition to full-time commercialapiarists, there are many part-time and non-commercialbeekeepers who are not accounted for in officialstatistics. Although they own relatively few hives perbeekeeper, they account for a large number in total. Asa result regional data on beekeeping must be interpretedwith caution.

Apiculture is worth approximately $10 million per yearto the Victorian economy (Centre for InternationalEconomics 2005). On the basis that 10 percent ofVictorian public land sites are in the study area, it isestimated that apiculture in the study area is wortharound $1 million. The ECC (2001) estimated that the600 or so bee sites on Box-Ironbark public landgenerated 79 full-time equivalent jobs. The 237 RiverRed Gum Forests bee sites, then, would be expected toaccount for around 30 full-time equivalent jobs,although many of these would be based outside thestudy area.

Apart from seasonal vagaries, apiculture is a reasonablystable industry in Victoria—product demand remainshigh, and the distribution of bee sites in most favourablenative forest areas is at or close to capacity. Theexpansion of some agricultural enterprises requiringpollination by bees—most notably almond orchards innorthwest Victoria—has increased demand for thisservice. Another issue for apiarists is the relatively recentarrival in Australia of the South African small hive beetle(Aethina tumida) which can severely diminishproduction. The pest does poorly in drier areas and, todate at least, has occurred only occurred sporadically innorthern Victoria peripheral to its main distribution incoastal areas to the northeast.

As its name suggests, the European honeybee is anexotic species in Australia. Of the hundreds of exoticspecies that have established feral populations aroundthe world, very few have (when studied) been found tonot have an impact on natural values. It would besurprising, then, if European honeybees did not have animpact on natural pollination systems in Australia.However, studies of the effects of honeybees on naturalpollination systems have had difficulty obtainingunambiguous results, largely because of the technicaldifficulties in excluding or introducing honeybees in away that does not disrupt other significant plant-pollinator interactions. Feral honeybees also occupy treehollows, potentially to the detriment of some of thelarge number of hollow-dependent fauna for which riverred gum forests are noted. While carefully managedhives may be unlikely to be a source of feral bees, this isless likely to be the case for hives managed by part-timeor non-professional apiarists. The presence of managedhives also constrains options for feral bee control.Honeybees can also have localised impacts onrecreational values. The potential impacts of honeybeeson natural values are discussed in more detail in chapter 5.

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14 State Forest Management and Wood Production

The river red gum forests have been a major sourceof durable timbers in southeastern Australia sincethe earliest days of European settlement. Whileproduction has decreased over time, Victorianpublic land forests remain a major source of timber.The extent and nature of the forests varies acrossthe study area, as does their management and thelevel of information about them. This chapterreviews the history, management and sustainabilityof timber production from forests in the studyarea.

While most of the original ecosystems of the broadalluvial plains of northern Victoria have been cleared orextensively altered since European settlement, most ofthe original river red gum forests (principally EcologicalVegetation Classes (EVCs) such as Riverine GrassyWoodland, Riverine Sedgy Forest and Riverine SwampForest—see chapter 5) remain across the floodplains.Regularly flooded land was generally consideredunsuitable for conventional agriculture. TheBarmah–Millewa Forest, covering about 60,000 ha,comprises the most extensive and consolidatedoccurrence of river red gum forest in Australia.Gunbower Forest and the contiguous Perricoota andKoondrook Forests in New South Wales comprise thenext largest. Further downstream, river red gum forestsoccupy regularly flooded bends in the River Murray orare restricted to narrow bands along the river itself.Along the lower reaches of the Murray in Victoria, river red gum occurs as a band of about one-tree depthabove the regular water line of the river, with black boxof similar depth above that and chenopod shrubland asthe surrounding vegetation type (Figure 14.1).

Figure 14.1 The lower reaches of the River Murrayin Victoria where the band of river red gums isabout one-tree depth above the regular water line.Saltbush shrubland occurs in the foreground, blackbox in the middle-ground and river red gum on thenear bank of the river.

The primary commercial use for these forests is timberproduction, the history, management and sustainabilityof which is explored in this chapter. River red gum isnow the only species available for commercial harvestingfrom public land in the River Red Gum Forests studyarea.


River Red Gum Timber Characteristics andProductivity

The ecology of river red gums has been described inchapter 5. In relation to timber production, river redgums have a number of salient characteristics. Seasonedriver red gum is relatively hard (9.7 kN on the Janka test)and moderately dense (900 kg/m3). River red gum hasbeen structurally graded to F22-F27 indicating its highstructural capacity (Australian Hardwood Network 2006).The wood is highly durable (Durability Class 2),particularly in the ground. It is resistant to white antsand borers and, when mature, fairly resistant to ship-worm (Ewart 1925; Forest Commission of Victoria 1928)however the sapwood is vulnerable to lyctid borers.

The interlocking grain and hardness of river red gum canmake it difficult to cut and dress. Warping can occurduring drying due to the timbers’ moderate to highshrinkage rate (approximately 4 percent radially and 8.9percent tangentially). Drying and seasoning of thetimber is therefore a slow process and weighting thestacks may be necessary to prevent warping. River redgum has a low strength rating with an unseasonedstrength rating of S5 and a seasoned rating of SD5 anda medium to light toughness rating (AustralianHardwood Network 2006).

River red gum has many uses including farm fences,posts and poles and for heavy construction (such asrailway sleepers, beams, bridges, stumps, frames, sills,panels, flooring and lining). It is also used for particleboard, plywood and veneer as well as firewood.Increasingly river red gums’ rich vibrant colour anddecorative grain when polished is appreciated forfurniture and fine woodwork (Figure 14.2).

Figure 14.2 River red gum boardroom table in afurniture showroom.

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River red gums can be tall (over 50 m), straight-boledtrees when growing in relatively dense stands, but tendto branch with short bole lengths in open stands.Strong competition for soil moisture causes larger treesto develop a large ‘zone of influence’ within which theyexclude smaller trees (Figure 14.3). Although seedlingsdo grow in the zone of influence, they are fewer innumber and are less vigorous the closer they are to themature tree. Such zones of influence seem to be largeron woodland and low quality forest sites than in higherquality forest sites. Larger trees with healthy vigorouscrowns are the most competitive on any given site (Opie1969; Florence 1996). This influence zone extendsbetween 1.7 and 3 times the radius of the tree’s crown,depending on the vigour of the tree and the availabilityof site resources (Bassett & White 2001).

Figure 14.3 Zone of influence where a larger treereduces the number and vigour of smaller treesnear it.

The quality of a river red gum forest for timberproduction depends on the frequency and timing offlooding. Although some stands may be accessinggroundwater, the most productive stands are usuallyassociated with floodways and depressions that areregularly flooded and reliably drained. Before riverregulation, some 75 percent of the more productiveareas received regular flooding for a few months in 7–8years in 10 (MDBC 1992). River red gum regenerationon the floodplains of the study area is largelydetermined by flooding regimes. Recent low-level floodsin some low-lying areas of Barmah Forest have fosteredthe survival of river red gum seedlings that normallywould have suffered drought stress.

The productivity of river red gum forests has declinedsubstantially, due partly to fewer and shorterwinter–spring floods. This reduction results from theconstruction of the Hume Weir in the mid-1930s, thesubsequent Eildon Weir across the Goulburn River andthe Dartmouth Dam on the upper River Murray, as wellas associated diversions for irrigation purposes (seechapter 15). These events may have increased theinterval between successful forest regeneration eventsand reduced the growth rates of trees. Jacob (1955)noted that the average diameter increment of the betterclass trees prior to river regulation was said to be 0.76 cm per annum but, by 1983, growth rates of 0.25 cm per annum were recorded across a wide rangeof tree diameters (DNRE 2002a; Dexter & Poynter 2005).

Changed flood regimes may also be responsible formortality in mature river red gums. Many floodplainforests, particularly downstream of Cohuna, are showingsymptoms of stress, probably because of altered waterregimes (see chapter 5). Pale-fruit ballart, a native rootparasite, contributes to red gum deaths in stressed treesin the Gunbower and Nyah State Forests, where it maycontribute to tree mortality (MDBC 2003). Watertrapped behind weirs for irrigation and navigation andthe low-level summer floods in the Barmah forest, haveextended some swamplands and killed thousands oftrees. Saline drainage water from farmland may alsostress trees. Along the lower reaches of the RiverMurray, particularly downstream of Hattah–KulkyneNational Park but also as far upstream as Gunbowerforest, several areas are exhibiting signs of stress thatmay be associated with salination.

A study into the causes and effects of the dieback ofriver red gums in northern Victoria and South Australia,under the auspices of the Murray-Darling BasinCommission in 2003, made the following statements onthe causes of the observed health decline in river redgums:

• The observed symptoms are consistent with varyingdegrees of prolonged water stress, indicating a treeresponse to the significant change in flooding regime(i.e. flood frequency, duration and magnitude);

• Flooding has been insufficient to provide theadditional water supply that is necessary for survival.Medium-sized flows in the lower River Murray havebeen reduced from an average frequency of onceevery three years, to an average frequency of onceevery eight years;

• The flooding regime was not sufficient to provide theleaching of salt from floodplain soils that counteractsthe salt accumulation that occurs in the periodbetween floods.

As well as reduced growth of river red gums, the effectsof altered water regimes include changes to theunderstorey, replacing river red gum with box species at the margins, promoting crown die-back, limitedregeneration and increased insect damage (Di Stefano2002). Non-flooded areas are more susceptible todamage by the larvae of gum leaf skeletoniser mothsbecause flooding and consequent high humidityfacilitates the spread of an entomogenous fungus which,in turn, reduces predatory insects that would otherwisekeep populations of gum leaf skeletoniser moths incheck (see chapter 5).

River red gum is not particularly fire resistant. Althoughnot killed by light fire, severe fire can kill pile-sized treesand cause dry sides on larger ones. Light fires marktrees, reducing the quality of the timber for saw milling.

When cut off at the base, river red gum trees coppicefrom the stump (Figure 14.4). Jacobs (1955) observedoccasional river red gum trees of mill log size that hepresumed were coppice shoots from the stumps of treescut in the early days of the river trade. Coppiceregrowth appears to be more prevalent within higherelevation stands where flooding is uncommon.

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History of Timber Production from the Study Area

Aboriginal people used the forests and woodlands of theregion for shelter, implements and food, while earlyEuropean settlers sought local building materials andfuelwood. As the intensity of settlement and thedevelopment of infrastructure increased, so too diddemand for timber. Wood production and forestry hasbeen a key industry in the history of river red gumforests (see chapter 7).

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, large quantities ofround river red gum piles were used to underpin roadand rail bridges around the state and the harbourwharves and piers of Melbourne and Geelong. River redgum was used for house stumps, road paving blocks,mining and fencing timbers and culverts, and to buildthe river steamers and barges that plied the RiverMurray. River red gum poles carried telegraph lines fromthe early 1900s and power transmission lines from about1920. While used mostly for southeastern Australia’sburgeoning infrastructure, significant volumes of theheavy timbers and railway sleepers were also exported,particularly to India (McGowan 1992).

During the 19th century much of the timber cut from theforests was hauled to the river’s edge by bullock or horseteams (and, from the 1920s, by motor lorry) and thenlashed to special barges and towed by paddle steamersto sawmills (Figure 14.5). Before locks and weirs wereconstructed, river transport was restricted to betweenJuly and December when the river was navigable. Inplaces, canals called ‘pontoon cuts’, were constructedbetween shallow creeks so that logs could be floatedout to the river bank on pontoons. Evidence of one ofthese canals (Figure 14.6) still survives today—forexample, the canal known as the ‘steamer track’through Barmah Lakes to Cutting Creek. Extension ofthe rail system caused considerable decline in rivertransport by the 1900s.

Figure 14.5 Loading wood on the River Murray.

Source: Reproduced with permission of the State LibraryVictoria (H25256).

The first sawmill based on river red gum timbers wasestablished at Moama in 1856. Arbuthnot Sawmills wasestablished at Koondrook in 1890 and is still operating.Of the 14 sawmills operating in the Barmah–Gunbowerregion at that time, 12 were located in Victoria, mostlyon the riverbank to take advantage of wharf facilities(Dexter & Poynter 2005). Other mills were located atSwan Hill and Mildura. Echuca, with its port facilitiesand rail link to Melbourne, became the main centre fortimber production in the central Murray region.

As well as being produced at the sawmills, railwaysleepers were hewn with broadaxes ‘at the stump’ (inthe forest). Records show that from only 1372 sleepersproduced in 1898, output peaked at 190,000 pieces inthe early 1930s (Dexter & Poynter 2005). Althoughhewing was economically wasteful, the Railways

Figure 14.4 River red gum coppice.

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Figure 14.6 Cutaway on the Goulburn River nearYambuna.

Department preferred hewn to sawn sleepers (ForestCommission of Victoria 1928), probably because hewerssought out straight-grained logs which were easier tohew, and consequently more predictable in use.

Other species associated with the river red gum forests—the riverine box species and cypress-pine—were alsoutilised, mainly for small poles, sleepers and fencingmaterials. Black box woodlands in the west supplied thedeveloping irrigated horticultural areas with severalhundred thousand pieces of fencing and vine-trellistimbers each year. For instance, extensive areas of blackbox woodland were felled on the upper river terraces inthe vicinity of Cullulleraine, to feed the boiler of theMillewa irrigation system and little remains of thesewoodlands. Black box was also useful for carriagebuilding, furniture and house building (Ewart 1925).Because it doesn’t split, grey box was used for bridgeand wharf decking, tool handles, carriage shafts andmauls (Ewart 1925). Cypress-pine timber is resistant toinsects and easily worked and polished. It was used forflooring, wall linings, weatherboards and other joinery inbuildings. A firewood mill operated at Picola between1946 and 1950 and sent firewood to Melbourne by rail(Dexter & Poynter 2005).

The ready access from the river meant that the forestswere heavily exploited with selective and uncontrolledcutting. Cutting continued even when the forests wereflooded, with fellers standing on specially designedpunts anchored either side of the tree (a practice leavinglarge stumps sometimes up to three metres high).Although official figures were not regularly publishedbefore 1890, the average annual consumption ofVictorian river red gum in the late 1870s was said tototal 48,000 cubic metres, of which 30,000 cubicmetres was sawn timber.

Production increased during the Second World Warwhen wood was also cut for charcoal to be used for gasproduction on vehicles and gas masks. In 1941, some50–60 charcoal retorts were operating in the Barmahforest (Dexter & Poynter 2005). The post-war years sawa sharp increase in demand for posts and vine-trellistimbers for irrigation areas and building timbers forsoldier settlements.

During the 1890–1900 depression, gangs of men wereemployed after harvesting to thin the 1870–1880regrowth and ringbark competing larger trees that wereunsuitable for sawlogs or sleepers. The aim of this workwas to improve growth of sawlog-quality trees (Jacobs1955). By 1928, more than 16,800 ha of river red gumforest had been thinned or ringbarked (ForestCommission of Victoria 1928). Similar silviculturaltreatments were continued throughout the 1930–1940depression (Figure 14.7) (Jacobs 1957; Lutze et al. 1999).The forest structure today is partly a result of that workbut is also due to ongoing utilisation and silviculturalworks, grazing by stock and rabbits, changed floodregimes, and fire.

Figure 14.7 Evidence of ringbarking of trees in the1930–1940 depression is still evident today.

Forest Reservation and the 1897 Royal Commission

The first Parliament of Victoria met in November 1856.The Land Act 1862 was Victoria’s first legislation tocreate reserves for ‘the growth and preservation oftimber’ to prevent their alienation (conversion to privateownership) and to provide for future timber supplies.The Act was strengthened in 1865 and, within a fewyears, more than 400,000 ha of land in the state hadbeen set aside as permanent forest or timber reserves(by 1926 this had risen to more than 1,752,500 ha).Permanent dedication of 72,700 ha of river red gumforest was achieved in 1924.

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While the Land Act reserved many of the more denselyforested areas along the River Murray in Victoria, itoffered little protection from exploitation other thanfrom clearing for agriculture. A series of reports fromthe 1870s detailed ineffective management and wasteof forest resources (McGowan 1992). Forests Bills weredrafted regularly but were ‘usually consigned to oblivion’(Forest Commission of Victoria 1928). A short ForestsAct was put into operation in 1876. Bills werepresented to Parliament in 1879, 1881 and 1892, butnone was enacted, although a royalty system wasadopted in 1892. The inaction eventuated in a RoyalCommission on Forests, which sat from 1897 to 1901and produced 14 reports. The Royal Commission drewattention to the anomaly of having the forests controlledand worked under laws primarily designed for thealienation and settlement of Crown lands. It reportedthat massive timber cutting was occurring under a‘vicious system of indiscriminate licensing’ at ridiculouslylow prices (LCC 1987).

The Royal Commission reported that, if cutting of theriver red gum forests was allowed to continue at thethen existing rate, the remaining forests would beexhausted within five years. It also saw a need forthinning of large areas of heavily stocked (1870–1880s)regrowth. One outcome of the Commission was tobreak the monopoly of the portable steam-poweredsawmills producing sawn sleepers and to permit sleeper-hewers into the forest to cut ‘old and hollow’ logs

rejected by the sawmillers (Dexter & Poynter 2005).

Forest Administration

Between 1876 and 1908, administration of Victoria’sforests shuttled eight times between three different statedepartments (Forest Commission of Victoria 1928). AConservator of Forests had been appointed in 1888, butthe position was administratively ineffective. The1897–1901 Royal Commission led to the Forests Act1907, which established a Forests Department under aMinister of Forests in 1908. It was not until 1919, withthe establishment of a separate Forests Commission,that management stability was achieved (Gillespie &Wright 1993).

In 1984, the Forests Commission became part of thenew Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands.Forest management was subsequently undertakenthrough divisions or services within the new departmentand its successors, now the Department of Sustainabilityand Environment (DSE).

In 2002, wide-ranging reforms were introduced to themanagement of Victoria’s native forests through thegovernment’s policy statement Our Forests Our Future(Government of Victoria 2002). These reforms weredirected towards a sustainable timber industry and theseparation of land stewardship responsibilities fromthose of the commercial licensing and harvesting of logs.

As a consequence of this policy, and the Sustainable

Map 14.1 Forest Management Areas (FMAs) and areas of responsibility (DSE and VicForests) overlappingwith the study area.

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Forests (Timber) Act 2004, responsibility for commercialtimber harvesting in eastern Victorian state forestsdevolved to VicForests, a state-owned enterpriseregulated under the State Owned Enterprises Act1992.VicForests’ area of responsibility overlaps with thoseparts of the River Red Gum Forests study area in DSE’sNorth East Forest Management Area (Map 14.1) but the15-year allocation order issued in 2004 does not provideaccess to any river red gum forest stands. TheSustainable Forests (Timber) (Amendment) Act 2006,provides for DSE (i.e. not VicForests) to continue tomanage commercial harvesting in western Victoria (i.ethe rest of the River Red Gum Forests study area).

DSE remains the custodian of all Crown land, and isresponsible for ensuring that all uses of the state’sforests are sustainable. This includes managing theentire range of forest uses and values, includingconservation of natural and cultural values, recreationand protecting forest ecosystems from wildfire, disease,pests and weeds, as well as managing forests for timberproduction. DSE also retains management and thelicensing of a range of commercial activities other thantimber harvesting, such as apiculture, as well as the saleof other wood products, including domestic firewood,throughout Victoria’s state forests.

Map 14.2 shows the history of timber harvesting in theRiver Red Gum Forests study area, to the extent that ithas been mapped to date.

Forest Inventory

The first assessment of the timber resources of Barmahforest was undertaken in 1929–30 and was directed atthe preparation of a ‘working plan’ for the river red gumforests. That assessment identified relatively lowvolumes of trees of sawlog quality compared to the totalmerchantable volume, which included the volume insmaller trees—‘growing stock’ (Dexter & Poynter 2005).

Mapping, classification and intensive assessment ofstands in the Barmah forest in 1960–61 found aconsiderable increase in growing stock and total sawlogvolume since the 1930s, notwithstanding that significantvolumes had been harvested in the intervening period.Individual forest stands were allocated to one of threesite quality classes (SQ) based on the height of thedominant mature trees (SQ I, > 30 m, highest quality;SQ II, 21–30 m, medium quality; SQ III, < 21 m, lowestquality). Site quality is a surrogate measure of thegrowth potential of a site, which is determined by thesoil, climate and water.

During the late 1980s, assessments were againconducted in the Barmah forest as well as Gunbowerforest and the larger areas of forest along the GoulburnRiver (Cuddy et al. 1993). Earlier assessments hadcovered the forests along the River Murray upstream ofBarmah and along the Ovens River. The currentlegislated sawlog sustainable yield (see below) andpermitted levels of harvesting of sleepers derive fromthese assessments.

Permanent Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) sampleplots enable systematic measurements of timber volumesand forest growth over time. Periodic measurement oftrees in CFI plots in river red gum forests began in 1961.As this followed the completion of most major riverregulation structures (with the exception of DartmouthDam), the initial data would reflect the reduced growthrates caused by the altered flooding regimes up to thattime. Although there has been some subsequentmeasurement of many of the plots, there has been littleif any systematic analysis of existing data, or systematicplanning for future data collection.

A Statewide Forest Resource Inventory (SFRI) programcommenced in 1994 to provide the first systematic,comprehensive and standardised statement of Victoria’snative forest resources. The SFRI used a consistent forest


A Statewide Forest Resource Inventory (SFRI) wasinitiated in 1994–95 with the aim of mappingapproximately 3.5 million ha of state forest in Victoriaand sampling the timber productive areas todetermine the volume of sawlogs they carry. Theprogram was also structured to provide the necessarybase data to enable development of new growthmodels for a number of forest types, therebyenhancing the capacity to forecast timber yields.Specifically, SFRI was designed to:

• update the state’s timber resource data, replacing1960-70s data with information independent offorest product standards;

• be the state’s first complete forest resourceinventory based on a single inventory design andstandard;

• provide a consistent classification of all vegetationon public land across the state;

• enable new growth and yield models to be

developed for many of the state’s native forests;

• enable resource estimates to be made to a uniformstandard of utilisation;

• have the capacity to adjust to new utilisationstandards; and

• provide a basis for resource estimates, sustainableyield forecasts and management planning well intothe 21st century.

Other products of the SFRI included:

• environmental data (slope, aspect, tree hollows)collected at each sample plot and digital elevationmodel information, that would be applicable forbiodiversity and habitat modelling;

• information about disturbance of the forest standsby factors such as timber harvesting, fire anddisease; and

• crown cover and crown form information, whichcould assist old-growth analyses for the purposes ofRegional Forest Agreements.

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214 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

stand classification system across the state. Treemeasurements were independent of the particular forestproducts that they may be able to produce, allowing foraccurate volume estimation even if sawlog and othertimber product specifications change. The inventory alsoincluded the collection of biodiversity information, suchas numbers of tree hollows (see Box 14.1).

Mapping of the river red gum forests has beencompleted but it has not been used for strategicplanning, to identify the relative sawlog productivity ofstands or to forecast sustainable yield of wood products.Reallocation of priorities within DSE means that suchinventory will be unlikely in the short term.


To facilitate management of its forest estate, Victoria isdivided into three forest management regions (FMR).These regions—North East, Western and Gippsland—arefurther divided into 15 geographic regions, known asForest Management Areas (FMAs). Forest ManagementAreas are defined under the Forests (Timber Harvesting)Act 1990 as areal bases for determining sustainable yieldof sawlogs. They are also used for planning themanagement of the forests. As shown in Map 14.1, theRiver Red Gum Forests study area encompassesappreciable parts of three FMAs—North East, Mid-Murray, and Mildura—and small parts (containing verylittle public land) of the Bendigo Forest ManagementArea.

A hierarchy of planning, set out as a flow chart inAppendix 13, exists for the management and control offorest operations in the state. The principal elements aredescribed below.

Strategic Level

Code of Forest Practice for Timber Production

The Code of Forest Practice for Timber Production (DNRE 1996a) establishes goals, guidelines and minimumstandards of environmental care to be observed duringall commercial timber production activities in the state(including growing and harvesting of public and privatenative forests and softwood and hardwood plantationsand associated roading operations).

Although public and private land in Victoria aregoverned by different legislation, the Code appliesacross both public and private forests and compliancewith it is required under the Sustainable Forests (Timber)Act 2004 and the Victorian Planning Provisions.

The Code’s purpose is to ensure that these activities arecarried out in a way that:

• promotes an internationally competitive forestindustry;

• is compatible with the conservation of the wide rangeof environmental values;

• promotes ecologically sustainable management ofnative forests for continuous timber production.

The Code was last reviewed in 1996, with acommitment to undertake a review at least every 10years. A full review of the Code is due for completion in2006 (the public comment period for the draft revised

Code closed in April 2006). As well as publicconsultation, the review will evaluate advances inforestry science, while considering community andindustry expectations for an economically andecologically sustainable timber industry.

Forest Management Plans

A forest management plan is the fundamental plan forthe management of environmental, cultural and resourcevalues of state forests within a region. It establishesbroad strategies for integrating the sustainableproduction of timber and other uses with theconservation of natural, cultural and aesthetic values. Along-term goal of forest management is to sustainablymanage all forest values, including the supply of wood.Accordingly, areas of state forest are allocated to one ofthree zones according to priorities in management forthe range of intrinsic and community values and uses,including nature conservation and recreation as well astimber harvesting. The zones represent a hierarchy inthe levels of protection:

• general management zone (GMZ)—managed for arange of features, with timber production a major use;

• special management zone (SMZ)—managed toconserve specific attributes (such as sites important fornature conservation, historical or archaeologicalartefacts or recreation sites), with timber production orother land use practices permitted althoughconstrained or modified (rather than excluded) toavoid conflict with the maintenance of the attributes.This zone contributes to the conservation of importantspecies, particularly fauna, as well as encompassinglandscape and water management issues;

• special protection zone (SPZ)—managed forconservation and to minimise disturbances orprocesses that threaten the respective natural orcultural values, with timber production excluded.

Although the strategies set out in forest managementplans apply only to state forest, they are framed in thecontext that conservation is integrated across all nativeforests on the permanent public land estate. As such,they are designed to build on and complement theprotection provided by the system of dedicatedconservation reserves established following studies intopublic land use by the Land Conservation Council and itssuccessors (see chapter 10 Nature Conservation). Special

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protection zones, for instance, complement formalreserves and contribute to the development of Australia’scomprehensive, adequate and representative forestreserve system (Commonwealth of Australia 1992).

Forest management planning also considers other forestuses, including recreation and silviculture as well as theimpact of grazing, water management and pest plantsand animals on forest health. The plans provideguidelines for protecting and managing specific values oruses, such as protecting large old trees and promotingthe development of maturing trees across the timber-productive forests, developing grazing strategies basedon ecological requirements of the forest and thepreparation of pest-control programs.

Public input is integral to the forest managementplanning process. Members from the community withparticular interests in the area contribute to discussionson particular issues and assist in decision-making.Similar to the processes followed by VEAC, input issought from the broader community from the outset ofthe planning process and comment is invited ondiscussion papers and draft plans.

Forest management plans for the respective ForestManagement Areas that overlap the River Red GumForests study area have been completed. From the eastthese are:

• Forest Management Plan for the North East (2001)—the River Red Gum Forests study area encompassesonly a relatively small portion of the total planningarea, which covers the North East FMA (an operationalamalgam of the Wangaratta FMA and the majority ofthe Wodonga FMA) and Benalla–Mansfield FMAs, andpart of the Central FMA;

• Forest Management Plan for the Mid-Murray ForestManagement Area (2002a); and

• Forest Management Plan for the Floodplain StateForests of the Mildura Forest Management Area

(2004)—the Mildura FMA covers extensive areas ofmallee and chenopod vegetation types which occur tothe southwest of the floodplain state forests to whichthis plan is restricted; these floodplain state forests areentirely contained within the VEAC River Red GumForests study area.

Currently, the overwhelming majority of wood productharvesting, and especially sawlog and sleeper harvesting,occurs in the Mid-Murray FMA.

Operational Level

Management Procedures

The Code of Forest Practice provides for regionalprescriptions for timber harvesting and associatedactivities in state forests. Previously, the regionalprescriptions combined the requirements of the Codeand strategic forest management plans and accountedfor the ecological and growth characteristics of theparticular forests found in each Forest ManagementArea. They were more detailed than the actions andguidelines set out in the forest management plans andprovided practical, detailed operational instructions thatwere applicable at the Forest Management Area level.

In October 2005, the various regional prescriptions wereconsolidated into Management Procedures for TimberHarvesting Operations and Associated Activities in StateForests in Victoria (DSE 2005e) to facilitate consistentstatewide implementation of environmental standards inall operational aspects of commercial timber harvesting.

The Management Procedures do not duplicate or replaceeither the Code or the relevant forest management planand all three documents need to be considered together.

The objectives of the Management Procedures are to:

• provide detailed prescriptions for forest managementactivities for specific Forest Management Areas, asrequired by the Code;

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• standardise, where appropriate, managementprescriptions across the state;

• set out best practice at a state level;

• provide a comprehensive reference for use by DSE andVicForests staff involved in the planning, management,implementation and monitoring of timber harvestingoperations and associated activities;

• prescribe minimum operational standards forVicForests.

The Management Procedures (DSE 2005e) require thatthe felling of trees to yield only products other thansawlogs and sleepers be permitted only:

• where sawlog productivity and stand health are notcompromised;

• for silvicultural treatment;

• where required for seed collection purposes;

• where the trees are a safety risk; or

• for approved fence line clearance or track constructionor maintenance.

Trees may also be felled for these products as a follow-up treatment to a sawlog operation.

Wood Utilisation Plans

Schedules of coupes selected for harvesting each yearand associated access roading must be set out in WoodUtilisation Plans (prepared by DSE) or Timber ReleasePlans (prepared by VicForests). VicForests is notresponsible for timber harvesting in the study area soTimber Release Plans are not discussed further.

Wood Utilisation Plans (WUPs) are prepared inaccordance with the Wood Utilisation PlanningGuidelines for State Forests in Victoria 2005. They areprepared by DSE annually, on a three-year rolling basis,for all commercial forest operations it manages(including where material is to be used locally by DSE,such as for bridge timbers). The three-year WoodUtilisation Plans provide detailed specifications for thefirst year and indicative specifications for the followingtwo years. Harvesting of all wood products in the RiverRed Gum Forests study area is currently managed by DSEunder these plans.

As well as commercial production areas, domesticfirewood collection areas in which trees are to be felledwith firewood as the only product (as occurs with standthinning), must be identified in the respective plans.Such areas are identified in the Mildura and Mid-MurrayWood Utilisation Plans (DSE 2006e, f, g).

Preparation of these plans involves consideration of eachproposed logging coupe individually to comply with therelevant forest management plan, the Code and relatedManagement Procedures to conserve forest values (flora,fauna, landscape, cultural heritage, water, soil andrecreation opportunities). Individual timber harvestingareas (coupes) must be selected on the basis that theycontain the required quantities and mix of woodproducts that can be supplied using sound silviculturalpractices and in consideration of all environmental carerequirements. The plans must provide coupe details,maps and supporting information identifying thelocation and timing of harvesting and constructionworks and the silvicultural system to be applied.

Preparation of Wood Utilisation Plans involves publicsubmissions on proposed operations and the finaldocuments are available to the public.

Coupe Plans and Management of Coupes

Coupe plans must be prepared for every timberharvesting operation. Each coupe plan contains a mapidentifying the boundaries of the coupe, a scheduleincorporating the specifications and harvestingconditions under which the operation is to be

administered and controlled and other managementrequirements, such as habitat tree retention.

Prior to the commencement of harvesting the followingmust be accurately located on-site and clearly specifiedand recorded on the coupe plan or relevant site plan(DSE 2005e):

• all coupe boundaries;

• the location of all excluded areas;

• the location of filter strips and buffers;

• habitat tree requirements (these are also markedwhere required); and

• trees for retention and/or trees for removal.

DSE advice is that, in practice, an operating coupe in theriver red gum forests is inspected at least twice a weekand only those trees marked by the forest supervisormay be felled. A coupe is also inspected prior to thedeparture of the logging contractor to check that allmarketable wood has been removed and for anybreaches of boundaries or other conditions. Monitoringis also carried out some 18 to 24 months afterharvesting is completed to assess the level of stocking ofnatural regrowth and the need for regeneration works.

Environmental Audits

An environmental audit system has operated in Victoriaunder the Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act)since 1989. In 2002, the Environment ProtectionAuthority (EPA) became responsible for conductingenvironmental audits of forest operations on public landto assess compliance of forestry activities with the Codeof Forest Practice for Timber Production (Figure 14.8). In accordance with the Environment Protection Act1970, audits are also required to identify ‘the risk of anypossible harm or detriment to the environment causedby forestry activities as may be assessed by adherence to

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current controls and operational compliance with thestandards in the code’ (EPA Victoria 2003b).

The 2003 audit of the 2002–03 timber-harvesting seasonwas the first independent environmental audit of timberproduction on public land undertaken in Victoria. Theindependent auditor appointed by the EPA wassupported by a team with expertise in forestry, ecology,soil science and engineering (EPA Victoria 2003a).Additional matters may also be referred to the auditor,such as the Special Forest Audit in 2005, which wasdirected at four logging incidents that occurred in 2004and 2005 during harvesting operations in East Gippslandand the Mid-Murray FMA (EPA Victoria 2006). This auditfound that “a substantial portion of a superb parrotSpecial Protection Zone has been selectively logged atcoupe 105-509-0006 (Flanagans)” (EPA Victoria 2006)and determined that this breach had a number ofcauses. These included the accuracy and completenessof information held in the Coupe Information System,inadequacies in the coupe plans and modifications tothe coupe boundaries without review (EPA Victoria2006). Flooding prevented the audit team frominspecting the actual site but DSE reported that,although some of the trees in the 100-m SPZ wereharvested, no habitat trees were affected by theoperation. The audit noted that the DSE has institutedprocedural changes to reduce the risk of similar breachesoccurring in the future. However, other breaches—suchas harvesting of several hectares beyond coupeboundaries—have subsequently occurred.

Outcomes of the audits may include recommendationsto improve compliance with the Code and increaseenvironmental performance of timber harvestingoperations as well as indications of how the Code maybe amended to facilitate compliance. The outcomes ofthe audit program are expected to be of benefit to theforestry industry and the community as well as DSE andVicForests, by providing an objective and independentassessment of the status of compliance of timberharvesting operations with the Code. DSE’s responses toeach of the recommendations are recorded in the finalaudit report.

Area Available for Harvesting

State forest in the study area covers 104,720 ha, or 40percent of the study area’s public land estate (Table 9.1).All state forest is potentially available for timberproduction. However, not all of the gross area of stateforest is actually available or, indeed, suitable for timberproduction. Some areas in the study area, such as waterbodies, open wetlands and grasslands are inherentlyunsuitable for the growth of trees while others supporttrees that are unproductive for timber (either because oftheir species or poor growth). Some species or areas areprotected by departmental prescription, while others,although suitable and productive, may be inaccessible orof insufficient size to be commercial.

Protection of Water Quality

Several of the standards established in the Code ofForest Practice for Timber Production (DNRE 1996a) areaimed at protecting water quality and aquatic habitatvalues. These include:

• retaining a buffer of riparian and other vegetation

extending at least 20 m on either side of a permanentstream (i.e. a stream that has open water at minimumflows) and around permanent springs, swampyground, wetlands or other bodies of standing water;

• retaining a filter strip extending at least 10 m oneither side of temporary streams and drainage lines.

The Code was primarily developed in relation tomountain and foothill forests where local rainfall is themajor influence on water movement, however this is notthe case in the floodplain environment. The soils of thefloodplains have developed by deposition of sedimentfrom the major watercourses during floods. Thepresence of sediment in streams is affected more byactivities in the catchments than by activities on thefloodplains themselves. The topsoils of the floodplainstypically consist of silty clay which, if exposed to rapidrun-off, is likely to erode. Floods, however, are causedby ‘run-on’ from upstream events rather than run-offfrom local rainfall. The low surface profile prevents rapidwater movement during river flooding and recession andreduces erosion.

Accordingly, and in line with the Code, the Mid-MurrayForest Management Plan requires the establishment of a20 metre buffer, from which timber harvesting activitiesare excluded, on main rivers and anabranches, lakes,billabongs and lagoons that maintain permanent openwater at minimum river flows. Further, in the floodplainenvironment, timber-harvesting activities are notpermitted where there is free water or saturated soil andare excluded from within 20 m of the water-line orsaturated zone, wherever it may occur at the time ofharvesting. Under standard conditions, these latter areasmay be harvested when water is absent, however. TheManagement Procedures also require maintenance ofbuffer and filter strips (DSE 2005e). These buffers, alongwith gazetted public land water frontage reserves withinstate forest, are not available for timber harvesting.

Forest Zoning

The principles behind the designation of forestmanagement zones are discussed above. Zoning

Figure 14.8 Auditors, community representativesand Department of Sustainability and Environmentstaff in Barmah State Forest during an ObservationDay designed to consult with the community andimprove the audit process.

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excludes harvesting from areas (such as SpecialProtection Zones) or restricts the intensity or timing ofharvesting permitted in others (such as SpecialManagement Zones). Table 14.1 sets out the area ofstate forest in the study area allocated to each forestmanagement zone.

Not all zones are displayed on public maps. In theBarmah Forest, for instance, the nesting sites of superbparrot—protected by both a 250-m radius SpecialManagement Zone (in which activities are restrictedduring the breeding season) and a 100-m radius SpecialProtection Zone around each nesting tree—are notreproduced in the maps accompanying the ForestManagement Plan to discourage poaching for the birdtrade.

Although timber-harvesting operations are generallyexcluded from Heritage River Areas, they are permitted,subject to restrictions in accordance with the HeritageRivers Act 1992 and the Heritage Rivers (Amendment)Act 1998, in parts of the Goulburn and Ovens HeritageRiver Areas. These areas are treated as SpecialManagement Zones in the planning process.

Prescriptions and Other Unmapped Provisions forEnvironmental Protection

Prescriptions established through the forest managementplanning processes make special provisions for theprotection of such values as the habitats of endangeredspecies, wetlands and large old trees (see below), as wellas to promote the development of large trees across theforest landscape. Under the provisions the Mid-MurrayForest Management Plan, for instance, commercialtimber harvesting is excluded from all occurrences in

state forest of Buloke Woodland, cypress pine, Black BoxWoodland and Northern Plains Grassy Woodland,regardless of whether or not they are included in SpecialProtection Zone. Similarly, any Black Box Chenopod(saltbush) Woodland occurring within the Special orGeneral Management Zones of the Mildura FMA isprotected from disturbance, and timber harvesting isexcluded from all occurrences of buloke, cypress pine,grey box and black box in this FMA.

Although these areas are not specifically mapped, andtherefore do not appear in the area tables above, theynevertheless further diminish the net available productivearea.

Retention of Habitat Trees

Guidelines for the protection of flora and fauna values,set out in the Code of Forest Practice for TimberProduction, seek the retention of habitat trees (Figure14.9) and old-age understorey elements in appropriatenumbers and configurations, and the recruitment ofpotentially hollow-bearing trees (see chapter 5) within oraround coupes. A major goal of the forest managementplans is to ensure that there are sufficient large old treesacross the forest, within the constraints of soundsilvicultural principles. The presence of large old treessuppresses the recruitment and growth of young treesso, in production forests, a balance is required.

While the emphasis since the 1970s has been ondeveloping a system of reserves to address the strongcommunity demand for environmental conservation andrecreation in the forests (Special Protection Zone), therehas also been a shift to greater retention of trees for

Table 14.1. Area of each Forest Management Zone within the River Red Gum Forests study area.

Forest management Availability for Total area of Area of each zone in the study areazone timber harvesting each zone in the within the respective forest

study area (ha) management plans (ha)

Mildura Mid-Murray North East

Streamside reserves and code of forest practice exclusions Excluded 1132 522 494 116

Special Protection Zone (SPZ) Excluded 11,910 143 10,125 1642

Special Management Permitted, subject toZone (SMZ) restrictions in excess

of standard restrictions 22,569 6671 15,898 0

General Management Permitted, subject toZone (GMZ) standard restrictions 67,675 31,494 31,467 4714

Total area of state forest 103,286 38,830 57,984 6472

Notes: Includes buffers prescribed through the Code of Forest Practice and gazetted Public Land Water Frontage Reserves withinstate forests (equivalent to SPZ). ‘Management procedures for timber harvesting operations and associated activities in state forestsin Victoria’ (DSE 2005e) requires the retention of certain numbers of habitat trees; these are considered by DSE to be standardconditions in the river red gum forests.

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habitat in the timber-productive forests, particularly inSpecial Management Zones—but also in GeneralManagement Zones, albeit to a lesser extent.

An analysis of stand structure in Barmah forest(Appendix 14) shows that the numbers of trees in thelarger size classes have increased over time, although theDepartment of Natural Resources and Environment(2002a) suggests that in many areas of public land theproportion of the forest comprising large old trees wouldstill be lower than would occur naturally.

The Management Procedures (see above) establishguidelines for the retention of habitat trees in eachForest Management Area in the state. For the Milduraand Mid-Murray FMAs these are:

• all trees known to be used for nesting by significantfauna (such as superb and regent parrots) must beretained and protected;

• all trees greater than 100 cm diameter at breastheight (DBH) must be retained;

• retain a minimum of 20 live trees within the 50–100cm DBH range for every 10 ha within the Benwell,Guttrum and Gunbower State Forests in the MidMurray FMA;

• for every 10 ha elsewhere in the Mildura and Mid-Murray FMAs, 20 trees within the 50–100 cm DBHrange and 20 within 100–150 cm range; adjusted sothat, if there is a deficiency in numbers in one of thesize groups, a total of 40 live trees are retained withinthe 50–150 cm DBH range (DSE 2005e).

Implementation of these habitat tree guidelines isestimated to lead to at least 24 percent of the area ofeach coupe in river red gum forests being occupied byretained trees (DNRE 2002a). In the Mid-Murray FMA,retention of habitat trees at these levels was estimatedto effectively reduce the area of forest that is potentiallyavailable for commercial timber production in theGeneral Management Zone by about 6900 ha (about36 percent) and approximately 4400 ha in the SpecialManagement Zone.

Bren (2001) noted that, at the current prescribed levelsof habitat tree retention, 74 percent of the growthpotential on SQ I (highest quality) sites would go ontoretained habitat trees, while on SQ II and SQ III(medium and lowest quality) sites, habitat trees wouldabsorb 100 percent—suggesting that the potential ofhabitat trees to absorb site resources is greater than theirrelative proportion in a stand.

Net Available Area for Harvesting in State Forest

The area of state forest that is potentially available fortimber production in the River Red Gum Forests studyarea, once exclusions are made for the Code of ForestPractice and legislated reserves, totals 102,154 ha (Table14.1). After accounting for the area of SpecialProtection Zones and other sites identified in therespective forest management plans where timberproduction is excluded, a total of 90,244 ha remains;this is defined as the net available area.

The Statewide Forest Resource Inventory (see above) wasdesigned to determine the actual extent and indicate therelative timber productivity of stands within the netavailable area. Using the SFRI data, the net available

productive area would then be determined bysubtracting from the net available area, the areas offorest that are of low inherent productivity, inaccessibleor of insufficient size to be commercial. However, theSFRI data are not available to indicate the extent of theother factors. Therefore, the total area of General andSpecial Management Zones (90,244 ha) in Table 14.1does not, by itself, indicate the actual area that is bothavailable and suitable for commercial timber production.

Non-State Forest Public Land Available for TimberProduction

Commercial timber production was permitted in about2500 ha of forest in the Barmah State Park (LCC 1985).Licences for timber harvesting here expired in 2003.

Limited extraction of timber products is permitted inabout 3103 ha of the River Murray Reserve in theMildura FMA (in accordance with approved LandConservation Council recommendations: LCC 1989a)where consistent with protecting natural and scenicvalues, conserving of native flora and fauna and theprotecting of sites of archaeological, cultural andhistorical importance. This incorporates areas at SpencesBend, Police Bend, Pound Bend, Buchanans Bends,Camerons Bend, Burra Forest and Vinifera Forest (butexcludes the 60-m Murray River Public PurposesReserve). Some small-scale thinning operations thatproduced firewood have been undertaken within theseportions of the River Murray Reserve. LCC (1985) alsoprovided for limited timber production within the LochGarry Wildlife Management Cooperative Area and inabout 790 ha of the River Murray Reserve within theMurray Valley Area. The Mid-Murray Forest

Figure 14.9. Large tree retained for habitat values inBenwell State Forest.

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Management Plan excludes timber harvesting from theRiver Murray Reserve in that Forest Management Area.These areas have not been included in the estimate ofsustainable yield for sawlogs.

Timber Production on Other Lands

Wareing (2002) lists about 23,000 ha of the river redgum forest type on private property in northeasternVictoria (as far west as Echuca). The bulk of these areasare on higher ground than the more productive forestsand overall productivity is likely to be similar to that ofthe SQ III sites on public land. A negligible volume oftimber is harvested from these forests. Further, theNative Vegetation Retention Controls (introduced in1989 under the provisions of the Planning andEnvironment Act 1987) reduced the amount ofcommercial timber harvesting that occurred on privateland.

The New South Wales (NSW) river red gum timberindustry is based on the floodplain forests of theMurrumbidgee, lower Lachlan and Darling Rivers as wellas those along the River Murray. The river red gumforests here total several hundred thousand hectares—probably several times their extent in Victoria. Inaddition, a much higher proportion of these forests—and the wood products sourced from them—and are onprivate land than is the case in Victoria. Nonetheless,privately–owned native forests in NSW may be subject tonative vegetation retention controls.

Silvicultural Practices

Silviculture is the management of forests throughestablishment, composition and growth, and describesthe harvesting and regeneration system used to achievespecific objectives for an area of forest. The particularsilvicultural system applied depends on the object ofmanagement—for example, to return the forest to amore natural structure or to sustainably harvest thelargest amount of timber, or a combination. One ormore silvicultural systems may be applied to an area offorest, depending on its structure, condition andmanagement objective and can be used to produce amosaic of different stands of various structures withinthe area. Timber harvesting can be used as a silviculturalsystem to develop the desired forest structure, forexample, firewood harvesting while thinning small,dense stems.

Forest management for timber production needsappropriate silvicultural system to ensure a sustainableyield of merchantable products within soundenvironmental and economic constraints. Accordingly,successful silvicultural systems in native forests aim to(DNRE 2002a):

• ensure the long-term conservation of the ecosystem(at the forest level, this requires an age-class structureadequately representing all key successional stages ofthe respective species—including the understorey andnon-merchantable species);

• address the basic requirements of the respective treespecies for establishment and growth;

• ensure adequate regeneration of harvested areas withthe correct species mix;

• foster subsequent development of the forest stands;

• maximise the yield of merchantable timber, where thatis an objective;

• minimise environmental impact;

• incorporate social and economic considerations;

• protect the forest, and particularly the regrowth, fromdamage through factors such as wildfire, browsing,disease and insect attack;

and, in the river red gum forests:

• integrate water management and silviculturalactivities.

The structure and density of forest stands determinetheir timber productivity and the success of regrowth.Options for the management of regrowth can includesuch actions as the removal of overwood to reducecompetition with the regrowth and thinning of theregrowth to foster development of timber-productivetrees.

Although large areas of the river red gum forestscomprised even-aged regeneration originating from the1870–1880s, subsequent harvesting, silviculturalactivities and restrictions imposed on gap sizes have leadto the creation of a largely uneven-aged forest. Thisforest structure is maintained and promoted through thecurrent application of single-tree and (small) groupselection cutting systems (these are essentially uneven-aged silvicultural systems—see below), retention ofhabitat trees and stand thinning. Of the 1230 ha ofriver red gum forest silviculturally treated in 1997–98, forexample, 10 percent was subject to group selection, 40percent to single-tree selection and 50 percent wasthinned (Lutze et al. 1999).

This situation is reinforced by the ManagementProcedures (DSE 2005e), which specify that group orsingle-tree selection systems should be applied in theriverine forests, and that the seed tree systems may beapplied to areas of between 2 and 5 ha where theexisting stand is even-aged. The Wood Utilisation Plansfor the Mid-Murray FMP exemplies application of theseprocedures, where, except for regrowth managementwork, the silvicultural system planned to be applied isexclusively uneven-aged (DSE 2006e, f).

Single-tree Selection System

This system is applicable in naturally uneven-agedstands. Single-tree selection involves removal ofscattered individual trees from a stand, with theirselection determined by the objectives for standmanagement and the timber products sought. Theperiod between successive harvests from the one standis usually between 10 and 15 years and can be repeatedindefinitely. Regeneration of the site is usually achievedthrough coppice or lignotubers as the survival ofseedlings in such small gaps can be problematic becauseof competition from surrounding trees (see above).Single-tree selection is recommended for the lower site-quality areas of the river red gum forests where floodsare less common and regeneration less reliable and forsites managed primarily for environmental conservation(Lutze et al. 1999).

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Group Selection System

This is the most common silvicultural system currentlyapplied in the river red gum forests. It comprisesscattered fellings of either individual trees or smallgroups to produce gaps of sufficient size, generally lessthan a hectare, so that natural or induced seedfall fromthe surrounding trees can be used and to foster seedlingdevelopment. While, in most forest types, the gaps areusually no more than two tree-heights across, in the riverred gum forests, where seed is dispersed on floodwaters, larger gaps sizes can be employed. As matureriver red gum trees compete strongly for soil water, andtrees surrounding a gap readily expand their roots andbranches to occupy the site, the size and shape of thegap produced in a harvesting operation is important forsuccessful establishment and growth of the seedlings.The Department of Natural Resources and Environment(2002a) considers this system to be appropriate for themore productive river red gum stands and whereseedling regeneration is more reliable.

Under this system, a range of timber products may beharvested from an area of forest on cycles of between10 and 30 years depending on stand structure, thegrowth of the trees in the period between harvests, andthe products sought.

Seed Tree System

Under this system, all live trees in a coupe are felled,apart from a number of uniformly distributed treesretained to provide seed (seed trees), and those requiredfor environmental (habitat) purposes. Seedfall mayoccur naturally or be induced.

Australian Group Selection System

The Australian group selection system (Jacobs 1955) canbe used to create gaps of 5–10 ha (clear-felling smallpatches) within which substantial areas of even-agedregeneration can establish, with habitat trees groupedrather than dispersed throughout the coupe. Thissystem is not currently applied in the river red gumforests in Victoria, but is applied to some degree in NSWstate forests. Dexter and Poynter (2005) suggest thatthis system meets the requirements of the Code ofForest Practice better than the systems currently appliedin the river red gum forests. They contend that theuneven-aged silvicultural system that is applied to theriver red gum forests, superimposed by the prescriptionsfor retention of habitat trees, appear to meet neither theCode of Forest Practice requirements for sustainability oftimber production nor its principles of soundenvironmental practice.


As current timber harvesting operations produce manysmall sites requiring regeneration each year, provisionmust be made to regenerate them to prescribed stockinglevels (numbers) within a reasonable time. Native ForestSilviculture Guideline No.10 (DNRE 1997a) requiresstocking surveys in areas subject to regular flooding tobe undertaken 18 to 36 months after the first floodevent following harvesting. In areas not subject toregular flooding, the surveys are to be undertaken 18 to36 months after the completion of harvesting. If naturalregeneration is shown to be inadequate, remedial actionis required.

In general, regeneration of river red gums in thefloodplain forests is achieved through natural seedfalland seeds are dispersed during flooding. However,seedbed preparation and artificial seeding may berequired to produce regeneration on specific sites (DiStefano 2002). The seedbed may be prepared throughsoil disturbance or by burning of the logging debris andmay be timed to take advantage of natural seed-fall inspring.

Although germination of river red gums seed is usuallyprolific in the floodplain forests, the longer term survivalof the seedlings is often compromised by a lack of waterat the appropriate times. Coordination of harvestingand regeneration operations with water managementcould benefit the establishment and survival of seedlingsand subsequent forest growth.

Stand Thinning

Millions of river red gum seeds germinate on the forestfloor most years, but the majority die in the first fewyears through flood, drought, insects or browsing. Highseedling losses also occur through soil drought causedby competition from grass or surrounding trees.Subsequent competition between the saplings producesa gradual reduction in the numbers of surviving stems asthey grow. At age 8, for instance, SQ I (highest quality)river red gum stands can carry 3600 saplings perhectare, but by age 108, this will have reduced to some90 trees per hectare. SQ II (medium quality) stands cansupport some 3000 saplings per hectare at age 8 andabout 70 trees at 108 years (Dexter & Poynter 2005). Itusually takes about 100 years or more to producesawlog-sized trees in river red gum forests.

Thinning of young stands removes some trees, most ofwhich are usually already suppressed with poor form.Such management techniques makes more of the site’sresources available to the retained trees. The growthpotential of the site is thereby concentrated in theretained trees, which grow faster and reach the requireddimensions sooner. Thinning does not aim to establishregeneration.

The periodic thinning of regrowth and removal ofunmerchantable trees (where not required for habitat)are considered essential to maintain the timberproductivity of the river red gum forests. Ecologicalthinning may also be undertaken to specifically improvebiodiversity values, such as by enhancing conditions forunderstorey growth, the habitat of certain species ofwildlife or for forest health. For example, Harris (1975)found that thinning dense stands of 28-year-old river redgum regeneration significantly reduced the level ofdefoliation caused by the larvae of the gum leafskeletoniser moth in 1965–66. The recent droughtconditions have imposed excessive water stress on manyareas of forest, particularly in the west of the study area.Thinning operations have been undertaken to alleviatesome of this stress on the retained trees.

Thinning treatments can be ‘pre-commercial’, in whichno timber products are harvested. Such treatments arenormally carried out in younger stands. Thinning ofolder stands can yield commercial wood products (suchas poles, sleepers, posts and firewood).

The high costs of labour have meant that the necessary

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thinnings have generally not been carried out in the riverred gum forests (Figure 14.10). As a consequence, theon-growth of larger-sized trees suitable for sleepers,piles, sawlogs and, indeed, large habitat trees is delayed.This problem was evident at the earliest stages of forestmanagement (Forest Commission of Victoria 1928) andpersists today.

Sustainable Yield

The fundamental principle of sustainability in woodproduction from forests is that the resources should notbe harvested at rates faster than they are growing. Thevolume of logs to be supplied from each ForestManagement Area is specified in log licences and isbased on forecasts of the sustainable levels at whichtrees of a suitable size can be harvested. In practicalterms, sustainable yield is a forecast of the rate ofharvesting that can be maintained for a given periodwithout impairing the long-term productivity of the land.It must take into account the structure and condition ofthe forest, predicted growth and the diverse range offorest-based activities.

Forecasting the long-term sustainable yield from forestsmanaged under selection harvesting systems is complexcompared with the process used for even-aged systems.Mixed age forests are harvested for a range of productsat different times in the life of a stand resulting in a

varying levels of competition between trees andregrowth is continuous, depending on their age andcondition and the productivity of the site.

To forecast sustainable yields of sawlogs data arerequired on the following range of factors. TheStatewide Forest Resource Inventory was designed tocapture these data.

Area Available and Suitable for Sawlog Production

The respective forest management zoning schemesestablish the area of state forest in each ForestManagement Area that is available for timber harvesting,while assessments, such as the SFRI, identify areasactually suitable for sawlog production (see above). Forthe purposes of counting the available wood resourcesin the Special Management Zone, only a proportion ofthe total area is considered available for harvesting—thisis to account for the restrictions that are generallyimposed in Special Management Zone that exceed thosestandard across the General Management Zone.

Existing Sawlog Utilisation Standards

The definition of a ‘sawlog’ changes with technologyand industry acceptance. The introduction of the‘residual’ log standard (as described in Squire (1992),and see Glossary) is an example.

Figure 14.10 Dense regrowth from a fire at Barmah State Forest.

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The volume of sawn products that a log can yield varieswith size and quality. While some defects (solid knots,for instance) may be marketed as an attractive naturalfeature, hardwood logs, particularly, can contain defectsthat diminish the desired qualities (strength orappearance) of the wood or render the section of logunusable. Many defects are hidden and are onlyrevealed when a log is ‘opened up’ at the sawmill.Hidden defects are a particular problem in river red gumand a healthy looking tree can have a high degree ofinternal defect, such as gum veins or pockets (caused byinsect attack, fire or flood/drought stresses), occludedfire scars, heartwood, rot or double-hearts, rendering itunsuitable for sawn timber. Some gum veins and otherdefects may be acceptable in structural grades of timberbut not where high-grade timber is required. Sweep, ora gradual bend in the wood, may mean a log cannotproduce straight lengths of timber. Sapwood, while notnecessarily a defect, is undesirable in higher qualitytimbers as it performs poorly in the seasoning kilns andis susceptible to borers. However, sapwood isacceptable to a greater degree in railway sleepers,enabling relatively small (38–40 cm diameter) logs fromthe heads of sawlog trees and thinning operations to beused.

These hidden defects make assessment of the relativegrades of timber resources on river red gum coupesdifficult. In practice, timber resources of a coupe areassessed visually and comparison is made with recordedproduct yields from previous coupes in similar foresttypes. Until recently, grading of river red gum logs forthe purposes of royalty determination varied betweenForest Management Areas, between supervisors and inrelation to the products (sawn timber, sleepers etc) beingsought. From 2005, logs have been allocated to threegrades only (Appendix 15), leaving it to the purchaser todecide the product yield. The grades are determined bysize (diameter and length) and the amount of defect—where the proportion of defect exceeds the maximumallowable, the log is consigned to a lower grade. Theallowable proportion of defect increases with the size ofthe log.

Grading of logs in this way:

• reflects the nature of river red gum logs;

• reflects timber quality, value and potential markets;

• is objective;

• can be consistently applied across all ForestManagement Areas (DSE 2005f).

Productivity Class and Site Quality

The capacity of different parts of the forest to supportsawlog trees depends on the inherent qualities of thesite, such as soil type and fertility, climate and availabilityof water. As a consequence, site quality is ‘measured’ interms of the height of the dominant trees at a particularage.

As documented above, productivity of river red gumforests is intimately related to the availability of water intheir floodplain environment. Forest health, which isreflected in long-term sustainable timber production,depends upon near-natural flood regimes.

Indicators of Existing and Future (Regrowth)Resources

Many of the current (now mature) stands of the river redgum forests come from the regeneration events of the1870–1880s while their condition is a product ofsubsequent management activities. In Barmah forestthere has been an increase in the numbers of trees inthe larger size classes and a reduction of the smallersizes over time (Appendix 14). The competitive pressureexerted by the larger trees is discussed above. While theincreased number of larger trees corrects an earlierdeficit, increasing numbers of larger trees in selectivelyharvested uneven-aged stands will reduce the numbersand vigour of growing stock for future timberproduction.

The Growth Rates of Trees within each ProductivityClass

Jacobs (1955) noted that the river red gum forestsresponded well to selective fellings and, once theveteran trees are removed, would be good examples ofthe Australian group selection system. He suggested itwould be possible, under this silvicultural system, toachieve annual growth rates of 3.5 m3/ha/yr of sawlog-quality timber and at least as much again of fuel, postsand poles in the high quality (equivalent to SQ I) sites.The yield of SQ II areas would be about half thisamount and the poor areas (SQ III) less still. However,Jacobs’ data was based on water regimes greater thanthat now experienced by the forests. Dexter andPoynter (2005) note that, under the current forestmanagement regime, an average sawlog productivity ofonly 1.48 m3/ha/yr can be achieved, even under an‘ideal’ watering regime. Under current wateringregimes, values of the order of 0.22 m3/ha/yr are beingobserved (Appendix 16).

The river red gum forests are uneven-aged as a result ofthe long history of single-tree silviculture whichcompromises the success of subsequent regrowththrough competition from retained trees. Dexter andPoynter (2005) suggest that tall straight trees suitable forhigh-value uses will become rarer if harvesting continuesunder this system and through stunted tree growth as aresult of the substantially reduced frequency of flooding.Appendix 16 displays the combined influence ofsilvicultural system and associated managementdecisions, and water availability on timber productivity.

Current (standing) Volume of Sawlogs

Standing log volume data derive from assessments suchas the Statewide Forest Resource Inventory and on-goinglocal assessments. With the discontinuation of the SFRIinventory of river red gum timber resources, estimationof the standing log volume for individual coupes mustnow be undertaken at the local level prior to harvesting.

Legislated Sustainable Yield

The Third Schedule to the Forests Act 1958 lists the rateof sustainable yield of sawlogs for each ForestManagement Area in Victoria. Legislatively, sawlogsustainable yield must be reviewed every five years(beginning in July 1991), or when there is significantchange in the available sawlog resource, or at any othertime the Minister considers appropriate. Changes to thelegislated sustainable yield rate are effected by Orders inCouncil.

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A review of the availability of sawlog resources wasconducted in 2001 as part of the licence renewalprocess. Based on existing information (no newassessments were undertaken) this review indicated thatan annual sawlog licence level of up to 5200 m3 waspossible from the Mid-Murray FMA (reduced from thescheduled level of 5600 m3) and 600 m3 nett from theMildura FMA (reduced from the scheduled level of 700m3). These figures do not include the volumes of logsthat do not meet sawlog standard, and which producesleepers and residual wood.

Vanclay and Turner (2001) argue that the overall dataquality and methodological rigour used to determine thesawlog yield estimates for the Mildura FMA wasinadequate for making long-term licence commitmentsand that, for the Mid-Murray FMA, the ‘estimates do notprovide an adequate basis for making long-termcommitments, because of subjectivity in the data andsimplistic assumptions inherent in the method (see alsoDNRE 2002b).

Future adjustments of the legislated licensed levels fromthe respective Forest Management Areas must take intoaccount forest management plans and new assessmentsof wood availability as well as any government decisionson land use, including those made after this River RedGum Forests Investigation.

Determining sustainable yields of timber from the riverred gum forests still depends on data collected in the1980s. The discontinuation of the Statewide ForestResource Inventory process means that up-to-date andsuperior data on standing volumes and woodproductivity are unavailable to assist determination ofthe long-term sustainable yield from these forests andlegislative commitments. In light of all the above, theability of river red gum forests to sustain current levels ofsawlog production into the future under continuing andpossibly worsening conditions of environmental stress is

unknown (see chapter 19). The continuing greatlyreduced frequency of natural forest flooding—andlonger term predictions of further deterioration as aresult of climate change (see chapter 4)—may be amajor threat to long term wood product harvesting inthe River Red Gum Forests study area.

Current Timber Availability

Table 14.2 sets out the wood volumes listed forharvesting in the 2006–07 to 2008–09 Wood UtilisationPlans for the Mid-Murray and Mildura ForestManagement Areas (DNRE 2002a; DSE 2004f).Although these plans describe different products tothose set out under the standardised grading systemestablished in 2005 (see Appendix 15), total woodvolumes are consistent.

Although the Forests Act 1958 lists 600 m3 of sawlogresource available from the Mildura FMA and severalpeople have sought sawlogs from there, the volume isnot currently allocated and DSE is not willing to considerrecommencing commercial sawlog operations until thereis some certainty about the ongoing availability of theresource. The absence of sawlog harvesting has affectedthe availability of firewood in the region. It is moreexpensive for DSE to produce from its own silviculturalthinning than as a by-product of commercial harvestingfor high-value sawlogs. Should the availability of theresource be confirmed, the Mildura Forest ManagementPlan sets out the process, which includes communityengagement, for the recommencement of sawlogharvesting.

Licensing of Wood Production

Harvesting of timber in state forest requires a licencefrom DSE—granted under section 52 of the Forests Act1958. That Act also permits the sale of timber frompublic land by auction or tender. The Forest (Licencesand Permits) Regulations 1999 requires all licence

Table 14.2 River red gum wood volumes available, not including contingencies, for the first year underthe 2006–07 to 2008–09 Wood Utilisation Plans in each Forest Management Area that produce river redgum in the study area.

Wood grade Short code in Mildura Mid-Murray Mid-Murraythe WUPs (m3) West (m3) East (m3)

River red gum sawlog U 1195 5790

River red gum sleeper log S 790 4100

River red gum residual log R 4650 5370

Firewood F 6330 850 7750

TOTAL VOLUMES 6330 7485 23,010

Source: DSE (2006e, f, g)

Notes: These wood grades pre-date the standardised grading system established in 2005. Under the conditions of the new gradingsystem, the total available volume indicated in the table would not have changed but the distribution of wood between gradeswould better reflect the new grading standards—principally from sleeper log to the standard log or residual log grades. Parts ofNorth East and Bendigo FMAs area also in the River Red Gum Forests study area but there is no river red gum harvested in theseFMAs. The Horsham FMA area (outside the study area) also has 3080 m3 available in 2006–07, mostly as firewood (DSE 2006a).The amount of firewood collected illegally is unknown but may be as high as 60,000 m3 annually.

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holders to comply with the Code of Forest Practices.Three types of licence currently apply to the removal ofwood from state forest in the River Red Gum Forestsstudy area. Overall there are 41 licences for 22 licenseesin 2006–07 (sawlogs, standard logs and residual logs, ofvarious grades, and firewood).


Up until 2005, long-term S-licences were issued, withGovernor-in-Council approval, for commercial timberharvesting for periods of up to 15 years. Transitionalprocesses are in place but, eventually, the traditionalsystem of commercial sawlog licensing will be replacedand no long-term licences will be granted or renewed.At present, and pending transfer of the management ofcommercial timber harvesting to VicForests (see above),on expiry of each long-term S-licence, it is re-issued onan annual basis. Royalty and other fees and charges arepayable on invoice.

Five S-licences for the harvesting of river red gumsawlogs are current in the River Red Gum Forests studyarea for 2006–07 (Appendix 15 provides a definition ofthe log grades). Two expire in 2007 and three in 2009.


Anyone wishing to harvest forest produce on acommercial basis must apply for a Forest Produce B-licence. These are issued for up to one year and royaltyand other fees and charges are payable on invoice.

B-licences are issued through a combination of directallocation and tender. Many B-licence holders have along history in the industry and have built up businessesbased on ongoing access to resources. Each of theseestablished licensees usually receives a direct allocationof volume based on the quantity they have cutpreviously. In 2005, the volumes issued to established B-licence applicants were based on their average cut overthe three previous years. Nevertheless, they must stillapply for the licence each year.

Because established industry takes up most of theavailable resource and the present level of uncertaintyabout the ongoing availability of the resource, licencesare not issued to ‘new’ applicants other than throughthe process of tendering. For example, wood madeavailable as a result of thinning operations (forimprovement of forest health) is advertised for tender ona location basis (from Barmah or Gunbower StateForests, for instance). If an established licensee quits the

industry, some of the resource freed up would mostlikely be advertised for tender.

In the River Red Gum Forests study area, a total of 26 B-licences have been issued for the harvesting of river redgum standard logs and river red gum residual logs (fordefinition, see Appendix 15) and 10 B-licences forcommercial firewood collection for the 2006–07 year.

All commercial timber harvesting on public land inVictoria is subject to the Code of Forest Practices.Further, under the Timber Harvesting Regulations 2000,those involved in commercial harvesting are required tohold a Forest Operator’s Licence and sign a Forest CoupePlan before commencing work.


C-licences are issued for the harvesting of forest producefor domestic use only. They apply for periods of fromone to five days. Royalty and other fees and charges arepayable upfront. Between 8000 and 10,000 C-licences,mostly for firewood, are issued each year from the studyarea, the actual number depending in part on the extentof flooding and the weather.


Royalty rates are the means by which government setsprices and sells wood products to processors. While theroyalty rate is only a small proportion of the total cost ofa sawn product, considerable effort goes into gearingschedules of royalty rates to market prices. Differentialsapply for log quality and location and a loading isapplied for the use of state roads and to encourage theuse of residues.

Table 14.3 sets out the major products, the volumeslicensed and the price (which includes royalty, productionroading charges and licence fees) paid by commerciallicensees to take these products from state forest in theMid-Murray Forest Management Area.


River red gum is now the only species available forcommercial harvesting from public land in the River RedGum Forests study area. However, the timber is used bysuch a diversity of people for such a wide range ofapplications that it is difficult to collate comprehensiveand consistent data on end products and productionlevels. While large integrated sawmilling companies

Table 14.3 Volume and price for wood licensed from the Mid-Murray Forest Management Area (2006–07).

Log grade or product Volume available under licence Price range

(see Appendix 15) (m3 gross equivalent) ($/m3 incl. GST)

River red gum sawlog 6110 56.38–64.87

River red gum standard log 4428 36.25–46.35

River red gum residual log 4618 14.40

River red gum firewood 4380 13.80

Source: DSE, 2005 (unpublished data)

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with drying and planing facilities within the study areaare theoretically easy to monitor, data on domestic andcommercial firewood collectors and individuals withportable mills (barrow saws) cutting sleepers and gardentimbers either at the stump or on private property aremore difficult to attain, particularly when they have linkswith similar operations in other areas of the state orinterstate.

Licensed Commercial Production

Table 14.4 sets out the volumes of wood harvested fromthe River Red Gum Forests study area by commercialoperators in 2003–04 and 2004–05. As theclassification of the product grades in this table predatesthe rationalisation of 2005, an indication of theapproximate equivalents in the current grading system isprovided. Some commercial firewood was also soldunder C-licence during this period.

Contemporary Uses of River Red Gum Timbers

The characteristic durability of river red gum timbermeans that it still used for many of the products forwhich it was first sought. River red gum timber isresistant to white ant. It has the highest rating for fireretardance of all Victorian timbers. As a result, localgovernments recommend it as appropriate housingtimber in fire-prone areas (advice from ArbuthnotSawmills). These characteristics, coupled with its strongcolour, often interestingly figured grain and ability totake a high polish, also mean that the wood is findingincreasing applications in furniture and other joinery.

River red gum timbers present unique opportunities forvalue adding. The river red gum timber industry hasinvested in drying facilities and other timber processingequipment and developed new products to capitalise onthe wood’s intrinsic values.

Sawlogs are processed in sawmills and the timber maybe marketed as ‘green sawn’ or kiln dried. Little is

wasted, as off-cuts and other residual material are alsosold—accordingly, the industry considers that it achievesalmost 100 percent utilisation. Sawn timber productsinclude:

• green sawn: bridge, railway sleepers and crossingtimbers, fencing (posts and droppers) timbers, housestumps, guide posts, survey pegs and gardenlandscaping timbers and stakes.

• kiln dried: indoor and outdoor furniture, parquetry,traditional tongue-and-groove flooring and ‘floatingfloors’, laminated bench tops, feature panelling andmouldings, craft timbers and other applications whereappearance grade timbers are required. There is asmall, but increasing market for river red gum veneersfor both furniture and joinery.

Fence posts, poles, garden landscape timbers, firewood,chips (for landscaping purposes or mulch) and,occasionally, charcoal for barbecues, industrial filters orcosmetics are produced as by-products of river red gumsawmilling and sleeper-cutting operations and fromresidual logs. Sawdust is used mainly for horticulturalapplications while some is also used to generate heat forthe timber-seasoning kilns.

A demand exists for specialty river red gum timbers forthe maintenance of heritage buildings and bridges, toretain consistency with the original constructionmaterials. For example, a planned major upgrade of thePort of Echuca may require river red gum timbers (advicesupplied by Arbuthnot Sawmills). River red gum timberscontinue to be used for the cladding and fuelling of theriver steamers that feature amongst the attractions forlocal tourism.

Sawmilling Industry

The river red gum timber industry along the Murray Rivercomprises six major fixed processing facilities (as distinctfrom small mills producing sleepers and other products

Table 14.4 Wood volumes harvested recently from the River Red Gum Forests study area.

Product Approximate equivalence to Volume harvested by yeargrade current grading system (cubic metres gross)

2003–04 2004–05

RGA River Red Gum Sawlogs 5200 4308

RGB River Red Gum Sawlogs 2839 1706

RGS 25% River Red Gum Sawlogs75% River Red Gum Standard Logs 1694 1879

RGH River Red Gum Standard Logs 1853 2090

RGRA River Red Gum Standard Logs 2002 2557

RGRB River Red Gum Residual Logs 4151 9352

RL River Red Gum Residual Logs 658 1011

RGF firewood 4339 11,638

RGFC firewood 1888 1507

Total volumes 24,628 36,051

Source: Department of Sustainability and Environment, Forest Resources Branch

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at the stump or on private property) in both Victoria andNSW. Three are established on the Victorian side:Murray River Sawmill at Echuca, Arbuthnot Pty Ltd atKoondrook and Merbein Sawmilling at Merbein. On theNSW side, sawmills are located in Deniliquin, Barhamand Darlington Point.

While all of Murray River Sawmill’s sawlogs are harvestedin Victoria, Arbuthnot receives logs from both Victoriaand NSW and Merbein Sawmilling’s sawlogs areharvested in NSW. Conversely, the mill at Barham inNSW draws its river red gum sawlogs from both NSWand the Horsham Forest Management Area in Victoria(outside the study area). Neither the Deniliquin nor theDarlington Point mills draw logs from Victoria.

Ryan and McNulty at Benalla (outside the study area) isalso licensed to harvest river red gum logs from thestudy area and buys green-sawn river red gum timbersfrom other mills. The bulk of the river red gum sold bythis company is dried and reconditioned for supply tomarkets in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland; asmall volume of lower grade material is sold to localmarkets for such applications as outdoor furniture. Thiscompany also holds licences for mountain ash and otherspecies logs from Victorian state forests.

The relative proportions of the various products yieldedby commercial operations from river red gum logssupplied from Victorian state forests are estimated to be:

• 25 percent kiln-dried products and sawn specialtyproducts (furniture, heritage restoration, veneer flitch);

• 26 percent other sawn products (housing,infrastructure timbers, etc);

• 49 percent ‘fall down’ products (material that fails tomeet the grade) from the production of higher valuesawn timbers and from thinning undertaken toimprove forest health (this includes firewood,landscape timbers, etc) (Department of Sustainabilityand Environment, unpublished data, 2005).

As an example of the industry, Arbuthnot Pty Ltd,averaged 47 percent in sawn timber products recoveredfrom the round logs over the five years to 2004–2005and utilised 100 percent of every log. All by-products,including sawdust, mill ends (firewood) and chips frombark and edges, were sold (see Table 14.5).

While the proportion of kiln-dried timber produced isrelatively small, it claims a high mill-door price, reflectingthe cost of production and its high market value—it issought after by many specialist ‘high-end’ furnituremanufacturers. General industry data suggest that dried800 mm-wide river red gum slabs (for such applicationsas table or bench tops) can sell for up to $4000 per m3,while kiln-dried select and feature grade river red gumtimber can claim about $2400 per m3 and that forgeneral furniture and flooring applications sell onaverage for about $1750 per m3. Average mill-doorprices for structural timbers are about $750 per m3 andrailway timbers about $650 per m3. Low-grade timbersare sold at about $360 per m3 (advice provided by Ryanand McNulty Sawmills and Arbuthnot Sawmills Pty Ltd).

The presence of ‘cottage industries’ based on forestproducts, such as locally produced furniture featuringnatural defects, provides the added benefit of attractingtourists to explore local enterprises and purchase localproduce. At Koondrook, tours and an associated‘Redgum Forest to Furniture Showcase’ profile therelationship between the forest, primary processing(sawmilling) and the end products. The overall profile ofthe timber industry, including its employment levels anddownstream markets will be investigated by VEACthrough a socio-economic study of the various industriesin the River Red Gum Forests study area.

Table 14.5 Average annual production (by product) from Arbuthnot Sawmills Pty Ltd, 2000–2005.

Product Proportion of Proportion of Total Output Sawn Output

Firewood, other non-mill products 53% -

Structural, including bridge timbers, heritage structure timbers, building sections, suburban fence posts, drop-bars for water management structures 27% 58%

Low grade, such as landscape timbers and shorts for survey pegs, stakes and fence droppers 12% 25%

Railway timbers, including sleepers and crossing timbers 6% 13%

Kiln-dried for furniture and flooring 2% 4%

Source: Arbuthnot Sawmills Pty Ltd, 2006, unpublished data.

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Sawmilling Industry Trends

A decline in traditional markets for unseasonedhardwood has led to a general restructuring in thetimber industry. Investment by the industry in air-dryingfacilities, seasoning kilns (for humidity controlled dryingof fresh-sawn timber), reconditioning plant andequipment to finish (plane and shape) the dried timber,means that an increasing proportion of total sawnoutput is seasoned and processed into higher valueproducts. Appearance-grade river red gum finds a readymarket in the building joinery and furniture trades.

While this trend has required significant additionalcapital investment it has provided benefits in terms ofincreased value of production and employment. Ryanand McNulty Pty Ltd at Benalla is one example.Established in 1949, the company faced increasingcompetition in the 1990s from plantation softwood inthe house framing market. Following the installation ofnew green and dry sawmilling equipment, seasoningkilns and air-drying facilities, together with the purchaseof additional sawlog resources (some of which was tocompensate for a reduction in supplies as a result ofadjustments in the sustainable yield from state forests)and green sawn timber from other producers, thecompany achieved a five-fold increase in annualturnover. The company now supplies kiln-dried ashspecies (mountain ash, alpine ash and shining gum) andriver red gum timbers into the Victorian and interstatemarkets, ash species to international markets as well astraditional unseasoned hardwood timber to the localbuilding industry (McNulty 2005).

Although river red gum is only a small proportion of thetotal sawn timber output from Ryan and McNulty as,indeed, the river red gum timber industry is small bystatewide standards, the company is supplying ‘select’and ‘natural features’ kiln-dried river red gum into aniche market.

Arbuthnot Sawmills, similarly, is a modern timberprocessing company with automatic equipment which,in 1994, added a kiln-drying plant to add value to theriver red gum timber resource. With kiln dried timberreadily available, the furniture industry in the region hasgrown to now include four substantial businesses (Figure14.11) (Arbuthnot Sawmills Pty Ltd 2006).

Figure 14.11 Furniture workshop.

Murray River Sawmill has similarly installed a kiln-dryingplant and, following considerable market testing, thesawmill at Barham (NSW) now produces river red gumveneer timbers. This process required the installation akiln to condition the flitched timber and equipment toslice, dry and clip the veneer.

Railway Sleeper Industry

Railway timbers for the Victorian rail network—sleepersand crossing timbers—are produced in sawmills, at smallstatic mills on private property or by mobile mills at thestump. These timbers are now almost exclusively riverred gum and are produced by about 12 businesses(sawmillers and sleeper-cutters) in the state. Twosleeper-cutters prepare their sleepers at the stump, theothers use small static mills established on private land(as advised by Arbuthnot Sawmills).

The railway sleeper market is valuable to the river redgum sawmilling industry. Although the proportion ofsleepers compared to total mill output is small (Table14.5, for example), sawing them is relatively straight-forward, the market is large and payments arereasonably guaranteed; they are an importantcomponent of the total revenue stream. Sleeperproduction enables utilisation of timbers that fail tomeet structural or kiln-drying standards and logs fromstand thinning operations that are too small and wouldotherwise be sawn into lower value products—althoughthe extent to which sleeper production competes withhigher value products (including for these smaller logswhich could be left in the forest to grow into sawlogs)remains an issue (see chapter 19).

Under the wood grading system now in place inVictoria, timber is no longer sold from state forestaccording to the expected product, such as sawn timberor sleepers. Rather, the logs are graded according totheir quality and size, leaving the purchaser to decide onthe product yield. Accordingly, contemporary figures onthe actual output level of railway timbers are difficult toderive. Based on the previous licensing system, however,average total production of sleepers by licensed cuttersin the Mid-Murray Forest Management Area from1991–92 to 2000–01 was 3523 m3 nett per annum(about 38,750 sleepers per annum). Output in the lateryears fell well short of this average, largely followingprivatisation of the contracts for maintenance of the railnetwork in the mid-1990s (DNRE 2002b).

Sleeper Industry Trends

Much of southeastern Australia’s railway network stillsits on river red gum sleepers and river red gum crossingtimbers were used in the recent works at Southern Cross(Spencer Street) Station in Melbourne. Of theapproximately 7500 km of rail track in rural Victoria(which includes the interstate system in Victoria, totallingabout 770 km), some 6000 km is fixed to hardwoodtimber sleepers. Similarly, of the 875 km of track in theMelbourne metropolitan network, some 612 km is ontimber sleepers. Based on an average of about 1500sleepers per kilometre, the total rail network in Victoriacurrently rides on some 9,910,000 hardwood sleepers(advice supplied by Redgum Timbers Producers(Australia)).

River red gum sleepers generally have a 30-year service

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life. In the Melbourne metropolitan rail network, thistranslates to between 35,000 and 40,000 sleepersrequiring replacement annually (DoI 2005). The currentlessee of Victoria’s regional broad-gauge rail network,Pacific National, replaces about 100,000 hardwoodsleepers annually as part of normal maintenance.Further, Australian Rail Track Corporation Ltd (ARTC),which leases the two interstate standard gauge corridorsfrom the Victorian Government—Melbourne to Wolseley(in South Australia) and Melbourne to Albury (in NSW)—also requires sleepers both for maintenance andupgrades.

The sawmilling industry and Forests NSW developed anAustralian Standard for railway sleepers, which specifies,amongst other things, the acceptable slope of the grainacross each piece and sets the acceptable levels ofsapwood and fault to ensure safety in operation.Passing of sleepers in accordance with these standards isdone either by a recognised contracted sleeper-passer or,in the case of the permanent sawmills, self-assessment.Establishment of this standard has provided somestability in the demand for sleepers as relativeconsistency in the quality of the sleepers supplied isassured.

Substitutes for Hardwood Sleepers

Only timber sleepers have been used in the Melbournemetropolitan rail network replacement program to date.Concrete sleepers were considered to be unsuitable forinterspersion with in-situ timber sleepers, as their deeperprofile (28 cm compared to 12–13 cm for timber)makes them much more rigid than timber sleepers.Interspersing conventional concrete sleepers with timberhas also caused problems with the overall life of thetrack (DoI 2005). A lighter, low-profile, pre-stressedconcrete sleeper has been designed specifically to beinterspersed with timber sleepers in existing tracks.These are under trial on the Frankston line andindications are that they will be suitable but will requireapproval by the line operator—Connex—before they canbe used in the routine annual maintenance programacross the metropolitan network. However, hardwoodsleepers will continue be used in maintenance of therural network (DoI 2005). Furthermore, hardwoodcrossing timbers are required to ensure strength andstability across the converging/diverging rail lines.

Concrete sleepers require significantly more ballast thantimber sleepers and their weight (three to four timesthat of timber sleepers) makes them expensive to

transport and difficult to handle with conventionalsleeper replacement technology (University of SouthernQueensland 2006). Nevertheless, with a life span ofsome 50 years under normal operating conditions andbeing fire-resistant, concrete sleepers are gainingincreasing acceptance. About two million were used inAustralian National’s 1420 km trans-continentalAustralAsia railway, completed in 2003 and, in 2005,ARTC invited tenders for the supply of another twomillion. Concrete sleepers will be used in all newlengths of line in both the metropolitan and regional railsystems in Victoria (DoI 2005). Recently, ATRCannounced that concrete replacement sleepers would beused on the Melbourne–Brisbane route.

Steel sleepers are also widely used in Australia. Variousconfigurations are available, depending on the intendedapplication (Townsend 2002). There has been someconcern that steel sleepers are generally too light tomaintain stability, particularly on curves, have poorbearing characteristics, move where there are significantvariations in ambient temperature and require highmaintenance. The selection of steel sleepers requires agood knowledge of track duty, both current and future,and of environmental conditions under which they are tooperate. Townsend (2002) notes that steel sleepersgenerally fail as a result of fatigue cracking, corrosion ora combination of both. While unprotected steel doescorrode, long-term observation of steel sleepers undergeneral environmental conditions has shown the totalloss of thickness due to corrosion may be as low as 1mm over 40 to 50 years. Where corrosive locations areidentified (such as the salinity affected areas ofnorthwestern Victoria), it is usual to increase thethickness of the sleeper section, although corrosionprotection coatings may also be applied. AustralianStandard AS1085 Part 17—Steel Sleepers has beendeveloped as a guide to the selection of steel sleepers.

Successful in-track performance of steel sleepersdepends not only on the selection of a suitableconfiguration but also on the methods of installationand tamping of the ballast. This is especially importantwhere they are interspersed with timber sleepers anddifferential settlement on the ballast may occur. Thepattern of interspersion is important to avoid railmovement and stresses. Steel sleepers have beeninterspersed into existing timber-sleepered tracks duringmaintenance programs on a number of rail lines withinAustralia (Townsend 2002).

A fibre composite railway sleeper, made from polymerconcrete and glass-fibre reinforcement, is also beingdeveloped. It is approximately 120 mm deep andweighs about 63 kg, although designs canaccommodate local conditions outside of theseparameters, and can be fitted with standard railfasteners. The shape of the sleeper provides resistanceagainst lateral movement and it is designed for bothinterspersion with existing timber sleepers and for newsections. A trial with 500 sleepers is to be established ina track near Toowoomba, Queensland (University ofSouthern Queensland 2006).


A small, but steady demand for fencing materialscontinues, reflecting the need for replacement fencing

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and the increasing intensity of local agriculture.Alternatives to fencing material from native forestsinclude treated plantation pine, concrete and steel.Electric fences are also used and, although usually fittedto timber posts, they use less material than traditionalpost-and-wire fences.


Firewood is an important component of state forestmanagement and wood production. This sectiondiscusses the details of firewood collection andconsumption with regard to Victorian state forests butalso examines some of the wider issues that influencethe patterns of firewood use in Victoria.

Firewood is a valuable source of renewable energy.Burning wood to warm homes and fuel industry hasbeen part of Australian culture since Europeansettlement. Many Victorians consider firewood anessential fuel for heating and wood fires have a strongaesthetic appeal. Woodfires may be the most cost-effective heating available for people in regional areas,including many towns in the study area, who do nothave access to reticulated natural gas (see chapter 17).It is reported that elderly people and pensioners oftenrely on firewood as their primary source of heating asother fuels are too expensive. Approximately half of theDSE domestic firewood permits (see below) are issued toconcession holders (DNRE 2002c). Socially, many peopleconsider firewood collection to be at least partly arecreational activity and, particularly, an integral part ofthe ritual and fun of camping out in the bush.

Current Firewood Use

The percentage of households using firewood as primaryheating fuel increased rapidly after the price of heatingoil doubled in 1978. The development of controlled-combustion heaters since the 1980s also increased thedemand for firewood with the percentage of householdsusing firewood as primary heating fuel peaking in 1992.Between 1992 and 1999 the percentage declined butthe number of households using firewood stabilised dueto increasing population numbers (Todd 2003).Consequently, current sales of firewood from stateforests are similar to levels in the 1970s (DNRE 2002c).

Each year in Australia, an estimated 4.5–5.5 milliontonnes of timber are harvested for domestic firewooduse. When industrial fuelwood is included, the totalincreases to 6–7 million tonnes, which is roughly doubleAustralia’s annual hardwood woodchip export (Driscoll etal. 2000). An average of about 3 tonnes of firewood isconsumed per firewood-using household each yearalthough the amount varies across the country, rangingfrom Queensland with an average of 1.3 tonnes per yearto Tasmania where 5.8 tonnes on average is burnedeach year (DNRE 2002c).

Harvesting occurs predominantly in the cooler southeastof the country with more then half consumed in NewSouth Wales and Victoria. Two-thirds of the firewoodconsumed is burned in regional Australia, reflecting thelimited availability of alternative sources of heating, suchas natural gas (Driscoll et al. 2000).

In Victoria in 2002, an estimated 268,350 households(17.1 percent of the total) consumed about 620,000tonnes of firewood, about half of which was consumed

in the greater Melbourne area. Of the 134,500 tonnesof firewood sold in Victoria through firewood merchants,around 107,600 tonnes (80 percent) is river red gum(see Figure 14.12). This high proportion may reflecteither the ready availability of river red gum through themerchants or consumer preference for dense, heavywood.

Figure 14.12 River red gum is a popular firewoodspecies.

Firewood Sources: Collection and Sales

The firewood consumed in Victoria comes from privateland, state forest and other public land includingroadsides, and also from interstate. Box 14.2 givesdetails of the estimated amount of firewood from eachof these sources. Only about 10 percent is collectedlegally from Victorian state forests (DNRE 2002c). Riverred gum firewood is also produced as by-product fromsawmills in the study area.

Domestic firewood is collected by two distinct groups:firstly, the commercial firewood cutters (includingfirewood merchants, sawmills and other groups such asarborists) and secondly, the consumers. In Victoria,about 34 percent (210,800 tonnes) of firewood ispurchased from commercial operations such as sawmillswith 134,500 tonnes coming from firewood merchants.Most of the firewood bought from merchants is broughtfrom interstate—mostly from New South Wales, in theregions of Balranald, Hay and Deniliquin (Driscoll et al.2000). Retailers of firewood are generally locatedbetween 180 and 330 km from the source (Driscoll et al.2000). Indicative figures suggest that about 40 percentof interstate firewood comes from NSW state forestswith the balance from private property (DNRE 2002c).

The remaining 66 percent or 409,200 tonnes is collectedby consumers directly. However, the proportion ofconsumer-collected wood in some areas is much higher,for example, in the North East, Mildura and Mid-MurrayForest Management Areas in 1999–2000, nearly 100percent of the firewood sold by NRE was to consumersrather than commercial cutters (DNRE 2002c). Most ofthe firewood collected by consumers is collected within20 km of the location where it will be consumed (DNRE2002c).

In Victorian state forests, firewood can be collected bycommercial operators or by domestic collectors throughthe issue of permits (see above). Firewood permits from

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state forests in Mid-Murray and Mildura ForestManagement Areas in 1999–2000 totalled 6819 tonnes,principally river red gum, representing 11.8 percent ofthe total firewood sales from Victorian state forests atthat time. In that year NRE also sold river red gumfirewood (amongst other species) from theBenalla–Mansfield and North East Forest ManagementAreas, as well as from Horsham FMA which is outsidethe River Red Gum Forests study area. In total, almost12,800 tonnes (22 percent) of the firewood sold by thedepartment across the state in 1999–2000 was river redgum (DNRE 2002c; DSE 2005h).

In 2002/03, 1015 m3 and 2121 m3 of firewood were soldto domestic and commercial cutters, respectively. Anestimated 2000 m3 is illegally collected from state forestannually (DSE 2004f).

There is not presently any sawlog, sleeper or postharvesting in the Mildura FMA. The two commercialfirewood cutters present in 2004 were cutting firewoodfrom sawlog coupes harvested between 1999 and 2002.However, this resource declined quickly (DSE 2004f). Atpresent, there are no commercial firewood cutters in theMildura FMA and DSE are cutting dead standing trees tosupply firewood for consumer demand in the area.

In the Mid-Murray FMA, commercial operators cutfirewood from residual wood (heads of trees and logsfelled during sawlog and sleeper harvesting but nottaken) and also from thinning operations. In 2000–2001just over 12,000 m3 of firewood was taken from Mid-Murray including 3984 by commercial cutters and 8505by domestic cutters (DNRE 2002a). The largest amountcame from Gunbower, Guttrum and Benwell stateforests (5730 m3). The amount collected illegally fromstate forests is unknown but thought to be substantial(DNRE 2002c).

Very little firewood is taken from public land in the tworemaining Forest Management Areas partly within theRiver Red Gum Forests study area, i.e. Bendigo andNorth East FMAs.

Domestic firewood collectors (those seeking to collectfirewood for their own use) on public land must hold a‘C’ licence (see above). These are generally limited toone trailer load, for one day, with conditions and a map

specifying the area from which the wood may be taken.Retail outlets in some regions of the state are authorisedto sell firewood permits to domestic collectors on behalfof DSE. Firewood for domestic use from state forest isusually licensed by the cubic metre, and the cost (non-concession) ranges between $9.50 and $25.25 per m3

(2005–2006 prices) depending on the ForestManagement Area and the zone (DSE 2005d).

Recreational users of the forest (particularly campers)also collect firewood for use in situ and large volumesare collected from state forest in the study area,particularly from sites close to the Murray River. For theBarmah forest, for instance, an estimated 5000 tonnes iscollected by campers over the summer holiday period(DNRE 2002a). In some cases, campers have usedvehicles to drag large-dimension wood to theircampsites. Some firewood may also be produced inparks and other reserves in the course of infrastructure,fire prevention and safety works. In parks, visitors areusually requested to bring their own firewood oralternative heating; although this is limited ineffectiveness (DNRE 2002c).

More than 181,000 people (both commercial anddomestic) collect firewood each year from both publicand private land in Victoria, some 99 percent of whomare domestic collectors who collect about 66 percent ofthe firewood consumed (DNRE 2002c). Only 8.8 percentof people involved in domestic firewood collection carrya departmental permit—about half of these areconcession card carriers (pensioners, war veterans andwidows and holders of health care cards).

Factors Affecting the Amount of Firewood Burnt

A number of factors affect the amount of firewoodburnt, and hence, the amount and species collected.Hardwoods are the current firewood of choice in allAustralian cities, even where there are large softwoodresources and almost no local hardwood supplies(Driscoll et al. 2000). The quality of firewood can varyand the popularity of river red gum firewood indicatesthat many purchasers prefer dense, dry wood.

The type of wood will affect how much heat it releases.In terms of heat released per kilogram of wood(“calorific value”), hardwoods produce slightly more


Of the estimated 620,000 tonnes of firewood consumed in Victorian households each year:

• 50% (310,000 tonnes) comes from private property

• 10% (62,000 tonnes) is collected legally from Victorian state forest; of which:

• 4% (23,600 tonnes) is under commercial licence, and

• 6% (38,400 tonnes) is under domestic licence

• 10% (62,000 tonnes) is collected illegally from public land

• 30% (186,000 tonnes) comes from other sources, including interstate (DNRE 2002c).

A significant volume is also collected and burned in situ at campsites throughout public land in the state—in Barmah forest alone, an estimated 5000 tonnes is collected by campers over the summer holiday period (DNRE 2002f).

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than softwoods (20 MJ/kg v 19 MJ/kg) (Todd 2003).Plantation-grown sugar gum has similar calorific valuesas natural-grown river red gum and could be used tocomplement or substitute for firewood production fromnative forests (DNRE 2002c). However, the moisturecontent of the firewood is also a contributing factor.Poorly dried river red gum (hardwood) can release thesame amount of energy per kilogram as well-driedradiata pine (DNRE 2002c).

Wood density varies between species, betweenprovenances of a particular species and with growthrates and tree age. Density of Tasmanian blue gumwood, for example, ranges between 550 kg/m3 and 600kg/m3 for 12- and 20-year-old plantation-grown treesrespectively, and to 800 kg/m3 in natural forest-grownwood (DNRE 2002c).

The amount of firewood burnt is in part determined bythe design of the heater and home. On average, anopen fire will burn five times the amount of wood peryear as a combustion heater to heat an average house(DNRE 2002c). There are around 800,000 woodheatersand 700,000 fireplaces in Australia (Driscoll et al. 2000).Some, but not all, combustion heaters are designed toheat efficiently with both hardwood and softwood fuelprovided they are used appropriately (Todd 2003).

The Impact of Emissions

Woodheaters and fireplaces are the major sources ofparticle emissions in the southern cities in the coldermonths and are responsible for those cities regularlyexceeding the National Ambient Air Quality Standard forparticles set under the Ambient National EnvironmentProtection Measure (Todd 2003). In 1995–96, woodheaters and open fires contributed an estimated 70percent of fine particulate emissions (DNRE 2002c).Human exposure to elevated particle levels is linked toheart and lung disease. Wood-smoke pollution mayreduce the amenity of small town living. The key factorscontributing to the inefficient use of firewood relate toincomplete combustion arising from:

• use of unseasoned firewood—excessive moisturecontained in green or wet wood

• less-efficient woodheater technology—slowcombustion woodheater models vary greatly and openfireplaces are much less efficient

• poor operating behaviour—insufficient air intake canlead to insufficient air mixing (DEH 2006).

The Australian Standard for wood heating appliances(AS 4013) was introduced in 1992 to reduce impacts onair quality and the environment (DEH 2004). In 1994 inLaunceston, approximately 66 percent of householdsused wood for heating and, although the percentagehad dropped to 45 percent in 2000, woodsmokepollution was still above acceptable limits. Programs toreduce wood smoke pollution by increasing theconversion rate from wood heaters to gas heaters andeducating wood heater users were put in place. Thepercentage of households using woodheaters reduced toapproximately 30 percent in 2004 and have beensuccessful in reducing pollution in some areas (CSIROAtmospheric Research 2005). This reduction was drivenby an increased awareness of the problems ofwoodsmoke and by a desire for more convenient sources of heat.

Burning firewood also results in greenhouse gasemissions. The extent of the net impact on thoseemissions depends largely on the source of the firewood.Cutting firewood from private property withoutreplacing the trees, for instance, makes a 100 percentcontribution to greenhouse gases. However, the amountof carbon dioxide released is “at least matched” by theamount of sequestered carbon as a replacement treegrows (DNRE 2002c). Thus, plantations established forfirewood production can be regarded as carbon sinks foras long as the plantation area is increasing; once thefinal area is achieved, they would be close to emission-neutral. Firewood from sustainably managed forestscould be reducing net greenhouse emissions if replacingfossil fuel based heating sources.

Firewood and Habitat Degradation

Fallen timber is an important structural element inforests. Many animals, plants and fungi species rely onfallen timber for shelter, foraging habitat and nutrientcycling, refuge from predation and the larger piecesprovide a structure to trap fine debris, sediments andnutrients providing microhabitat (Mac Nally et al. 2002).Fallen timber is also important during floods as itprovides vital habitat for fish and aquatic invertebrates.The removal of fallen timber for firewood impactsgreatly on many species and is one of the majorthreatening processes for threatened carpet pythons andgrey-crowned babblers (Davidson & Robinson 1992;Heard et al. 2004). Strategies have been devised toreduce the impacts of firewood collection on theenvironment (see below). The impacts of firewoodcollection on faunal habitat are further discussed inchapter 5.

Future Demand for Firewood

The demand for firewood is based on the level ofheating required to warm homes. Improved homeenergy efficiency would reduce the need for heatingand, in the case of woodheaters, firewood consumption(DEH 2006). All levels of Australian governments haveinitiated actions to improve the energy efficiency ofhomes for a range of reasons, including reducinggreenhouse gas emissions. Actions includeincorporating energy-efficient measures into the BuildingCode of Australia and energy efficiency ratings schemes,which provide requirements or incentives in relation tofactors such as insulation and house orientation (DEH2006).

Reticulation of natural gas continues to be extendedproviding a cheap alternative to woodheaters.Nevertheless natural gas is a fossil fuel and contributorof greenhouse gas emissions. Despite large reserves,natural gas resources are ultimately limited and Australiais currently exporting natural gas overseas.

Greater use of alternative fuel sources, such as softwoodor manufactured fuels, would lessen the amount offirewood collected. However, at present, mostwoodheater models are certified to meet the AustralianStandard (AS 4013) for flue gas emissions on the basisof burning hardwoods only. Given the limited demandfor ‘softwood certified’ heaters, there is currently noincentive for manufacturers to invest in extra tests,which cost about $5000 each, for other fuel types (DEH 2006).

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A number of factors, including the cost and availabilityof firewood and of alternative fuels, will influence futurefirewood demand. However, it seems clear that demandfor firewood will continue into the future. To ensure anecologically sustainable supply, a broad range of optionsneeds to be considered, including increased use offirewood from plantations, wood waste (from sawmills,manufacturing, demolition sites, arboriculture andhouseholds) and residues from silvicultural operations.Although value-adding in the timber industry iscontinually finding new products, waste will always begenerated. Whereas sawmill waste was previouslyburned, the strong market for river red gum firewoodmeans that these wastes are now sold. In many areas,current demand for firewood outstrips sustainablesupplies and the development of alternative fuel and/orheating systems is likely to be needed in the future.


Firewood collection in state forest comes under thepolicies and legislation discussed earlier in this chapter.However, the combination of a high proportion offirewood collected from private land and the highproportion being taken by individuals and part-timeoperators makes the firewood industry very difficult toregulate. Recently, two strategies have been releasedwith the objective of reducing the impacts of firewoodcollection.

The Australia and New Zealand Environment andConservation Council developed a National Approach toFirewood Collection and Use in Australia. It aims to‘ensure that all firewood collection occurs on anecologically sustainable basis and is not a cause of lossand degradation of remnant and woodland ecosystemsor the habitats of threatened species’ (ANZECC 2001).This document recognises six major strategies to achieveits objectives:

• improve the information base

• educate the community

• implement market mechanisms

• increase effectiveness of regulations

• develop a sustainable firewood industry, encouragingplantations, sustainable management of native forestand use of residues

• improve efficiency of firewood use and encouragealternatives.

Following consultation with firewood merchants andstate and territory governments, the Natural ResourceManagement Ministerial Council, on 1 August 2005,endorsed a revised voluntary code of practice forfirewood merchants. The code promotes a moreenvironmentally friendly firewood industry and willunderpin a sustainable future for the industry.Merchants who sign up to the code will:

• ensure firewood they sell is collected in accordancewith relevant legislation and regulations

• promote firewood sourced from plantations andsustainably managed forests

• ensure firewood will not be collected from areaswhere collection may have a significant impact onlisted threatened species or listed threatenedecological communities

• promote good storage and burning practices and theuse of seasoned firewood to minimise air pollution(NRMMC 2005).


On-farm timber plantations in lower rainfall areasprovide economic benefits as windbreaks andshelterbelts for livestock and for lowering groundwatertables and reducing salinity. They provide environmentalbenefits through greenhouse gas abatement and theprovision of faunal habitat, as well as general amenity.Extensive areas of private property in the Murray Riverhinterland are suited to agroforestry systems andcommunity based woodlots for the production ofsubstitutes for some of the small-dimension productsyielded from native forests, such as fence posts andfirewood. But sawlog production requires a muchlonger timeframe and, in the north of the state, treegrowth is slow and productivity is low.

Establishment of commercial plantations necessitatesdetailed economic analysis. Important considerations insuch analyses would include water volumes and costs,irrigation infrastructure costs, land costs, siteproductivity, values of the products and proximity tomarkets and the competitive position relative toalternative crops or land uses. The effect of insectpredation on the growth rates of native species is alsoan important factor (Arnold et al. 1999).

The quality of relatively fast-grown, pruned, plantationtimbers is likely to differ markedly from that of slow-grown, older, natural forests and would probably bedirected to different applications. The density of timberfrom fast-grown trees is lower, for instance, and knotsare larger than in comparatively sized trees from naturalforests (Yang & Waugh 1996a, b). Nevertheless, Yangand Waugh (1996a) found that the strength propertiesof clear wood from plantation-grown blue gum werenot inferior to those from mature forests whendifferences in tree size and age are taken intoconsideration. They believed that it could be used forstructural sawn products in applications whereplantation-grown softwoods are now used. Thestrength properties of plantation-grown shining gumand mountain ash, however, were lower than that ofthese species from native forests (Yang & Waugh1996b).

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Several investigations into the ability of plantation-growneucalypts to produce quality sawn timbers have beenundertaken. Plantations of species other than river redgum can achieve better productivity values than thosefor native river red gum forests but even the moreproductive species grown on 30-year rotations have thusfar been found to be economically unviable for sawnproducts. The following are examples of the range ofvalues for wood productivity measured or estimated foreucalypt plantations in southern Australia:

• 20 m3/ha/yr (estimated) for Tasmanian blue gumgrown in Gippsland (DNRE 2002c);

• 17.8 m3/ha/yr (measured) for Tasmanian blue gumgrown under an intensive thinning and fertilisationregime near Busselton in southwest WesternAustralia—with more than 800 mm per annumrainfall (Brennan et al. 2004);

• 16 m3/ha/yr (estimated) for hardwood plantations eastof the Hume Freeway in the upper catchments of theMurray and Goulburn rivers where the annual rainfallis more than 700 mm (Wareing et al. 2002);

• 12 m3/ha/yr (estimated) for a Sugar Gum plantationgrowing in the 600–650 mm rainfall zone in Victoria(DNRE 2002c);

• 4.5–4.9 m3/ha/yr (measured) for Sugar Gumplantations growing at the You Yangs in Victoria in the450–500 mm rainfall zone (Dexter & Poynter 2005).

For comparison, softwood plantations in the north eastof Victoria can grow at about 19 m3/ha/yr (Wareing etal. 2002).

River red gums are inclined to branch (the species haspoor apical dominance) rather than being dominated bya single central stem as is the case in many othereucalypts. The bole tends to beak into branches early,leading to short trunks, multiple stems and largebranches (Jacobs 1955). This effect is pronounced at theconventional plantation stocking rate of 1000 stems perhectare (Dexter & Poynter 2005). To achieve a well-stocked plantation of trees of good form, river red gumplantations would need to be at close spacing or directseeded (natural stands carry more than 3000 stems perha at age eight—see above) to discourage sidebranching. Planting at such densities requires thinningand stem selection, which is labour intensive andexpensive.

Because it is adapted to arid and semi-aridenvironments, river red gum has been planted widely incountries around the world where it is used as a sourceof posts, poles, firewood, pulp and to a lesser extentsaw timber (Mazanec 1999). As with plantations ofexotic species in Australia, river red gum can be muchmore productive when planted overseas. This isprincipally because exotic species are less affected byendemic insects and diseases. Plantation speciesoverseas, however, are also selected for their desiredcharacteristics and are more intensively managed. InCalifornia, for example, river red gum planted for fibreproduction is yielding up to 45 m3/ha/yr on eight-yearrotations (Arnold et al. 1999). This particular plantationwas subject to intensive site preparation, fertilisation andfrequent drip irrigation scheduled on the basis ofevapotranspiration estimates and tree age, andcomprises tissue-cultured clones that were intensively

selected and tested for vigour, straightness, coldtolerance and wood quality. In contrast, followinginvestigation of the potential of river red gum for farmforestry in Western Australia, Mazanec (1999)concluded that, to date, relatively poor growth rates andpoor form have rendered it a non-commercialproposition.

Even under optimal watering conditions, stands of riverred gum managed primarily for timber production(similar to plantation conditions) would yield only 4.35m3/ha/yr (2.5 m3/ha/yr in sawlog-quality material) (seeAppendix 16). It would also take at least 40–50 yearsto produce sufficient trees of merchantable size andwood quality to warrant economic harvesting (Dexter & Poynter 2005). To be commercially viable in the250–450 mm rainfall zone of northern Victoria, timberplantations would require access to water, which is alimited resource in the region and in strong demand formore profitable short-term crops (see chapters 13&15).

In recognition of the poor plantation potential of mostspecies grown under low rainfall, hybrid eucalypts thatcan combine an ability to tolerate drought and salinitywith the superior growth characteristics of notedplantation species are being developed. A river redgum–blue gum hybrid is under trial in north-centralVictoria but plantings are too young to indicate itssuccess and it will be decades before its ultimatesurvival, growth and wood quality are known (Dexter & Poynter 2005).

However, although there has been increasing interest inthe prospects of commercially irrigated eucalyptplantations in the southern Murray–Darling Basin, fewsuch plantations exist in that region which can provideinstructive models. The high rates of evapotranspirationassociated with dense rapidly growing plantations hasled to their use for reducing soil moisture, such wheresewage and other urban and industrial effluent isdischarged, irrigation drainage sites and where thegroundwater table is shallow. Sydney blue gum andflooded gum species have relatively high waterrequirements due to their high rates of growth and havebeen established on such sites in the northeast of thestate to reduce the environmental impact of nutrient-richrunoff on river systems. These plantings are generallyowned by either private landowners in irrigation areas orwater management authorities. Plantations for effluentdisposal have been established at Shepparton,Wangaratta and Wodonga and further plantings can beexpected (Wareing et al. 2002). Plantations establishedfor the re-use of industrial, agricultural or other effluentare often simply allowed to grow with littlemanagement.

Small plantations (averaging 10–15 ha) of mainly bluegum and shining gum are scattered through the centraland northeastern parts of Victoria’s Murray andGoulburn river catchments (600–800 mm rainfall zone).Totalling about 1600 ha, most are owned by privateindividuals (members of the FFORNE Hardwood GrowersCo-op) and were established with the assistance offinancial incentives from the Victorian Governmentthrough the 1996–98 North East Farm Forestry Project.These plantations will probably be managed for sawlogproduction and, although they may produce somepulpwood from thinnings, are not expected to be ready

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for final harvesting until at least 2020. The largestconcentrations of FFORNE plantations are located in theDelatite (now Mansfield and Benalla) and MurrindindiShires and Wangaratta Rural City. The rate of expansionappears to have lost impetus, however, in the absence offurther financial incentives and the establishment ofplantations for pulp-log production closer to portfacilities (Wareing et al. 2002).

Environmental Services

Many of the substitutes for wood products aredemanding on energy and water and the wastes andother emissions produced in their manufacture havefurther environmental impacts. Timber, on the otherhand, is an environmentally friendly resource. It isenergy-efficient, recyclable, biodegradable and anaturally renewable resource and requires less energy toprocess than other building materials such as bricks,cement, plastic, glass, steel and aluminium (Pearson1989).

The value of thinning and other silvicultural practices to,for example, reduce the severity of insect attack or toreduce the numbers of trees in stands that are stressedand dying from salinity, inappropriate watering anddrought is discussed above. The potential benefits offirewood for reducing greenhouse gas emissions aredescribed above.

Specific silvicultural regimes can be applied in the riverred gum forests to maintain or improve habitat value,by:

• improving structural diversity;

• promoting river red gum regeneration to provide orrestore roosting sites for colonially nesting waterbirds;

• improving roosting and nesting opportunities for birds,

through thinning of dense stands to accelerate thedevelopment of heavier branching in the retainedtrees;

• preventing or reversing forest encroachment ontomoira grass plains, through suppression or removal ofriver red gum regeneration.

Each of these can be undertaken through specificsilvicultural operations and, in some cases, woodproducts may be harvestable (DNRE 2002a).

As with plantations, native forests have a substantial rolein reducing the greenhouse effect through thesequestration of carbon from the atmosphere.Regenerating forests absorb a greater amount of carbonthan senescent forests (DSE 2005h). This effectcontinues for as long as they are growing but the ratereduces as the forests mature until the stage whengrowth and decay are in balance. During senescence,when the rate of decay exceeds that of growth, theforest becomes a net emitter of carbon dioxide.

Forests managed sustainably for the production oftimber are regarded as greenhouse ‘sinks’ as the amountof carbon they sequester exceeds that released duringharvesting. Further, following harvesting, carbonremains in the wood for the lifespan of the end product(DSE 2005h). The wooden frame of a brick veneer housestores up to 7.5 tonnes of carbon while a steel framefor a similar house adds 2.9 tonnes of carbon to theatmosphere through the use of fossil fuels for energy toproduce the steel (Turner 1989). High quality river redgum furniture is thought to have a service life of 200years, general construction timbers might remain in usefor 80 to 100 years, while sleepers have a 30-yearservice life, after which they may be used in landscapingfor a further 20 years (Dexter & Poynter 2005).

Australia imports some $4.9 billion of forest products,an estimated $450 million of which derives from illegallogging operations and almost half of that (about $214million) is in the form of furniture (Hopkins 2006).Furniture produced from timbers grown within Australiareduces some of the demand for imported timbers and,although the volume is small compared to that fromother native timbers, quality furniture produced fromriver red gum reduces some of the demand for importedred timbers, such as merbau.

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15 Water Resource Use and Environmental Flows

This chapter considers the regulation of the River Murray for irrigation, the consequentialimpacts on the environment, and the use ofmanaged water flows to achieve environmentaloutcomes on public land.

The hydrology of the River Murray basin under naturalconditions is outlined in chapter 4. That chapter alsodescribes how the natural systems of the river and itsfloodplain evolved with the unique flow and floodregimes of the river—cycles of wet and dry and differentflood types.

During the last 100 years the River Murray and itsVictorian tributaries have been modified extensively byhumans for economic development and expansion—mostly agriculture (see chapter 13). Most of thiseconomic activity is on private land and is thereforeoutside the scope of this study. However, modifyingnatural river flows for water consumption on privateland has resulted in significant ongoing environmental,social and economic costs for public land in the studyarea (see chapters 5, 6, 11, 13 and 14). It has alsomeant the development of a highly complex network ofwater regulation infrastructure and managementsystems and processes around the consumption ofwater. Current approaches to addressing environmentaldegradation of the river red gum forests involve utilisingthat existing river regulation infrastructure.

In previous investigations, VEAC and its predecessorshave focused principally on recommending theappropriate category for each area of public land underconsideration. Relatively little emphasis has been givento processes and other factors that are not specific toparticular public land areas. This Investigation differssignificantly from many earlier studies, because riverflows and flooding regimes play an important role in thesustainability of ecosystems and local economies. Inparticular, the provision of environmental flows tosustain the study area’s forests, wetlands and waterwaysis perhaps the most significant determinant ofenvironmental health of public land, and cannot bedisregarded by VEAC. At the same time, the possibilityof reduced availability of water for irrigation—especiallyas a result of climate change—is perhaps the largestpotential economic issue in the study area.

Understanding how the River Murray and its tributariesare regulated for water consumption is importantbecause regulation influences and constrains howmanaged flows for environmental outcomes aredelivered to the floodplain forests and wetlands. Thischapter (to be read in conjunction with chapters 4 and5) therefore examines:

• how the River Murray is regulated,

• the administrative arrangements associated with riverregulation within the context of the River Murraybeing owned by New South Wales (NSW) and thewater shared by NSW, Victoria and South Australia(SA),

• the use of environmental flows as a management toolto achieve environmental outcomes,

• the administrative arrangements associated withenvironmental flows, and

• briefly, the issues of water accounting and climatechange in the context of environmental flows.

The issues under discussion relate primarily to the studyarea and this chapter is not a comprehensive descriptionof water arrangements in Victoria or the Murray-DarlingBasin.


The River Murray and its Victorian tributaries is managedby a complex set of administrative arrangements todeliver water to consumers. This Investigation is mainlyinterested in the administrative arrangements aroundhow water is allocated to consumptive users and howthese arrangements impact on water allocations for theriver red gum forests in the study area.

Murray-Darling Basin Agreement

Underpinning all arrangements for allocating water fromthe River Murray is the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.This Agreement (1992) details the roles andresponsibilities of the Murray-Darling Basin MinisterialCouncil and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, aswell as the monitoring and investigation requirements,operational management arrangements, financialmanagement responsibilities and water distributionincluding water accounting arrangements. TheAgreement clearly spells out each state’s entitlement andthe obligations of NSW and Victoria to SA. This detailedand lengthy document is available on the Murray-DarlingBasin Commission website.

As well as the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement there isalso the National Water Initiative Agreement (2004),signed by the Commonwealth, NSW, Victorian,Queensland, South Australian, Australian CapitalTerritory and Northern Territory governments. Theagreement is intended to be consistent with the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement and specifies a set of outcomesand commitments that focus on achieving more efficientand effective water planning and allocationarrangements, building knowledge and capacity andcommunity partnerships and adjustments for jurisdictionassociated with the Murray-Darling Basin. It alsoarticulates an integrated management approach towater to ensure environmental and other public benefitoutcomes are gained.

Murray-Darling Basin Diversion Cap

As well as these two agreements water from the RiverMurray system is subjected to the Murray-Darling BasinCap. This was introduced in 1995 by the Murray-DarlingBasin Ministerial Council following a water audit of allrivers in the basin. The Cap limits the amount of waterthat can be extracted from the Murray-Darling Basinrivers. In regulated rivers diversion is limited to whatwould have been diverted under 1993-1994 levels ofdevelopment. In unregulated rivers the Cap is expressedas an end-of-catchment flow regime. The Cap attemptsto balance economic and social benefits obtained fromwater resources and the environmental uses of water inthe rivers (MDBC 2002).

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For Victorian rivers, the long term diversion Cap is:

• Goulburn, Loddon and Broken Rivers, 2,084 GL peryear. These rivers are important sources of inflows forthe River Murray system;

• Upper Murray, Kiewa and Ovens Rivers, 1,656 GL peryear. These rivers are important sources of inflows forthe River Murray system;

• Campaspe River, 122 GL per year; and

• Wimmera and Mallee Rivers, 162 GL per year. Theserivers (refer to chapter 4) contribute little or no waterto the River Murray system (MDBC 2002).

Although the Cap prevents increases in water diversion,it does not constrain new developments provided thewater is obtained by using water more efficiently froman existing entitlement or by purchasing someone else’sentitlement. The Cap is a ten year rolling average thatallows extracted volumes to be adjusted to take accountof water traded between river basins and states.Compliance is assessed by the Murray-Darling BasinCommission’s Independent Audit Group, which preparesan annual review of Cap compliance containingpreliminary findings, followed by a Water AuditMonitoring Report.

Water Allocation Framework

The principles upon which water allocation is based aredescribed in Box 15.1.

Victoria’s water allocation framework includes a threetiered allocation system. The first tier nominates thatgovernment retains the overall right to the use, flow andcontrol of all surface and groundwater on behalf of allVictorians. Under the new water legislation the rights ofthe Crown are extended to include stormwater andrecycled water.

The second tier relates to the Minister making large scaleor bulk entitlements for both consumption andenvironmental uses. This tier incorporates the allocationof water for consumption through bulk entitlements andceilings on total water use from each catchment oraquifer and for the environment through the newEnvironmental Water Reserve (see below). It allows forother non-consumptive uses to be taken into account,such as recreation.

The third tier is the allocation of rights to privateindividuals for consumption. These include waterentitlements such as water rights, licences and privaterights and allocation for households and for ruraldomestic and stock uses. Figure 15.1 illustrates thisthree tiered arrangement for water allocation.

Agencies Involved in the Water AllocationFramework

National Level Agencies

The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council whosemembership includes ministerial representation from theFederal, NSW, Victorian, South Australian, Queenslandand Australian Capital Territory governments providesoverall strategic direction and decision making aroundthe natural resources of the Murray-Darling Basin. TheMurray-Darling Basin Commission is the agencyresponsible for managing the water resources of theMurray-Darling Basin on behalf of Victoria, NSW and SA.River Murray Water is the operational arm of theCommission and undertakes most of the modelling anddecision making processes around the three operationmodes described below. The operation of LakeDartmouth, Lake Hume, the Menindee Lakes and LakeVictoria is managed by River Murray Water.

Box 15.1 Victoria’s Principles for Water Allocation

In Victoria, the Water Act 1989 and more recently theWater (Resource Management) Act 2005 provides thelegislative framework for the allocation of Victoria’swater resources. Allocation is based on a set ofprinciples that include:

• The Victorian Government is responsible for:

– the sustainable management of the state’s waterresources;

– the allocation of water resources for irrigation,urban use, the environment and for all otherpurposes; and

– establishing and maintaining the integrity of thestate’s water allocation system.

• The state’s water allocation system encompasses allwater resources, including surface water,groundwater, recycled water and stormwater.

• Water will be set aside in an Environmental WaterReserve (outlined below) that will:

– maintain the environmental values of the watersystem and the other environmentally dependentwater services;

– sustain biodiversity, ecological functioning andwater quality; and

– have legal status and be held by the Crown.

• In establishing the initial Environmental WaterReserve, the rights of existing entitlement holderswill be recognised.

• Water entitlements for consumption will:

– have secure tenure;

– aim to provide reliable water supplies;

– link the entitlement to a share of the total amountof water available for consumption at any time;

– specify the obligations associated with holding theentitlement; and

– be allocated by market mechanisms, whereverpossible, and be allowed to trade betweenentitlement holders.

• All water allocation decisions will take into accountthe availability of water for the diversity of non-consumptive water uses valued by the community.

• Management of the water allocation system will beadaptive – responding to changing demands,community expectations and new knowledge, whilstensuring the objectives of Environmental WaterReserves are being met.

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State Agencies

Various water authorities operate the water supplystorages in the Murray Basin on behalf of River MurrayWater. Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) operatesDartmouth Dam in Victoria, Yarrawonga Weir (LakeMulwala), Torrumbarry Weir and Mildura Weir (Lock 11)on behalf of River Murray Water. State Water in NSWoperates Lake Hume and the Menindee Lakes and theSouth Australian Water Corporation operates LakeVictoria and locks downstream of Lock 11.

Victoria shares the volume in the storages with NewSouth Wales under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement,which grants Victoria a share of the total reservoircapacity to store and release its share of inflows. GMWis responsible for allocating water to bulk entitlementholders from Victoria’s share of the water supplystorages in the River Murray system. GMW alsomanages the storages on Victorian tributaries to theRiver Murray in its own right.

In terms of irrigation systems GMW is responsible for theMurray Valley, Torrumbarry, Tresco and Nyah irrigationareas, and is the licensing authority for groundwater andsurface water on the Victorian side of the River Murraybasin as far downstream as Nyah. Lower Murray Water(formerly Sunraysia Rural Water Authority) is responsiblefor managing Red Cliffs, Robinvale and MerbeinIrrigation Districts, and is the licensing authority forprivate diversion of irrigation between Nyah and theSouth Australian border. The First Mildura Irrigation Trustsupplies irrigation water within its district near Mildura.

Various urban water authorities manage town watersupplies drawn from the River Murray. North-East Watermanages water supply to towns upstream of LakeMulwala, including Yarrawonga. Goulburn Valley Watermanages water supply to towns in the Murray ValleyIrrigation Area, while Coliban Water supplies towns inthe Torrumbarry Irrigation Area. Lower Murray Watersupplies towns from Kerang to the South Australianborder (DSE 2006i). Map 15.1 shows the location ofwater authorities in the study area. Water authoritiesare also referred to in chapters 9 and 17.

Waterway management functions of Victorian RiverMurray tributaries reside with the North East, theGoulburn Broken, the North Central and the MalleeCatchment Management Authorities, with theDepartment of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) andthe Murray-Darling Basin Commission coordinating andintegrating waterway management along the length ofthe River Murray. Catchment management authorities(CMAs) also play a major role in floodplainmanagement, environmental flows and in biodiversitymanagement.

Local governments use zoning under the Planning andEnvironment Act 1987 to exclude certain land uses thatmay impact on water quality or where land is subjectedto regular flooding. They are also involved in floodplainmanagement activities and stormwater management,including drainage, protection of water quality andrestoration of degraded rivers.

Figure 15.1 Victoria’s water allocation system.

Source: DSE (2004i)

Victoria’s Water

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Rights held by Crown

Individual rights

• Rights granted to theenvironment & authorities

• Water for non-consumptive uses

• Caps

Surface water,groundwater,stormwater and recycled water

Licences• surface water• ground water

Irrigation• water rights• new water


Privaterights• Rainfall• Riparian

Supplies byagreement

Supplies to urbancustomers

Caps and bulk allocationsfor consumptive use –includes benefits fortourism, recreation, andother values

Environmental waterreserve – Includes benefitsfor tourism, recreation, and other values

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Kiewa River





South Australia



orth M









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- M

















































ia R


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a M


e W




rn M


y W



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ay W




t Mild




n T




n R


n W




rn V


y W




th E













r to







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es in


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239Discussion Paper

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240 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Water Accounting

In 2004 the Victorian Government published the WaterWhite Paper to guide the future use of water in Victoria.A major platform of the White Paper is the delivery of water in a more efficient and effective manner,particularly with respect to irrigation practices, but also for environmental flows.

A key aspect of this water delivery involves thedevelopment of water accounting systems to clearlyidentify the stock of water, where it is available from andhow much is delivered and where. Efforts are beingmade at both the national and state level to develop awater accounting system. The Federal Government’sNational Water Initiative proposes a water accountingframework for the whole of the terrestrial phase of thewater cycle, to enable aggregation to a national level.Work is also being conducted into developing nationalwater accounting standards, which are beingincorporated into Victoria’s State Water Accounts.However, given the many complexities in water resourcemanagement, there are many challenges involved inestablishing a meaningful state and national wateraccounting system (DSE 2006i).

Water accounting is used to describe the record keepingand reporting of all water flows and water entitlementtransactions associated with the management, allocationand use of water resources. Accounting for waterparallels financial accounting in that there are equivalentseasons and year end statements and reports (DSE2006i).

For accounting purposes the environment’s rights towater in rivers falls into two classes, each of whichneeds to be treated separately in order to develop aconsistent accounting system:

• extractive rights. These are entitlements to discretevolumes of water in regulated water systems that canbe used at the discretion of the environmentalmanager for, say, watering a wetland; and

• in-stream rights. This component of the environment’sshare of flow in a river includes flows maintained by awater authority as an obligation, and above-cap water.The timing of these flows is determined by rules inwater authorities’ bulk entitlements and flows in riversystems, for example in response to rain when areservoir spills (DSE 2006i).

A limitation of any water accounting system is itsinability to report on the ecological effectiveness ofenvironmental flows for rivers, wetlands and aquifers,particularly across time. As well, the State Water Reportdoes not cover reporting of ecological effectiveness andoutcomes on environmental flows. In response to thesereporting gaps DSE has commissioned the Water Co-operative Research Centre to initiate an ecologicalmonitoring program to assess the outcomes of the useof environmental water. These outcomes will bereported on separately to the current State Water Reportonce the ecological monitoring program is implemented(DSE 2006i).

Long-term benefits and improvements in the health ofVictoria’s rivers through environmental flows should,however, be evident in the 5 yearly state of theenvironment report produced by the Victorian

Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability and theVictorian Catchment Management Council’s 5 yearlycatchment condition report. Such improvements shouldalso, over the long term, contribute to improvements inthe health of the River Murray system.

An accounting system may assist with clarification insituations where environmental flows are used to waterwetlands (an amount taken from the water system), butwhere the excess water flows back into the main riversystem and may be available for other uses downstream.An accounting system may also be a useful managementtool to determine environmental flow allocations andwhere there are multiple or joint beneficiaries such astimber production (DSE 2006i).


History of Regulation

Since European settlement in the River Murray Basinarea, people have actively modified the natural floodingand flow of the river on a large scale. First efforts atregulation included construction of levees in the early19th century for flood control and basic irrigation. Thiswas followed around the early 1850s by flow regulationto enable commercial navigational use of the river. Inthe 1870s, the first use of the river for major irrigationsystems began around Kerang, Victoria (see chapter 7for details of the history of irrigation and its role in landdevelopment in northern Victoria).

However, further expansion of irrigation was difficultbecause of the variability of river flows and seriousdroughts in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Theproblem of drought needed to be overcome by levellingout the natural flow peaks and troughs across theseasons and years and making more water availableduring summer and times of drought—in effect an‘insurance policy’. Construction of permanentinfrastructure systems to hold greater volumes of waterover seasons and years and deliver water in a morereliable and predictable manner provided the answer tothis problem.

Figure 15.2 The renowned Furphy water cart usedto transport water.

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241Discussion Paper

The history of river regulation is closely tied to the use ofwater to promote closer land settlement across northernVictoria during the 1930s depression years and followingthe two World Wars. Implementation of these landsettlement patterns was dependent on a readily availableand long-term secure water supply (see chapter 7).

The expansion of irrigation in northern Victoria andsouthern NSW increased the demand by both states forreliable access to water from the River Murray. Tomanage the competing demands of the two states theRiver Murray Waters Agreement (the Agreement) wassigned in 1915. In 1996 Queensland also signed theAgreement which remains in place today, withamendments in 1987, and 1992 (Gippel & Blackham2002).

The basis of the initial Agreement was for NSW andVictoria to agree on river flow quantities at Albury forthe purposes of irrigation development and navigationalong the River Murray. Specifically the Agreementensured that water flow was to be shared equallybetween NSW and Victoria and that Victoria and NSWretain control of their respective tributaries below Albury.In addition, Victoria and NSW agreed to supply SA witha minimum agreed ‘entitlement’. Much of Adelaide’swater is supplied from the River Murray via a pipelinefrom Morgan.

The Agreement also provided for construction of asystem of storages, locks and weirs. The large storageswere intended to capture and store the large flows

generated in late winter and spring, for use in summerand autumn and to increase security of water supply.The smaller structures were to make the river navigableacross seasons and years during times of low flows andby providing pools for gravity fed and pumped irrigationdiversions. Later, the Agreement was amended to givepreference to irrigation infrastructure rather thannavigational needs as the latter declined. Since the firstAgreement the following dams and structures have beenconstructed on the River Murray and its southerntributaries:

• Torrumbarry Weir

• Hume Dam

• Yarrawonga Weir

• Lake Eildon

• Lake Eppalock

• Snowy Mountain Scheme

• Dartmouth Dam

• Goulburn Weir (constructed 1891, redeveloped 1987)

• weirs for irrigation and navigational purposes atMildura, and

• banks, weirs and channels on Menindee Lakes (NSW)to increase the capacity and prevent drainage andback flow up the Darling River.

Information including details on the capacity andcompletion dates of these structures is summarised inTable 15.1.

Figures 15.3 Lake Hume.

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242 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

The Snowy Mountain Scheme was completed in 1974and the Dartmouth Dam in 1979, both having been builtto capture higher surface water run-off levels in theheadwaters (see chapter 4), and increase the reliability ofthe flows over the seasons and across years along theentire length of the River Murray.

Dams and weirs on the Victorian tributaries of the RiverMurray include Lake Eildon (1955) and Goulburn Weir(1987) on the Goulburn River and Lake Eppalock (1964)on the Campaspe River. The Ovens River, with a smallstorage on each of its tributaries the Buffalo and KingRivers, remains the only substantial, unregulatedtributary of the River Murray in Victoria. Dams andweirs are designed for the same purposes as those on

the River Murray, to provide a secure and reliable watersupply over time, principally for irrigation. The majordams, weirs and locks involved in the provision of waterfor irrigation along the River Murray and its tributariesare shown in Map D and briefly described in Table 15.1.

Major Victorian irrigation regions serviced by regulationof the River Murray and its tributaries include, theRochester, Pyramid-Boort, Robinvale, Red Cliffs, Merbeinand Mildura Irrigation districts and the Campaspe,Murray Valley and Torrumbarry Irrigation Areas. Theseirrigation areas are located in close proximity to thestudy area. The Murray Valley Irrigation Area is one ofVictoria’s largest irrigation regions and a majoragricultural production area, including the Shepparton

Storage Facility

Hume Dam



MilduraWeir andLock 11


Lake Eildon




3038 GL

118 GL (largestdiversion weiron the RiverMurray system)

36 GL

36 GL

3906 GL (largestcapacity dam in Victoria)

3390 GL

25 GL

411 GL


Major storage for overallmanagement of River Murraywater levelsIrrigationHydro-electricity generationFlood mitigationRecreation

Irrigation - diverts around 1900GL per year (17% of river’saverage annual flow)Power generationRecreation



IrrigationAssists with maintaining baselevels of overall flow of riverSalinity flushingRecreation

Flood mitigationPower generationIrrigationRecreation

IrrigationFlood mitigationRecreation


Table 15.1 Characteristics and capacities of key storages associated with the River Murray in Victoria

Irrigation regionserviced

All regions sourcingwater from theMurray system

Murray ValleyIrrigation region of VictoriaDistributes water to an area of128,000 haTorrumbarryIrrigation Systemaround Cohuna,Kerang and Swan Hill

All regions sourcingwater from theMurray system

Goulburn-MurrayIrrigation District

Goulburn IrrigationDistrict

Goulburn IrrigationDistrict

Notes: All storages in this table are operated by Goulburn-Murray Water. The power station at Yarrawonga Weir is now ownedand operated remotely from New Zealand by Meridian Energy with a network link to the Goulburn-Murray Water weir office.Power was first generated in 1994 with a maximum power generation of nine megawatts.

Completion date



Reconstructedin 1996




1891,redevelopedin 1987







Mitta Mitta




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Irrigation Region. The Torrumbarry Irrigation Area is theonly one in this list supplied by direct pumping from theRiver Murray rather than through gravity-fed delivery.Torrumbarry Weir is also the most upstream lock on theRiver Murray.

Economic Benefits of River Regulation

The extensive river regulation infrastructure developedacross the Murray-Darling Basin has benefited both thecommunities of the Basin as well as Australia as a whole(see chapters 8 and 13). The Murray-Darling Basinproduces around $10 billion of agricultural produce ofwhich $3 billion is from irrigation. Around $75 billion ayear is generated from the Basin towards the nationaleconomy (MDBC 2002).

As well as providing the basis for agriculture, riverregulation provides natural assets for a range ofrecreation and tourism activities. For example, LakeMulwala provides a water body well suited to waterskiing and motor boat racing and the greater waterflows in summer enable water leisure activities to occurin the warmer summer or early autumn months whennatural flows would usually be too low. These activitiesand other tourism-associated activities are important tothe Basin’s economy and the River Red Gum Forestsstudy area (see chapter 11).

While contributing overall to the region’s economy, riverregulation involves competing economic interests forwater in terms of access by different water users,including the environment, and the timing of thataccess. For example, irrigators in the upstream regionsof the River Murray may feel they have a priority to all

water flowing past their region at any point in time,however irrigators around Mildura or indeed, thepopulation of Adelaide, believe that they too have anequal right to a reliable supply of water from the RiverMurray system throughout the year. Similar competingviews exist between NSW irrigators compared withVictorian irrigators. Most of the organisationalarrangements around water allocation discussed in thissection relate to the management of these competinginterests. Over recent decades, water for environmentalpurposes has become an increasingly important player inthis competitive context.

Surface Water Diversion and Storage Operations

Water Diversions

The extensive network of dams, weirs and channelsalong the River Murray and its tributaries has thecapacity to divert around 10,000 to 11,000 GL of waterper year (see Map D) from the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin. This is twice the current average flow atthe South Australian border. Its also provides a totalstorage capacity of approximately 29,500 GL which ismore than double the average natural annual dischargeat the river Murray mouth (see Figure 15.5).

Table 15.2 compares the natural and current medianannual flows for the River Murray and its major Victoriantributaries. The table highlights the significant diversionsof the natural water flows from the Goulburn, Broken,Loddon and Campaspe Rivers. The high percentages ofthe first three rivers result from high use of accumulatedflows (Broken River), diversions from the Snowy RiverScheme (Murray River at Albury) and relatively littleregulation (Kiewa and Ovens Rivers) (Gippel & Blackham

Figures 15.4 Lock 7 weir between Mildura and the SA border.

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244 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

2002). As mentioned in chapter 4 the Goulburn Riverwas, under natural conditions, one of the major riverscontributing to the flows of the River Murray and amajor source for the flooding of the River Murrayfloodplain below Barmah and for the lower Goulburnfloodplains.

Surface run-off is at its maximum during late autumnthrough to early spring (see chapter 4). This is also theoptimal timing for diverting surface water for storagepurposes. Stored water is then released during the drierperiods of the year—usually in late spring through toearly autumn, resulting in changed flow regimes. Thesechanged flows and flood regimes between natural andcurrent conditions are shown is Figure 15.5. Thesefigures highlight the shifts of peak flow periods in theRiver Murray in the upper reaches under naturalconditions compared with regulated flows as well asillustrating the decline in flow volume for the river at theRiver Murray mouth. It also shows that the flow patternover the seasons has not changed significantly with riverregulation at the River Murray mouth.

Water Storage Operations

Across the River Murray system there are eight majorstorages relevant to this Investigation (Table 15.1). Fourare located on the River Murray itself. One, Dartmouth

Dam, is on the Mitta Mitta River in Victoria and three areon the Goulburn River system (see Map D for thelocation of these storages).

There are two other lake systems associated with theRiver Murray regulation network—both of which werenatural lakes—Lake Victoria and the Menindee Lakes.Lake Victoria has a capacity of 677 GL. Its major role isthe delivery of uniform water supplies to South Australiain accordance with the requirements of the Agreement.Lake Victoria is downstream of all major tributaries ofthe River Murray and is therefore able to store watercoming from any of these tributaries. This allows forSA’s water needs to be met from Lake Victoria whileother water in the River Murray system is used to supplyconsumers in Victoria and NSW during peak demandtimes. Lake Victoria also provides flexibility in the systemto overcome some of the problems associated with theBarmah Choke as it is used to meet the flow shortfallsresulting from the physical constraints imposed by theChoke (as explained in chapter 4). The Lake is also usedas a tool in the management of salinity levels in waterfor South Australia.

The Menindee Lakes system is on the Darling River. TheLakes system was developed and owned by the NSWgovernment. In 1963 the NSW government agreed to

Figure 15.5 River Murray flows under natural and current conditions at Albury and Murray Mouth.

Source: MDBC (2002)

Table 15.2 Comparison of natural and current median annual flows for selected locations on the RiverMurray and its tributaries.

Murray at Albury 4324 4832 112

Kiewa 566 560 99

Ovens 1399 1395 100

Murray at Yarrawonga 5590 3904 70

Goulburn 3208 1035 32

Broken 90 159 176

Campaspe 242 77 32

Loddon 188 50 27

Source: Gippel and Blackham (2002).

Location Natural median flow (GL/yr)

Current median flow (GL/yr)

Current as percentage of natural flow %

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lease the storage to the Murray-Darling BasinCommission to be used as part of the River Murraynetwork. Its nominal full volume is 1731 GL but this issubject to the highly variable flow rates of the DarlingRiver. Amongst other functions the Menindee Lakessystem is used to augment flows in the River Murray toassist the supply of water to NSW, Victoria and SouthAustralia.

All storages located on the River Murray are overseen bythe Murray-Darling Basin Commission with River MurrayWater having responsibility for operations. At anoperational level decisions are made daily on whatreleases will be made from the various storages alongthe river. Release volumes and timing are based onmeeting the needs of irrigators and flows for SA whilealso ensuring minimum flow requirements, dilution ofsalinity, maximum rates water level changes, and riverchannel capacity requirements. Goulburn-Murray Waterimplements these decisions as the water manager withinVictoria for the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

The three operating modes involved with running theRiver Murray system are described in the followingparagraphs. This first is supplying mode. This modeoccurs for most of the irrigation season, with releasesoccurring from early November through to mid-Mayeach year (the irrigation season commences in August).During this time flow is set to meet consumptive waterdemands, including those of SA with little surplus overand above these demands. Factors influencing the levelof supply to users include:

• river transmission losses and dilution flowrequirements,

• the ability to use tributary flows such as flows comingdown the Goulburn River,

• the feasibility of releasing water from Lake Victoriaand transferring water from the Menindee Lakes toLake Victoria to supply South Australia’s entitlementflows, and from Dartmouth Dam to Hume Dam,

• channel capacity—a factor that varies considerablyalong the entire river system,

• maximum rates of rise and fall of river levels set tominimise bank slumping and other problems,

• maintaining minimum flows at key points in the riversystem,

• water reductions at upstream storages, whilemaintenance works are underway, so as to temporarilyreduce flows at downstream storages, and

• releasing water for environmental purposes, such asmaintaining flows to wetlands for waterbird breeding.

Storing mode is where the objectives of riveroperations are to manage excess flows in the systemover above those required to meet diversions, watersupply and minimum requirements. This mode alsorelates to maintaining released flows within the riverchannel. Storing usually occurs during winter andspring. During this time the majority of water in theRiver Murray originates from high flows in tributariessuch as the Ovens, Kiewa and Goulburn Rivers.Decisions on whether to store or release water fromstorages are based on:

• the ability to capture surplus flows in Lake Victoria for

subsequent release during supplying mode,

• making minimum releases from each storage,

• operation of forest regulators for forest wateringpurposes,

• monitoring tributary inflows, and advising stakeholderswithin sufficient time if channel capacity will beexceeded, and

• pre-releasing from Dartmouth Dam, Hume Dam andMenindee Lakes at rates up to the downstreamcapacity.

The third mode is spilling, where water is released fromstorages when they are full or nearly so and inflow ratesare high as a result of rain. Such events usually occur inlate winter and spring. Where these spills occur theresulting flows usually exceed the river’s channelcapacity. Decisions on whether to spill or not to spill arecomplex as flows vary depending on the volume ofwater already in the system and the capacity of the RiverMurray channel along its entire length (see chapter 4).For example, the channel capacity of the River Murraydownstream of Dartmouth Dam is approximately 10 GLper day, between Hume Dam and Lake Mulwala(Yarrawonga Weir) it is approximately 25 GL per day,immediately downstream of Yarrawonga Weir channelcapacity is approximately 60 GL per day and for BarmahChoke it is about 8.5 GL per day. As explained belowchannel capacity is a major factor influencing the scaleof possible environmental flows.


The groundwater systems of the Murray-Darling Basinare undergoing change. Groundwater levels are risingover most of the southern part of the basin as a result oftwo activities. Firstly, regional recharge rates areincreasing as native vegetation is replaced withintroduced species with shallower roots that do notutilise as much groundwater. And secondly, irrigationallows excess water to filter through beyond the plantroot zone. This increase in infiltration causes aquiferlevels and therefore pressures to rise.

The consequences of these processes have been the re-activation of natural groundwater discharge systems andan increase in groundwater flows to river and streams.This is accompanied by an increase in discharge of salinewater into the rivers and streams and the developmentof salt scalds and pans in low lying depressions.

High quality groundwater reserves are being increasinglytapped to supplement or replace surface water suppliesduring periods of low rainfall and drought. Today,groundwater is viewed as a primary water source,particularly where surface water diversions are limited,lacking or expensive compared to groundwater (despitehigh energy costs for pumping). The exact extent ofgroundwater reserves across northern Victoria andsouthern NSW is not precisely known.

Access to groundwater is usually through a licensingsystem issued by the Victorian government and itsauthorities under the Water Act 1989. This usually fallsunder the responsibilities of water authorities. While notdirectly relevant to the Investigation, groundwatersystems are closely linked to surface water movements.Much rain falling on the land percolates into the soil and

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aquifers. Many aquifers then flow into rivers,contributing to their base flows as well as playing animportant role in recharging wetland systems. It isestimated that Victorian aquifers are recharged witharound 1000 GL of water annually. See chapter 4 forfurther details on the role of groundwater for thehydrology of the River Murray.

Consumption of Water

In Victoria water resources include surface water,groundwater, stormwater and recycled water. Withincreasing pressures on Victoria’s water, the use ofstormwater and recycled water for a range of land useactivities, including on public land, may become morecommon in the future (DSE 2006i). This chapter isconcerned with surface water use rather than storm orrecycled water.

Today, 95 percent of water diverted from rivers withinthe entire Murray-Darling Basin is used for irrigation(MDBC 2002). In Victoria around 77 percent or about4019 GL of total water harvested each year is used forirrigation (see Figure 15.6). Urban and industrial usesaccount for 17 percent or 860 GL of total use and ruralsupplies for 5 percent or about 286 GL. Theenvironment is not included in this breakdown as a “use category”.

Figure 15.6 Consumption of water in Victoria,2004–05.

Source: DSE (2006i), Water Report.

Compared with surface water resources, Victoria’suseable groundwater resources are small (around 10percent of surface water resources). The major uses ofgroundwater resources across Victoria are irrigation at60 percent, stock and domestic at 20 percent, minedewatering and urban use at 16 percent and in-situ uses4 percent. For areas closely associated with the RiverRed Gum Forests Investigation irrigation and stock arethe major users of groundwater supplies. The use ofgroundwater is likely to increase as surface wateravailability decreases due to climate change andincreased demand.

Constraints on River Regulation

A range of economic benefits is derived from theregulation of the River Murray for water supply and

navigation. However, physical barriers, such as damoutlet capacity and river channel capacity variations suchas the Barmah Choke, constrain the operations of theregulated system. Constraints are also placed byincreasing competition for water resources betweendifferent users and the extent to which different usersinterests are compatible (particularly in the context ofclimate change). Environmental degradation resultingfrom changes to flow and flood regimes, is a thirdlimitation on the benefits of river regulation, such assalinity, eutrophication and blue-green algal blooms,river bank slumping, loss of biodiversity and changes inthe movement of energy and nutrients between the riverand floodplains (see chapters 4, 5 and the environmentalflows section in this chapter).

Environmental Consequences of River Regulation

Regulation of the River Murray has changed the naturalflow conditions of the river significantly with majorimpacts on biodiversity of the riverine environment.Today, flow regimes are characterised by the reducedfrequency, duration and extent of winter-spring floodsand alterations of the timing of floods from late winterto late spring and early summer. Smaller summer floods,particularly around Barmah forest, have increased infrequency because of so-called ‘rain rejection’ events.The River Murray now flows at a more constant rate for the entire year and water temperatures are moreconstant across all seasons. Improving theseenvironmental flows is the primary area of VEAC’sinterest in water, and the subject of the next section of this chapter.


This section describes the administrative arrangementsassociated with environmental flows and how they areused as a management tool to achieve environmentaloutcomes on public land in the study area.

The Living Murray and the First Step Decision

Since the 1970s there has been increasing awareness bycommunity and governments about the consequences ofchanged river flow regimes for riverine ecology.Implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Cap onDiversions is, in part, a response to the decline in riverhealth due to reduced river flow regimes of both theRiver Murray and its tributaries.

However, over the last two decades there has beenincreasing pressure placed on governments at both thenational and state levels to address the ecologicalconsequences of these changed river flow regimes byreturning water to the environment. In response, theMurray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council initiated anumber of projects; one involving the establishment of aScientific Reference Panel to provide advice to theMinisterial Council. Their advice, provided in 2002,indicated that:

• the overall health of the River Murray is in decline;

• the river could no longer be considered healthy; and

• any restoration to improve the river’s health wouldneed to involve “major improvement in rivermanagement”.

In 2002 the Ministerial Council also established The

RuralDomestic& Stock,


Urban use –Melbourne, 10%


Urban use –regional Victoria,


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Living Murray Initiative (TLM) with a vision that the RiverMurray be a healthy working river. This initiative isunderpinned by the following principles:

• action will be taken to restore a healthy working riversystem;

• action taken will be fair and reasonable;

• a range of measures will be used in an integrated andadaptive manner; and

• there will be both government and community(including Indigenous) responsibilities for The LivingMurray decisions and outcomes.

While this Initiative is designed to address the health ofthe River Murray and its associated ecosystems it alsohas the objective of maintaining the long termsustainability of agricultural industries and communitieswithin the Murray-Darling Basin—that is, its focus is notentirely on biodiversity conservation.

The First Step Decision emerged from The Living MurrayInitiative in 2003. This decision by the Murray-DarlingBasin Ministerial Council outlined how the decline in theRiver Murray’s health will be addressed initially. The keyelements of the First Step Decision are listed in Box 15.2(MDBC 2005b).

The location of the six Significant Ecological Assets isshown on Map D and Figure 4.5.

The Living Murray Initiative and its First Step Decision isthe principal policy instrument guiding all activities byVictoria (and other Basin states) on restoring the healthof the River Murray. As such it is crucial for guidingwater management and ecological protection onVictorian public land along the River Murray. In thisInitiative the Ministerial Council specifies ecologicalobjectives and outcomes for each of the SignificantEcological Asset (SEA) sites. As a signatory to thisInitiative, Victoria is required to work towards achievingthese objectives and outcomes. Table 15.3 lists theobjectives and outcomes for each site. For thisInvestigation, relevant SEA sites are Barmah-MillewaForest, Gunbower and Koondrook-Pericoota Forests,Hattah Lakes, Chowilla Floodplain including Lindsay

Wallpolla Islands and the River Murray channel.

Murray-Darling Basin IntergovernmentalAgreement

Water Recovery

In June 2004 relevant Ministers of NSW, Victoria, SA, theAustralian Capital Territory and Commonwealthgovernments signed the Intergovernmental Agreementon Addressing Water Over Allocations and AchievingEnvironmental Objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin—known as the Murray-Darling Basin IntergovernmentalAgreement (MDB-IGA). This IntergovernmentalAgreement gives effect to the 2003 decision bygovernments to commit $500 million over five years toaddress water over-allocation in the Murray-DarlingBasin and recover “water for the environment”. Theindicative water recovery targets for each jurisdiction setunder the MDB-IGA are: NSW, 249 GL; Victoria, 214 GL;South Australia, 35 GL; and ACT, 2 GL.

Water recovery relates to acquiring “new water”through a range of practices from water wholesalers,distributors, retailers and individuals. Practices includethe following either in isolation or jointly:

• infrastructure improvements and rationalisations;

• regulatory changes;

• on-farm initiatives such as switching from sprayirrigation to drip irrigation techniques;

• efficiency gains in water delivery and use;

• market-based approaches such as water trading; and

• voluntary water purchases.

Water gained through these practices is to be re-directedto water for environmental flows across all Living MurraySEA sites. Under the MDB-IG and the First Step Decisionthe target for water recovery is an annual average 500GL by June 2009. There is limited information availableon what criteria were used to decide on the 500 GL forthe First Step Decision. For example, the Murray-DarlingBasin Ministerial Council discussion paper, 2002 presentsthree reference points for consideration: 350 GL; 750 GLand 1500 GL. The 500 GL agreed upon is therefore, atthe lower end of these points.

Box 15.2 Key elements of the First Step Decision

1. An initial focus will be on achieving outcomes forsix Significant Ecological Asset (SEA) sites: Barmah-Millewa Forest; Gunbower and Koondrook-Perricoota Forests; Hattah Lakes; the ChowillaFloodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands systems;the Murray Mouth, Coorong and Lower Lakes; andthe River Murray Channel—see Map D.

2. Statements of specific ecological objectives andoutcomes for each SEA will be developed.

3. These objectives will be achieved through:

• recovering water, built to an average of 500 GLper year of “new” water after five years, with thevolume to be used each year depending on arange of factors such as droughts and flood events;

• funding commencing from 1 July 2004; underthe $500 million to address water over-allocationin the Murray-Darling Basin announced by theCouncil of Australian Governments (COAG); and

• realignment of the previously announced capitalworks programs of an additional $150 million toeffectively manage the water to the six SignificantEcological Assets.

4. An adaptive management approach will beemployed.

5. A commitment is given to identifying opportunitiesfor Indigenous partnerships in planning andmanagement under the Living Murray.

Source: MDBC (2005b)

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248 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Some proponents argue for greater amounts of waterfor environmental flows to the SEAs. For example,conservation groups suggest an additional annual flowof 1500 GL is required, to have any impact or success.These groups are also arguing that water recoverypractices will, by themselves, not achieve the 500 GLamount for environmental flows to the six SEAs. Othergroups, such as the Wentworth Group argue that for theRiver Murray system to be restored to a healthy workingcondition around 2000 GL to 4000 GL per year arerequired combined with profound changes in rivermanagement. This raises the issue of whether there issufficient knowledge available to determine volumes ofwater required to successfully mimic environmental flowsacross a diverse natural system such as the River Murray.

In the Living Murray process, the Victorian Government’sapproach is to recover water via water savings projects,system management changes and strategic waterpurchased in Victoria. A case in point is the LakeMokoan Water Recovery Package with water savings inthe vicinity of 44 GL going into environmental flows forthe River Murray and the Snowy River (DSE 2006i).

Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan andthe Asset Environmental Management Plan

The Intergovernmental Agreement provides theframework for the development and implementation ofthe Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan (LMEWP)and the Asset Environmental Management Plans (AEMP)to achieve the specific objectives of the First Step

SignificantEcological Asset


Gunbower andKoondrook-PerricootaForests

Hattah Lakes

Chowilla Floodplainincluding Lindsay andWallpolla Islands

Murray Mouth,Coorong and Lower Lakes

River Murray Channel


Enhance forest, fishand wildlife values

Maintain and restore amosaic of healthyfloodplaincommunities

Restore healthyexamples of alloriginal wetland andfloodplaincommunities

Maintain highbiodiversity values ofthe ChowillaFloodplain

A healthier LowerLakes and Coorongestuarine environment

To increase thefrequency of higherflows in spring thatare ecologicallysignificant.To overcome barriersto migration of nativefish species betweenthe sea and HumeDam.To maintain currentlevels of channelstability.

Expected outcomes

• successful breeding of colonial waterbirds in at least three yearsin ten

• healthy vegetation in at least 55% of the area of forest

• 80% of permanent and semi-permanent wetlands in a healthycondition

• 30% of River Red Gum Forests in a healthy condition

• successful breeding of colonial waterbirds in at least three yearsin ten

• healthy populations of resident native fish in wetlands

• restore the aquatic vegetation zone in and around at least 50%of the lakes to increase fish and bird breeding and survival

• increase successful breeding events of threatened colonial waterbirds to at least two in ten years

• increase the population size of and breeding events of theendangered Murray hardyhead, Australian smelt, gudgeons andother wetland fish

• high value wetlands maintained

• current area of River Red Gum maintained

• at least 20% of the original area of Black Box vegetationmaintained

• open Murray mouth

• more frequent estuarine fish spawning

• enhanced migratory wader bird habitat in the Lower Lakes

• expanded ranges of many species of migratory fish

• similar levels of channel erosion to those currently existing

Table 15.3 Interim ecological objectives and expected outcomes for the six significant ecological assetsites set by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council in 2003.

Source: MDBC (2005b)

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249Discussion Paper

Decision. The Environmental Watering Plan must beconsistent with or complement other actions of theMDB-IGA and other actions being undertaken by theMurray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

The Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan isdeveloped and implemented by the EnvironmentalWatering Group (EWG), which is made up of eightpeople appointed by the Murray-Darling BasinCommission from a list of up to two people nominatedby each jurisdiction and two ex officio people (RiverMurray Water Production Manager and EnvironmentalManager of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission). TheEnvironmental Watering Plan coordinates the volume,timing, security and application of water necessary toachieve the ecological objectives of The Living Murrayfor each SEA. The plan is updated annually to reflectimproved information and knowledge regarding therelevant river and wetland systems and improvements indelivery practices.

Each year the updated Environmental Watering Plan issubmitted to the Murray-Darling Basin MinisterialCouncil for approval. The Living Murray EnvironmentalWatering Plan is based on consideration of:

• ecological objectives and outcomes for the sixSignificant Ecological Assets agreed to by theMinisterial Council in 2003;

• potential actions for each asset consistent with theMurray-Darling Basin Agreement and The LivingMurray First Step Decision’s objectives;

• triggers for these actions and expected outcomes;

• assessment of the likelihood of meeting conditions totrigger actions;

• methods for prioritising between actions competingfor water;

• estimated water availability over the year—volumesand locations;

• implementation roles and responsibilities;

• identification of priority actions for the year;

• links to The Living Murray Environmental Works andMeasures Program;

• monitoring, evaluation and reporting measures to beundertaken; and

• adaptive management measures.

The Environmental Watering Plan is linked with the AssetEnvironmental Management Plans (AEMP), developed foreach SEA. Developed by the EWG, these plans areagreed to each year by the Murray-Darling BasinMinisterial Council. They are designed to adapt theecological objectives prescribed in the First Step Decisionfor each significant site and specify the water regime(volume, timing and security) required for each of thesites to meet the objectives. In effect, they establish thedemand side of water allocations under the First StepDecision. The supply side of the equation (theEnvironmental Watering Plan) is developed through thedifferent states and other parties identifying watervolume amounts through their water recovery practicesas accredited by the Murray-Darling Basin MinisterialCouncil. The demand and supply sides of The LivingMurray watering requirements across all significant sitesand individual sites are coordinated by The Living MurrayBusiness Plan.

Indigenous Involvement in the Living MurrayEnvironmental Watering Plan

An objective of the Living Murray EnvironmentalWatering Plan is to actively involve Indigenouscommunities in all levels of natural resourcemanagement. As such, Indigenous input is sought on allaspects of environmental flow management to ensurethe aspirations, interests and contributions of Indigenouspeople are recognised. Responsibility for achievingIndigenous involvement resides with the EWG. Wherethe interests of Indigenous groups apply to significantsites on either side of the River Murray, such as Barmah-Millewa then arrangements must be agreed uponbetween the relevant Asset Managers to develop aconsistent approach to those groups, and gainconsistent input to the Asset EnvironmentalManagement Plan.

Managers of Significant Ecological Assets

Table 15.4 lists the Asset Managers for each of the sixSEAs and their agencies. It should be noted however,that the head Asset Manager role is rotated betweenstates where sites cross jurisdictions. Detaileddescriptions of the management arrangements for eachof the sites are found in the Asset EnvironmentalManagement Plan for that site—refer to the Murray-Darling Basin Commission website.

Significant Ecological Asset Water AllocationArrangements

Potential Actions and Triggers

The allocation of water for environmental flows for thesix SEAs requires matching appropriate actions to specificsites and times prior to water being allocated.

Potential actions for environmental flows are alsoinfluenced by whether the action can be undertaken aspart of a routine river operation associated with bulkwater allocations or coordinated by environmentalmanagers for more regionally-based one-offoperations—see Table 15.4. Specific actions forachieving environmental flows at the ecologicallysignificant sites include:

• enhancing natural flush—typically, these enhanceabove channel capacity flows (see chapter 4) but canalso be used to enhance flows just below the channelcapacity. An example, includes piggy-backing offincreased flows down the Goulburn River to assistwith topping up the flows coming down the RiverMurray to achieve a medium flooding event ofGunbower and Koondrook-Perricoota forests;

• weir manipulation—or increasing the volume ofwater by raising weir heights to increase variabilitywithin a channel. Weir raising is a common action forallowing water to enter wetlands that normally wouldnot be inundated with water via in-channel flows.This action is more efficient as a flow deliverymechanism than releasing large volumes of waterdown the river;

• infrastructure use—for example, infrastructure hasbeen used to pump water into wetlands at HattahLakes. Temporary levees are also used as a techniqueto hold water into wetlands once filled. Figure 15.8 isan example of a levee bank used to manage waterflow;

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250 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Figure 15.7 Relationship of the asset environmental management plan to the broader Living Murray andassociated planning strategies and agreements.

Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan

Significant Environmental Asset Management Plans

Water Recovery

(Project Assessment Group)

Water Application

(Water Application Group)

Environmental works and measures program

(Environmental Water Management Group)

Barmah-Millewa Forest

Barmah-Millewa Forest

Hattah Lakes

Chowilla Floodplain & Lindsay and Wallpolla Island

Murray Mouth

Barmah-Millewa Forest

Existing State management and planning documents

National Water Inter-Governmental Agreement

Murray-Darling Basin Inter-Governmental Agreement

Living Murray Business Plan

National Water Initiative

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Table 15.4 Asset managers and their agencies for the six Significant Ecological Assets.

Source: MDBC (2005a)

Barmah–Millewa Forest

Significant Ecological Asset








South Australia

South Australia


State Forests of NSW

Victorian Department of Sustainabilityand Environment

State Forests of NSW

Victorian Department of Sustainabilityand Environment

Victorian Department of Sustainabilityand Environment

NSW Department of Infrastructure,Natural Resources and Planning, Albury

Victorian Department of Sustainabilityand Environment

SA Department of Water, Land andBiodiversity Conservation

SA Department of Water, Land andBiodiversity Conservation


Regional Manager, Riverina

Regional Manager, North East

Regional Manager, Riverina

Regional Manager, North West

Regional Manager, North West

Regional Manager, Murray andMurrumbidgee

Regional Manager, North West

Program Leader EnvironmentalFlows, Strategic Policy Division

Program Leader EnvironmentalFlows, Strategic Policy Division

NSW component of the River MurrayChannel

NSW Department of Infrastructure,Natural Resources and Planning, Albury

Regional Manager, Murray andMurrumbidge

Gunbower–Koondrook–Perricoota Forests

Hattah Lakes

Chowilla, Lindsay–Wallpolla

Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth and Coorong

River Murray Channel

251Discussion Paper

• works expansion—involving the construction of weirsand regulators such as those at Hattah Lakes to holdwater in wetlands for longer periods to ensurecompletion of bird breeding events or the constructionof fish passages as shown in Figure 15.9;

• site specific actions—such as the management ofrain rejection flows at Barmah-Millewa through arange of engineering approaches or policy instrumentssuch as water pricing; and

• pre-releasing water—move adequate volumes fromstorages to allow a subsequent release when furtherinflows are expected to spill the dam. The advantageof this action is the release is controlled therebylimiting possible risks. The released flows generallyremain within the river channel.

Figure 15.8 Levee bank.

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252 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Figure 15.9 Torrumbarry Weir Fish Ladder.

All of the above actions are only implemented when aflow trigger point is reached. Triggers include flows of aparticular size and duration that might initiate part or allof an ecological response to the environmental flow. Anon-flow trigger is set off by other factors such asdryness of wetland, where a “health warning” isbreached for a given area. The scale and impact on theriver system of actions identified can vary considerably.For example, enhancing natural freshes or flush (refer toglossary) and floods depends on receiving above channelcapacity flows at key points for each site across the riversystem. In contrast, other actions may only involve flowsremaining within the main river channel and itsanabranches.

Decision Making Framework for ImplementingEnvironmental Flows

The allocation of water to the six SEA sites is influencedby complex administrative and operational arrangementsfor water management at both the state andCommonwealth levels, some of which existed prior toThe Living Murray Initiative. Implementation of TheLiving Murray First Step Decision is based on a decision-making framework, which identifies the various decisionmaking groups such as the EWG, the Murray-DarlingBasin Commission and their responsibilities as well as therelevant jurisdictions and their responsibilities. Theframework is designed to:

• identify if an action proposed is resource neutral orotherwise—that is, there is no increase or decrease inthe resource as a result of the proposed action;

• identify the amount of environmental water availablefor application at the SEAs;

• establish a clear relationship between the EWG andexisting jurisdictional arrangements; and

• provide an approach for allocating water betweencompeting actions.

Figure 15.10 outlines the decision making framework foridentifying water available for delivery to a significantsite and for prioritising the delivery of water betweensites where a trade-off arises. This framework identifiesthe different types of water and the responsibilities ofthe EWG for implementation of the decisions. EachAsset Environmental Management Plan must identify theflow requirements that have the potential to meet TheLiving Murray First Step objectives and a set of actionsthat can be instigated if an opportunity arises to water a significant site. Triggers signal where an opportunityexists and then activate an assessment of which sitewould benefit most from the type of flow volume.

Once a trigger is activated a series of decision pointsidentify the type of water available and whereresponsibility lies. As part of this process the water isassessed as to whether it is The Living Murray Water andavailable for use at SEAs. River Murray Waterdetermines the type and volume of surplus flowsavailable (decision point 10, Figure 15.10) and workswith the EWG to determine the environmental waterrequirements. Water is then classed as either stateenvironmental (decision point 13), consumptive wateruse only (decision point 14) or shared environmentalwater (decision point 15) (MDBC 2005a).

When The Living Murray Water is available each SEA sitemay compete for this water. In these situations trade-offs are made between the sites and are based on a setof trade-off criteria—see Box 15.3 below. Environmentalwater is only supplied where an opportunity to achieveenvironmental outcomes is clearly identified—even ifwater is available. This may be due to the volume ofwater not being adequate to water the site or thepattern of delivery being insufficient to meet a flowrequirement. In some situations, no trigger may be set off.

Box 15.3 Criteria for assessingenvironmental water acrossSignificant Ecological Assets

Criteria are based on a two step process.

Step One assesses whether competingenvironmental watering actions are consistent withThe Living Murray First Step decision objectives.

Step Two applies the following criteria to assess theproposed actions:

• significance of the predicted ecological outcomes;

• watering history of a site, including the numberand magnitude of recent watering events;

• identification of any ecological costs of the action,including off-site impacts such as salt mobilisationand whether the use of water at one site will limitthe water available for actions at downstreamsites;

• distribution of water between competing actionson consumers (mainly irrigators); and

• financial costs associated with a proposed action,for instance the cost of pumping.

Source: MDBC (2005a).

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253Discussion Paper




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254 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Victorian Arrangements for Environmental WaterFlows

River health is a fundamental factor determining waterallocations for environmental outcomes in Victoria. Riverhealth is a term used to describe the ecological conditionof a river and is more than just the river’s flora andfauna and the quality and quantity of the water—seeVictoria’s River Health Strategy, 2002. Determining thehealth of a river system involves consideration of thediversity of the habitats and biota, the effectiveness ofconnectivity (see chapter 4) and the maintenance ofecological processes. All are influenced by the flowregime of a river.

Environmental Water Reserve

The Water (Resource Management) Act 2005 providesthe legislative framework for water management inVictoria. The Environmental Water Reserve (EWR) isestablished under this legislation (see above for Victoria’sallocation framework and rights to water) which formallydefines it as water set aside for the environmentthrough:

• environmental entitlements—volumes of water inregulated river systems to be granted to theenvironment. Under this legislation new entitlementsare held by the Minister for Environment with existingbulk entitlements that are held by the Minister forEnvironment to be given equivalent legal status as aresult of amendments to the Water Act 1989;

• obligations on entitlement holders—relating toflow volumes that an entitlement holder must allow toflow pass before they can divert any water. In mostcases these are flows that are in excess of entitlementholders’ needs and/or rights. This component of theEnvironmental Water Reserve does not include waterset aside for future consumptive purposes in a riverbasin and which is not yet allocated under a formalentitlement;

• management plans—such as a streamflowmanagement plan; and

• other legislation—such as the Murray-Darling BasinAct 1993 and the Groundwater (Border Agreement)Act 1985.

The Environmental Water Reserve is designed tomaintain the rights of existing consumptive entitlementholders. As such the water reserve:

• maintains the environmental values of the watersystem and the other water services that depend onenvironmental condition;

• sustains biodiversity, ecological functioning and waterquality; and

• holds equivalent legal status to that of consumptivewater entitlements and is held by the Crown.

A substantial portion of the Environmental WaterReserve is achieved through limiting the volume of waterfor consumption. These limits take various forms—conditions on bulk entitlements, surface andgroundwater licences, rules established in watermanagement plans, caps on water use such aspermissible annual volumes and sustainable diversionlimits. In some regulated rivers, these limits may beextended with a specific water allocation for the

environment. Where this is the case, the environmentalallocation is held as a bulk entitlement. The waterreserve is enhanced by recovering water fromconsumptive use (see above).

Management of the Environmental Water Reserve

Under the Water (Resource Management) Act 2005 theEnvironmental Water Reserve must be managed inaccordance with the objectives specified in the Act,which are:

• achieving ecological objectives for the protectionand/or restoration of priority river, wetland and aquiferassets,

• integrating programs of river, wetland, and aquiferrestoration aimed at achieving ecological objectives,

• achieving the most effective use of environmentalwater, the greatest level of environmental benefitspossible and minimising as far as possible any adverseimpacts on water users, and

• engaging communities, particularly where these arelikely to be affected by the water managementregime.

Under the Water (Resource Management) Act 2005Catchment Management Authorities are responsible forthe operational management of the EnvironmentalWater Reserve within their catchment region.Catchment Management Authorities jointly oversee thedevelopment of long-term operating strategies for waterrecovered and held in storage to optimise use of thewater for their catchment region. In the case of thisInvestigation the Catchment Management Authoritieswith this responsibility are North East, Goulburn Broken,North Central and Mallee. Overall coordination acrossthe six SEAs sites resides with the Murray-Darling BasinMinisterial Council. Each of these strategies identifiesthe ecosystem for the watering event such as a riverreach or individual wetland areas, how and under whatconditions the ecosystem will be watered, how much (ifany) of the allocation is tradeable and the circ*mstancesunder which it could be traded. In developing anoperating strategy, Catchment Management Authoritiesliaise with the ecosystem managers, neighbouringauthorities, DSE and other key stakeholders. Strategiesrequire the approval of the Minister for Environment andthe Minister for Water.

Management of the Environmental Water Reserve differsdepending on how the water reserve is provided. Whenprovided wholly or partly through conditions on a bulkentitlement or licence or through sustainable diversionlimits, the input of management is relatively passive. Itinvolves integrating environmental flows that areprovided into a more substantial program of rivermanagement. In contrast, where the water reserve isprovided through bulk entitlement for the environmentheld in storage, management input is more active andextensive.

Victorian Environmental Flow Allocations

Environmental flows operate within two contexts, bothof which can occur separately or concurrently. Someenvironmental flows operate under Victorian conditionsprior to the development of The Living Murray whileothers operate within the framework provided by TheLiving Murray and the First Step Decision. Table 15.5

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255Discussion Paper

outlines Victorian environmental flow allocations overrecent years, with some such as the Barmah-Millewaallocations are frequently used in association with TheLiving Murray water.

Over the last two decades Victoria has instigated anumber of environmental flows outside the allocationsof The Living Murray framework. Table 15.5 provides asummary of environmental water allocations, thelocations for those flows and the purposes for the flows.In Victoria, the Minister for Environment holds anallocation of 27.6 GL a year to provide water for floraand fauna maintenance for areas such as at HirdSwamp, Johnson Swamp, Lake Elizabeth, Lake Murphy,McDonald’s Swamp, Cullens Lake, Round Lake, GolfCourse Lake and the Cardross Basins. The waterallocated under the environmental water entitlementvaries from year to year with natural fluctuations inenvironmental water requirements.

Environmental Flow Events in Victoria

Each year, subject to the seasonal allocation, Victoriacontributes 50 GL of its entitlement to the River Murraywater resource to the Barmah-Millewa ForestEnvironmental Water Allocation for the purposes ofperiodically enhancing natural flood events in the forest.If the seasonal water sales to Victorian Murray irrigatorsreach 30 percent of their entitlement, the statecontributes an additional 25 GL of sales entitlement to

the Barmah-Millewa Forest Environmental WaterAllocation account. New South Wales also contributesto this account. After Victoria’s 2004/05 contribution,the state had accumulated a total of 175 GL in theaccount, all of which was carried over for use in2005/06. This account was used in the late 2005flooding of Barmah-Millewa Forest.

In 2005–06, unused water entitlements (5.6 GL) byirrigators and water authorities was donated to theenvironment for Forest Bend/Nangiloc, Johnsons Bendand Nyah State Forest.

During 2004–05 the emergency Red Gum WateringProject was initiated using environmental water from theMinister’s allocation (the River Murray Flora and FaunaReserve Bulk Entitlement) and surplus flows to targettrees exhibiting signs of major water stress. Thisoccurred at a number of anabranches and wetland sitesalong the River Murray including Burra Creek, LindsayRiver, Chalka Creek and Potterwalkagee Creek. DSEmanaged the project in partnership with Parks Victoriaand the Mallee Catchment Management Authority.

In 2004–05, a total of 27,590 ML of the River MurrayFlora and Fauna Reserve Bulk Entitlement was used tosupply water to these areas of environmentalsignificance, including areas that are not classified asSEAs such as native fish habitat (Murray hardyhead) at


Barmah–MillewaForest EWA


Victorian MurrayWetlands BulkEntitlement

Goulburn RiverBulk Entitlement

Campaspe RiverBulk Entitlement

Loddon RiverEnvironmentalReserve BulkEntitlement

Year approved







Volume and main conditions

100 GL/yr annually plus 50 GL about 8years in 10 shared by NSW and Victoria(provision to carryover up to 700 GL)

100 GL can be overdrawn to extend anenvironmental release when there issufficient water in Vic-NSW storages

27.6 GL/yr (2.6 GL/yr allocated to Hird andJohnsons Swamps)

80 GL in November in wet years betweenLake Eildon and Goulburn Weir. Minimum passing flows released belowLake Eildon and Goulburn Weir

Minimum passing flows released belowstorages and weirs

2 GL/yr Minimum passing flows and summerfreshes released below storages and weirs

Table 15.5 Victorian Environmental Water Allocations (EWAs) available in the River Murray system andVictorian tributaries.

Main purpose

Barmah–Millewa Floodplainwatering

Barmah–Millewa floodplainwatering

Wetland watering along theMurray and salinity control

Spring flushIn-stream habitat maintenance,water quality

In-stream habitat maintenance,water quality

Loddon wetlands in the Boort-Appin areaIn-stream habitat maintenance,water quality

Source: DSE (2004i)

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256 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Cardross Lakes, near Mildura, protection of significantwaterfowl habitat and aquatic vegetation communitiesat McDonald Swamp and Hird Swamp in the KerangLakes region. Other areas to benefit from these flowsinclude Round Lake, Lake Murphy, Lake Elizabeth andRichardsons Lagoon.

There are four key significant ecological asset sitesidentified under The Living Murray First Steps Decisionwithin the study area: Barmah-Millewa Forest;Gunbower and Koondrook-Perricoota Forest; HattahLakes; and Lindsay-Wallpolla and Chowilla Floodplain.The Murray Channel is also a significant ecological sitewith significant influences on the River Red Gum Forestsassociated with the study area but because it is formallyin NSW, it is not considered here.

The following briefly describes each of these sites, theconsequences of river regulation on these sites andcurrent environmental flow practices within the sites.

Significant Ecological Asset Site 1: Barmah-MillewaForest

The Barmah–Millewa Forest covers a total area of 66,615hectares, with the Barmah Forest area in Victoriacovering 28,500 ha. It is the largest area of river redgum forests in the River Murray system and largest inAustralia. It includes the floodplains of both the Murrayand Edward Rivers. The site is Ramsar listed and ofinternational significance and in 1992 was included onthe Register of the National Estate. Map D shows thelocation of Barmah–Millewa Forest in relation to thelength of the River Murray and other SignificantEcological Assets.

The Barmah–Millewa system is dominated by theBarmah Choke, which has been the dominant factor inthe creation of the unique forest and wetland ecologyand river flow and flood patterns we see today (seechapters 2 and 3 for details of its formation). Todaythere is increasing evidence that the maintenance andhealth of the wider River Murray system is directly linked

to the health of Barmah–Millewa (see chapters 4 and 5).

Chapter 5 provides a detailed description of vegetationcommunities associated with Barmah–Millewa Forest.Suffice to say that there is a wide range of vegetationcommunities existing within Barmah, all of which haveevolved in association with the unique natural flow andflood regimes of the River Murray. Table 15.6 describesthe importance of different flood frequencies, durationand seasonality for specific vegetation communities priorto regulation.

Flow and Flood Regime Changes due to RiverRegulation

River regulation has significantly changed the river flowregimes for Barmah–Millewa Forest. These changes aredescribed in the Box 15.4. Note: these changes whilehaving similarities with other sites along the RiverMurray have characteristics that are specific toBarmah–Millewa Forest.

Ecological Impacts of Regulation

The most visible sign of environmental degradationresulting from river regulation are changes in vegetationtype and spatial distribution. Table 15.7 outlines themain changes to vegetation communities for BarmahForest, resulting from changed flood regimes. Ofparticular note is the decline in distribution of Moiragrass. This grass is dependent on inundation for shortperiods of time followed by lengthy dry periods. Incontrast, giant rush prefers wetter conditions over longerperiods of time. Summer irrigation flows that provideconstant low levels of inundation favour giant rush. Asa result moira grass is declining in distribution at BarmahForest. It is estimated that since 1930, 1200 hectares or30 percent of area of Moira grass has been lost to riverred gum spread and a further 1200 hectares lost togiant rush encroachment.

River regulation (as well as some past and current land-use activities within the study area) have impacted onthe fauna of Barmah–Millewa Forest, particularly in


Giant rush

Moira grasslands

River red gumforest

River red gumforest woodland

River red gumforest/black boxwoodland

Flood frequency (% of years with inundation)

1:1 to 1:1.3 (75% to 100%)

1:1 (100%)

1:1 to 1:1.4 (70% to 100%)

1:1 to 1:2 (50% to 100%)

1:2 to 1:3.3 (30% to 50%)


2 to 30

2 to 18

1 to 18

1 to 18

0.5 to 1

Table 15.6 Flood frequencies of the major Barmah–Millewa forest floodplain vegetation communitiesbefore regulation.

Season (ideal)






Source: MDBC (2005b).

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257Discussion Paper

relation to wetlands. Chapter 5 provides details of thebiodiversity of the Barmah area. Suffice to say thatBarmah–Millewa is a significant area for colonial nestingwaterbirds, fish and macroinvertebrates and a number ofthreatened species. All of which are dependent on floodregimes consistent with natural conditions for breeding.

Ways of Addressing Changes Resulting from RiverRegulation

A set of operating rules have been jointly developed byNSW, Victoria and the Murray-Darling Basin Commissionto administer the allocation of water to Barmah–MillewaForest. These are outlined in Box 15.5. These rules and

triggers underpin all actions and decisions associatedwith environmental flows for Barmah–Millewa Forest.

As well as the highly prescriptive operating rules andtriggers, various delivery techniques are used or beingconsidered to address the adverse effects of riverregulation on the biodiversity of Barmah–Millewa Forest.Most of these involve using the existing regulatingstructures such as the eight primary regulators, twosecondary regulators and at least twenty-seven tertiaryregulators. All these structures are operated by DSE withfunding assistance from River Murray Water. Goulburn-Murray Water maintains the regulating structures onbehalf of River Murray Water.

Box 15.4 Changes to flow regimes of the Barmah–Millewa forest from river regulation

Reduced flooding in spring

Unseasonal flooding in summer andautumn

Reduced variability

Reduced annualvolume

Increased summervolume

Source: MDBC (2005b).

The frequency, duration and variability of winter–spring flooding have been reduced by riverregulation. The frequency of floods in the range 42-78 GL/day peak magnitude has morethan halved. The duration of floods that inundate River Red Gum Forests has reduced from 5 months per year to 2 months per year. The mean length of the period between floods has increased 2.5 times, while the maximum length of the dry period has increased six-fold.

The forest receives unseasonal flooding due to “rain rejection” events. The Edward River,which flows through the Millewa Forest, has also been affected by river regulation, withflows at or near channel capacity for much of the year.

Flow is at near channel capacity of 330–350 GL/month (Barmah Choke limit) forapproximately eight months of the year. Regulation reduced flow variability (particularlyduring winter/spring). Under natural conditions, average monthly flows vary between 100GL/month and 980 GL/month, whereas current average monthly flows vary between 110 GL/month and 400 GL/month.

Downstream of Yarrawonga, diversions reduce annual flow by 25% compared to naturalconditions.

Use of the river for delivery of water to downstream irrigation areas means that summer flow is 19% greater than natural.

Vegetation community



River red gum forest

Table 15.7 Impact of hydrological changes on vegetation communities of Barmah Forest

Impact due to river regulation

• Giant rush has established over 1.5% of Barmah forest, in some areas thatpreviously were grasslands. This is largely due to regular summerinundation, and reduced frequency/period of inundation of winter/springflooding

• Suggestions that some wetlands are prone to silting and drying out morereadily than they were in the previous 20 years

• Grassland areas declined from 13.5% in 1930 to 5.2% in 1979. Thisdecrease is linked to river regulation and the invasion by river red gums ontograsslands

• Natural regeneration of red gum dependent on occurrence and timing offlooding. The ideal conditions are on the spring recession of winter flooding

• High river levels associated with summer irrigation supplies have led to treedeath due to waterlogging

Source: MDBC (2005b).

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258 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Box 15.5 Operating rules for the Barmah Millewa Forest EnvironmentalWater Allocation










Source: MDBC (2005b).

The GL of high-security water has the same security as Victoria’s water right along the Murray. This will be augmented with 50 GL of lower security water (25 GL from each State), which is not allocated untilVictoria’s seasonal allocations along the Murray reach 100% of water right plus 30% of “sales”, and is then allocated fully. It should be allocated in 75 to 80 years out of 100.

The use of Victorian allocations to define security will be replaced by the use of independent triggers assoon as these can be developed and agreed to by the two states.

Each state’s share of the allocation is stored on their respective sides of the storages.

All the water allocated is carried over if not used, with the maximum volume of the allocation being 700 GL (this could be say 150 GL allocated in the current year, plus 550 GL carried over).

When Hume Dam physically spills, the first water spilt is the Barmah–Millewa kitty, though up to 200 GL, if kitty contains that much, will be retained

Allowance has been made for the allocation to be overdrawn by up to 100 GL to ensure adequate water is available for forest watering, provided there is sufficient water in storage. This is proposed that sufficientwater will be defined by the Commission, to ensure each state can underwrite the overdraw. Possibledefinitions include: more than 2,000 GL of water stored in Dartmouth, each state having more than 700 GL stored in Dartmouth, or each state having more than 50 GL in excess of the mandatory reserve for the following year.

Each state’s share of the Barmah–Millewa environmental allocation can be borrowed for consumptive use by that state, subject to clearly defined borrowing and payback rules to be agreed between the states andendorsed as part of these arrangements. Any water borrowed by either of the states must be paid back

Initially, Victorian water users can borrow when their general security allocations would otherwise be lessthan 30%, only to the extent necessary to get these allocations to 30%. The water must be repaid as soonas borrowing is not needed for this.

Both states agree that the above borrow and payback triggers will be adopted as operational guidelinesduring the interim period. However, each state reserves its position to alter the application of these triggersin special or exceptional circ*mstances, and in such circ*mstances to consult on the matter through theCommission.

The idea that water paid back can not be spilled until one year after it is paid back is to be furtherinvestigated and considered for possible adoption.

In principle, credits may be allowed to the environmental allocation for water returning from the forest tothe river, where this returning water is not surplus to requirements—the operational details to be agreedbetween the States.

Releases for the Barmah–Millewa forest will be made to top up the Yarrawonga flow using target flowssimilar to the following:

• If there is a flood ≥ 500 GL/m from September through to November, then maintain at 400 GL inDecember (if sufficient volume in the allocation);

• If there is a flood ≥ 500 GL/m in September or October and kitty is ≥ 400 GL (including overdraw), keep at 500 GL/m till November and 400 GL in December;

• If 4 years pass with no release, and no flood of ≥ 500 GL/m in September to November and 400 inDecember, try for 500 GL/m in October and November and 400 GL in December;

• If 3 years pass with no month from August to November with ≥ 660 GL, then if a release starts inOctober or November, the target flow increases to 660 GL at Yarrawonga.

The above operating practices for releases can be varied and refined from time to time, by agreementbetween the managers of the forest water in consultation with water managers in the two states, and with the agreement of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

No. Agreed rule or Trigger

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River red gumforest with flooddependentunderstorey

River red gumforest with flood-tolerantunderstorey

Flood frequency (% of years with inundation)


Some always wet

1:1 (100%)

1:1.4 to 1:5 (20% to 70%)

1:1 to 1:1.14 (70% to 90%)

1:2.2 (45%)



Some always wet

Dries out only after2 dry years

Range from 5months to 4–6weeks dependingon community

5 months

1 to 2 months

Table 15.8 Flood frequencies of the major Gunbower forest floodplain vegetation communities beforeregulation.

Season (ideal)



Late winter to spring


Source: MDBC (2005b).

Black box 1:10 (10%) 1 month –

Grey box 1:20 (5%) 1 month –

259Discussion Paper

One proposal being investigated to achieveenvironmental outcomes for Barmah–Millewa Forest isby-passing Lake Mulwala (diverting flows coming downthe River Murray via the Edward River system) to preventunseasonal flooding of Barmah–Millewa wetland systemby rain rejection flows (see first section of this chapter).Such a proposal focuses on engineering solutions to theproblem and requires considerable capital investment.This proposal is referred to in the Living MurrayEnvironmental Watering Plan, 2005.

A second proposal involves the possibility of acquiringland for a Hume–Yarrawonga Easem*nt to improve theflooding regime of the River Murray system downstreamof Hume Dam. This involves the acquisition of flowrights over private land, thereby enabling temporaryunregulated flows at rates of up to 45 GL per day toflow downstream from the Hume Dam. This wouldprovide increased operational flexibility for control offlooding of the Barmah–Millewa system and increase thevolume of water available downstream of Barmah forest.

A third is the Lower Goulburn proposal. This involvesrehabilitation of the floodplain of the lower GoulburnRiver as it enters the River Murray to a more natural flowregime through the development of a levied floodway of approximately 10,500 ha. Implementation of thisproposal would involve purchasing approximately 9700 ha of land from landholders. It would also achieveincreased flows into the River Murray system and backflow into the Barmah Lakes (similar to natural flood

regimes). An added benefit would also be the enhancedflooding of Gunbower forest.

Figure 15.11 Environmental flows in BarmahMillewa Forest.

Ecological Asset Site 2: Gunbower andKoondrook–Perricoota Forests

Gunbower and Koondrook–Perricoota Forests lie west ofEchuca and Torrumbarry Weir (see Map D). LikeBarmah–Millewa Forest, the Gunbower andKoondrook–Perricoota Forests straddle the River Murraywith Koondrook–Pericoota in NSW and Gunbower forestlocated in Victoria. Some irrigation occurs on GunbowerIsland, although the majority of the Island is state forestcovering an area of 19,931 ha. The forest is managed

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260 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

by DSE Forests while the eastern end of the forest (9712 ha) is a proclaimed Wildlife Sanctuary and landbetween the River Murray and the River Track is part ofthe River Murray Reserve, managed by Parks Victoria(see chapter 9).

Over thousands of years, Gunbower forest has beeninfluenced by the impact of the Cadell Fault and BarmahChoke which limits river flow downstream of Barmahforest. The maximum flow from the River Murray intothe forest is only 30 GL per day. Major flooding ofGunbower forest is dependent on the inflows from theGoulburn Broken river systems and to a lesser extent theCampaspe River system. Maximum flooding ofGunbower forest is only achieved when flooding of theRiver Murray is synchronised with floods coming downthese two tributaries.

The Gunbower and Koondrook–Pericoota Forests are thesecond largest river red gum forests in Victoria and were

Ramsar listed in 1982 and are also internationallysignificant for their biodiversity values. Details of theconservation and biodiversity of the forests are describedin chapter 5. Vegetation communities throughout theforests have adapted to the cycles of wet and dryassociated with the natural flow regimes of the RiverMurray. This relationship of the water flow acrossseasons and the types of vegetation communities issummarised in Table 15.8.

Flow and Flood Regime Changes due to RiverRegulation

The major river flow and flood characteristic altered byriver regulation in Gunbower forest is the reduction infrequency of medium sized spring floods (see chapter 4).A comparison of the natural and current monthly flowsin the river is shown in Figure 15.12. In particular noteflows have declined in frequency downstream ofTorrumbarry Weir by over 25 GL per day.

Vegetation community


Permanent wetlands

Semi-permanent wetlands

Temporary wetlands

River red gum forest with flood-dependent understorey

River red gum forest with flood-tolerant understorey

Known or expected stresses

• Reduced connectivity between wetlands and river.• Reduced fish breeding.• Loss of diversity of habitats within forest.

• Loss of wetland type - flooded less and therefore those which remain wouldbe now shallower and smaller.

• Extent of wetlands has declined.• Number of sites has declined.• Reduction in permanence.• Red gums encroaching.• Loss of grebes, terns, herons and egrets.• Alterations to littoral fringe.

• Colonisation by red gum and weeds such as Noogoora burr and thistles.• Wet period too short to promote aquatic plants.• Wetland-adapted plants and animals out-competed by those with short-life

cycles, rapid growth and maturity.

• Extent has declined to a narrower zone around wetlands.• There has been an increase in weed species (thistle, fleabane, aster,

Noogoora burr).• Decline in population of flood-dependent species.

• There has been an increase in weed species (such as horehound).• Probable increase in abundance of true terrestrial plants.• Reduction in red gum productivity and associated benefits to herbivores and


Table 15.9 Impact of environmental changes on vegetation communities of Gunbower Forest.

Source: MDBC (2005b).

Black box• Box is tolerant of long dry spells, so possibly no significant changes.• Possibly has encroached on red gum with flood-tolerant understorey in

response to declining flood frequencies.

Grey box • Probably no change in water regime.

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261Discussion Paper

Gunbower and Koondrook–Perricoota Forests aredownstream of some of the River Murray’s major waterstorages and three of the major diversion points on theRiver (located at Yarrawonga–Mulwala Canal andYarrawonga Main Channel and the TorrumbarryWeir–National Channel, see Map 15.2 Channelnetwork). This area is also downstream of the EdwardsRiver off-take and inflows from the Broken, Goulburnand Campaspe Rivers. Gunbower Creek is maintainedat top of bank level during the irrigation season—August to May by the weirs at Gunbower, Cohuna andKoondrook which result in extended high flow periods inthe forest, particularly during summer and early autumn.

Torrumbarry Weir is the major physical structure directlyinfluencing the flow and flood regimes of Gunbowerforest. The weir creates a head of water (increases thewater height) to increase the flow of water into themain channels of Gunbower forest. Levees are used onthe outside areas of the forest to protect adjacentfarmland from these small and medium sized floods.Prior to their construction water flows would haveentered the lower areas of the floodplains and returnedto the River Murray near Koondrook. Today, irrigationsupply offtakes associated with Torrumbarry Weir limitthe maximum flow at the downstream end of the forestsystem to around 32 GL per day. Flows into GunbowerForest commence when the flow in the River Murray isapproximately 13.7 GL per day and as the river rises,flows enter other parts of the forest.

Unseasonal rain rejection flows are delivered to theforest via three outlet structures on Gunbower Creek:Shillinglaws Regulator and two smaller structures atReedy Lagoon and Black Swamp. Gunbower Creek hasvarying channel capacity, from 900–1000 ML per day to4000 ML per day depending on the location along thecreek.

Ecological Impacts of Regulation

Table 15.9 summarises the major ecologicalconsequences of changed water regimes for Gunbower

forest for which the Gunbower andKoondrook–Perricoota Asset Plan is designed toaddress—see chapter 5 for further details of thebiodiversity of this area.

Ways of Addressing Changes Resulting from RiverRegulation

There are two environmental watering strategiescurrently employed at Gunbower forest to addresschanged flow regimes. The first includes limiting theextent of rain rejection flows into the forest duringsummer and the second increases the occurrence ofmedium sized flows through the use of flow regulatingstructures. These operate within the context ofGunbower’s unique hydrology and geomorphologycharacteristics.

A current delivery method for Gunbower forest isenhancing naturally occurring floods. This involvessupplying additional water on top of a naturallyoccurring flood. This has the advantage of temporarilyrestoring the connection between the river andfloodplain.

In Gunbower forest the preferred delivery method ismanaged environmental flows, which have logisticaladvantages. For example, managed floods providegreater scope to monitor the flood event and allow formonitoring systems to be in place several months beforeinundation. It also enables several months notificationto forest and water users of the likely change inconditions of the forest and provides flexibility fortransferring Environmental Water Allocations betweenstorages. A further benefit of managed floods is thatthey require less water than enhanced floodingpractices.

Within Gunbower forest specific environmental flowmanagement options include:

• using existing regulator network;

• managing water flows in the upper end of the forestto overcome the higher elevation constraint of this

Figure 15.12 Changes in median monthly flow patterns between natural and current flows at Torrumbarry Weir.

Source: MDBC (2005b).

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2 Ir



n c






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263Discussion Paper

area—this involves the use of greater volumes ofwater which are often sourced by piggy backing onfloods down the Goulburn River system;

• physically deepening and widening the channelsbetween the river and the river track—river reserve;

• raising Torrumbarry Weir pool—although the benefitsof this approach do not go to areas with a highpriority for water management.

Ecological Asset Site 3: Hattah Lakes

The Hattah Lakes system lies within the adjacentHattah–Kulkyne National Park and the Murray–KulkynePark. Unlike Gunbower and Barmah, Hattah does nothave any association with NSW. Combined the parkshave an area of 49,500 ha.

The Hattah Lakes system is an extensive floodplainconsisting of at least 18 shallow lakes, streams andtemporary swamps and bordered by riverine forests.These systems are located approximately 15 km from theRiver Murray and are mostly fed by Chalka Creek,connected to the River Murray—see Map D.

Under natural conditions, the majority of the lakes in thissystem were semi-permanent. The Hattah Lakes consistof a wetland system linked by interconnectinganabranch creeks to the River Murray. Today, theselakes are Ramsar listed. Details of the fauna and flora ofthe Hattah Lakes system are provided in chapter 5.Under natural conditions flooding of Hattah Lakesoccurred through direct overflow from the River Murrayas well as backflow from the creek systems scatteredthrough the lake system. Ideal flood conditions forHattah Lakes occur when floods inundate the lakes forseveral months of the year before periodic drying.Water requirements for the major vegetationcommunities in Hattah Lakes vary. For flood dependentspecies, flood depth, flood duration, flood frequencyand seasonality are all important.

Flow and Flood Regime Changes due to RiverRegulation

The Mallee Catchment Management Authority DraftIntegrated Water Management Plan identifies primaryand secondary flows paths. Primary flows are flows tolakes that occur as an off take from the Chalka andCantala distributaries. Approximately 12 of the 18 lakesin Hattah Lakes receive these primary flows. Secondaryflows are those that occur as a result of `spillover’ fromother lakes or tributaries within the system onto thefloodplain of the wetland system. However, one of theselakes (Lake Kramen) receives primary flows from theRiver Murray and Chalka Creek and secondary flowsfrom Lake Nip Nip and Lake Tullamook (through sheetflooding as a result of exceptional flood events).

The overall sequence of flood events is complex andinvolves a complicated inter-dependency between lakesand flows, filling and emptying of each lake dependingon its position in the system, its area, and its depth.Lake Lockie is the first lake to receive floodwaters,several days after they first enter Chalka Creek. All thesouthern lakes are then filled from Lake Lockie, typicallytaking another three weeks for water to reach thefurthest lakes. After Lake Lockie, water flows into LakesHattah and Little Hattah, followed by Lake Bulla, andthen, in order, Lake Arawak, Lake Marramook, Lake

Brockie, Lake Boich, Lake Tullamook, Lake Nip Nip andfinally, Lake Kramen. Lake Lockie is believed to deliverflow to Lake Roonki—see chapter 2 and 3.

The northern part of the system, Lakes Mournpall,Yerang, Yelwell and Konardin, receive water both directlyfrom Chalka Creek, and via Lake Lockie. Lake Bitterangis the last of the lakes to fill, with floodwaters onlyreaching it over a month after the beginning of flooding,and then only if the flood level is sufficiently high.When the lakes are full, floodwaters also spread oversurrounding floodplains, including an area of black boxflats to the west and south-west of Lake Lockie. LakeKramen fills by overland flow from the Murray in a veryhigh river. Lake Cantala is fed by a minor anabranch ofthe Murray River.

The lakes only fill during high flow events in the RiverMurray, with a flood of at least 152 GL per day requiredfor all of the lakes to fill. Water retained in lake basinsafter floodwaters recede is gradually lost throughevaporation. Most lakes are shallow, and dry up withintwo years if not refilled, but Lake Hattah may retainwater for three years, and Lake Mournpall for up toseven years.

The hydrology of the Hattah Lakes system has altered inresponse to the construction of locks and weirs alongthe River Murray, and the inlet channel, at Chalka Creek,has undergone deepening and widening. A regulatoron Chalka Creek at Messengers Crossing is used to delayflow recession from the lakes, helping to increase theduration of inundation. Channels (with regulators) havebeen constructed between Lake Lockie and Lake Hattahand between Lake Hattah and Lake Little Hattah.

The River Murray headworks storage and diversions haveresulted in an overall reduction of mean annual flow atEuston Weir to 50 percent of pre-regulation volumes.River regulation has also reduced the frequency andmagnitude of small-to medium-sized floods to the lakes.Flows in spring are considerably less than under naturalconditions. Under natural flow regimes the lakes usuallycontained water for most of the time albeit extremelyshallow for most of the time. The Hattah Lakes systemunder current conditions presents a trade-off betweenthe frequency of wetting and the duration of wetting.While the frequency of events may have increased, thereduced `commence to flow’ threshold allows water todrain from the lakes faster than under naturalconditions. The regulator at Messengers Crossing onChalka Creek reduces this problem. The changes in flowregimes at Hattah Lakes are summarised in Box 15.6.

Ways of Addressing Changes Resulting from RiverRegulation

Chapter 5 provides details of the fauna and flora for thisarea. It also describes the ecological changes resultingfrom river regulation. Table 15.10 provides an outline ofthe preferred flood regimes for the various species inHattah Lakes. The purpose of environmental flowwatering events is therefore to attempt to achieve theseflood requirements or if not, minimise the effects of riverregulation of flow regimes.

At Hattah Lakes the environmental managers face amajor physical constraint—the problem of initiatingflows into the Hattah Lakes system through the higher

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264 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Box 15.6 Summary of the Changes in Flow Regimes of the Hattah Lakes

Reduced duration of flooding

Reduced frequencyof flooding

Reduced annual volume

Source: MDBC (2005b).

The flooding behaviour of the lakes system has been altered, both in terms of volume ofwater delivered to the lakes and the timing of its delivery. A reduction in the duration offlooding and inundation has occurred since regulation. For Lake Hattah, the depth of waterretained in the lake has been reduced from 2.8 m to 1.8 m. This means that the average timetaken for the lake to dry out after filling has reduced from 26 months to 17 months. Otherlakes in the system have experienced a similar shift, with the depth of water retained in LakeLockie being reduced from 1.2 m to 0.4 m. This has resulted in the average time to dry outbeing reduced from 12 months to two months.

The frequency, duration and volume of water delivered to the Lakes system has beensignificantly reduced through time. Modelling of natural and current conditions indicates thatunder current conditions, the number of floods in 100 years is 57 for Lake Hattah and 11 forLake Kramen. Under natural conditions, the number of filling events in 100 years is 86 forLake Hattah and 23 for Lake Kramen. It is important to note that Lake Hattah is one of thefirst lakes to flood, while Lake Kramen is one of the last (when a large flow event occurs).

The annual volume of water in the lakes is inversely proportional to the percentage of timethat the lakes are dry. Modelling of natural and current conditions of the Hattah Lakessystem indicates that for Lake Lockie, the proportion of the time that the lake is dry is 72%of the time under current conditions, compared to 9% of the time under natural conditions.Even though Lake Lockie is one of the first lakes to receive water, it has a low capacity and isrelatively shallow. Other lakes in the system indicate a similar comparison between naturaland current conditions. For example, under natural conditions, Lake Hattah is estimated tobe dry 2% of the time compared to 25% under current conditions.

As a result of modifications to the Chalka Creek channel, including the installation ofregulators, the critical flow volume to achieve flooding between lakes has been reduced inmost cases. For example, the critical flow between Lake Lockie and Lake Hattah has beenreduced from 48.9 GL/d to 36.7 GL/d.

Table 15.10 Preferred flood requirements for vegetation species, Hattah Lakes.

Species Ideal flood requirements

River red gum Winter–spring flooding every 1 to 2 years for a duration of 4 to 7 months (no more than 24 months)

Tall flat sedge Flooding for 135 to 200 days per year, at depths less than 60 cm

Spiny flat sedge Flooding for 2 to 6 months (optimal 3 mths) to a depth less than 10 cm

Cane grass Frequency 1:2 to 1:5 for a duration of up to 6 months

Spiny mudgrass Annual–biannual flooding, 3 to 10 months duration

Water couch Summer flooding for 4 to 8 weeks at a depth not less than 10 cm

Submerged macrophites Annual flooding, variable duration

Fish Flood frequency every 1 to 2 years for short lived species; some permanent waterfor permanent residents

Colonial nesting water birds Inundation for 5 to 8 months following winter–spring flooding and inundation of 7 to 10 months following autumn flooding

Ducks Flooding for between 3 to 7 months (optimal)–up to 5 months to reach peak breeding and 2 months fledging time

Source: MDBC (2005b).

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Chalka Creek relative to the River Murray channel. Thisrequires high flows and volumes before flowscommence. Only very large floods result in all theHattah Lakes being flooded. Smaller floods that have arecurrence interval of every several years result in 30percent to 50 percent of the Lakes being flooded.Utilising these smaller flood events that occur relativelyfrequently is just as important as managing the lessfrequent larger flood in Hattah Lakes.

There are four major delivery methods for wateringHattah Lakes:

• manipulating Euston Weir and upstream storages suchas Torrumbarry Weir and Hume Dam;

• pumping additional water into the lakes from theRiver Murray—see Figures 15.13 and 14 for examplesof pumping for environmental flows and floodingresulting from pumping. Currently, this method is stillin its infancy but was used in the 2005–06 with a highdegree of success;

• improving water management within the Lakes systemthrough the use of regulators to manipulate flows tospecific sites at specific times and for retention ofwater once an area is flooded; and

• topping up or enhanced flows. These involve piggybacking off inflows to the River Murray from itstributaries such as the Murrumbidgee and Goulburnrivers to increase the overall volume of water in thesystem.

Figures 15.13 and 14: Pumping and Flooding.

Another specific action that could be implemented atHattah Lakes is the deepening of Chalka Creek in orderto provide flows to the Hattah Lakes at lower riverdischarge levels. Installing a pump station at ChalkaCreek to pump water into Chalka Creek and the HattahLakes is also an option. This allows an increase in floodfrequency as well as duration and magnitude of floods.

Ecological Asset Site 4: Lindsay–Wallpolla andChowilla Floodplain

Features of Lindsay–Wallpolla and ChowillaFloodplain

The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay–Wallpolla IslandsSignificant Ecological Asset (SEA) comprises threeseparate locations: Lindsay Island in Victoria; WallpollaIsland in Victoria; and the Chowilla Floodplain, whichspans South Australia and New South Wales and theNSW section of the Chowilla Floodplain. Under the SEAarrangements Lindsay Island and Wallpolla Island systemsare a single group—in reality however, they areseparated by approximately 40 river kilometres.

Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands are formed on thesouthern side of the River Murray (Victoria) by a series ofanabranches that leave and then rejoin the river, leavingthe islands situated between the anabranch channelsand the main stem. Wallpolla Island covers an area of9,200 ha and Lindsay Island has an area of 15,000 ha.The main anabranch forming Wallpolla Island isWallpolla Creek and the main anabranch formingLindsay Island is Lindsay River. Lake Wallawalla is ashallow, permanent riverine lake located off the lowerLindsay River and is part of Lindsay Island.Potterwalkagee Creek is another anabranching channelthat is located between Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands,and it forms Mulcra Island (2156 ha). Thus, LindsayIsland and Wallpolla Island are linked by Mulcra Island,and although it has ecological values, Mulcra Island isnot part of the Significant Ecological Asset.

Wallpolla Island is a state forest while Lindsay Island ispart of the Murray-Sunset National Park. The VictorianGovernment and the Mallee Catchment ManagementAuthority have identified both the Lindsay and WallpollaIslands as high ecological value areas. Lindsay Island,Wallpolla Island and Lake Wallawalla are listed under theDirectory of Important Wetlands and are nationallysignificant. The anabranches of the islands are alsoimportant native fish breeding habitats. Although theareas of permanent and semi-permanent wetland ineach site are small, they support species that are ofnational, state and local importance. Lake Wallawalla isconsidered to be a `high value’ wetland system.

Flood flows from the River Murray are crucial to theenvironmental condition of the Lindsay–Wallpollasystem. The health of this system is threatened by riverregulation. Due mainly to reduced frequency ofmedium-sized floods. The seasonal pattern of river flowremains largely unchanged.

The islands are located in the far northwest of Victoriajust downstream of Mildura–Wentworth. Wallpolla Islandis located downstream of Wentworth Weir (Lock 10) andupstream of Lock 9. Lindsay Island is located justdownstream of Lake Victoria and between Lock 6 andLock 7 (approximately 700 km from the River MurrayMouth). Frenchmans Creek flows from the River Murrayto Lake Victoria, diverting some water from WallpollaIsland, while the Rufus River runs from Lake Victoria intothe Lindsay Island system. One of the largest channelswithin this system is Mullaroo Creek, which divergesfrom the River Murray just upstream of Rufus River,crosses the island from east to west, and then joins theLindsay River.

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Lake Wallawalla is a quasi-circular deflation basin locatedon the southern point of the system with a surface areaof 828 ha. It is a significant source of groundwaterrecharge to the Lindsay Island system. It is separatedfrom the main floodplain area of Lindsay River by a leveethat impedes the natural flood path (the Mail RouteRoad). The Mail Route Road acts as an impediment tomedium-sized floods, with several small culverts allowinglimited flow. Under natural conditions, this would havemade a continuous connection with the floodplain. Blackbox communities surround the lake, with extensive sanddune deposits to the south-east. During floodinundation, Lake Wallawalla becomes a wetland and is asignificant site for bird breeding.

Table 15.11 below describes the water volumes requiredbefore water will commence to flow into Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands systems and hence is a majordeterminant of when and how environmental flows are implemented.

Flow and Flood Regime Changes due to RiverRegulation

The major changes from river regulation forLindsay–Wallpolla flow regimes are: reduced floodfrequency; reduced flood duration; and reduced annual

volume and changes to seasonality (see Box 15.7). Ofthe water that flows from the River Murray into theLindsay–Wallpolla Island systems, some is lost togroundwater recharge and evaporation, but the majorityis returned to the River Murray downstream.

As described above the Lindsay-Wallpolla Island systemhas an extensive range of vegetation communities andhence habitat types. Each of these require their ownunique flooding regime. Table 15.12 describes thewater flow requirements for different vegetation groupswithin Lindsay–Wallpolla Islands.

Ways of Addressing Changes Resulting from RiverRegulation

Flows in this section of the River Murray follow aseasonal pattern similar to that prior to river regulation,with maximum flows in winter and spring, and minimumflows in autumn. However, the actual volume for theseasonal pattern is lower with regulation. A range ofmethods deliver environmental flows toLindsay–Wallpolla Islands, all of which are linked to thespecific geomorphology of the area (see chapters 2 and3). These can be grouped as either the use of weirs andstructures such as regulators and or the use of pumping.


Stage IVery Low<20 GL/d

Stage IILow20-35 GL/d

Stage IIISmall35-60 GL/d

Stage IVMedium60-115 GL/d

Stage VLarge>115 GL/d

Lindsay Island

Creeks are extensively ponded. Waterlevels and creeks in backwater controlledby Lock 6.

Major creeks begin to flow as inactiveanabranches become connected to theRiver Murray upstream resulting in achange from ponded to flowing.

A few anabranches begin to form, e.g.along Mullaroo Ck and River Murray atToupnein Island, and some backwatersbegin to expand. A network of smallchannels associated with or near River redgum forests forms.

Backwaters continue to expand (e.g.Oscars Ck) off Pollards Island, south ofToupnein Ck and centre of Lindsay Island.The terraces of the Lindsay River becomeflooded. Additional flow paths begin toform and existing filled creeks join up.

Flow paths continue to spread out andcoalesce, more overbank flows from theRiver Murray, landscape features begin tobe submerged and individual flow pathsor landscape features (e.g. creeks andterraces) are difficult to distinguish.

Table 15.11 Flow thresholds for landscape feature inundation for Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands

Source: MDBC (2005b).

Wallpolla Island

Creeks are ponded. Water levels in Wallpolla Ck andcreeks to the west are controlled by Lock 9. Virtually nothrough flow.

Creeks become connected to the River Murray weir pooland flowing. If sufficient head occurs, Finnigans, Sandy,Moorna and Dedmans creeks will flow.Very few inundated areas occur west of Moorna Ck.Anabranches become connected at Thompsons Ck to theRiver Murray in the north, and Wallpolla Ck to the RiverMurray in the south.

The number and complexity of flow paths is increased assmall, unnamed creeks begin to flow and may connect toother small creeks—Sandy Ck to Finnigans Ck, MoornaCk to Wallpolla Ck, Dedmans Ck to Wallpolla Ck.Occasional filling of backwater creeks.

Backwaters that are expanding are off the main easterncreeks e.g. Sandy, Finnigans, Thompson and WallpollaCreeks. Wallpolla Ck connects to Willipenance Ck.Anabranches become active off Wallpolla Ck. Floodplaininundation begins to occur north of Wallpolla Ck andwest of Moorna Ck.

Flow changes occur as expanding backwaters begin tocoalesce with the area between Moorna Ck andDedmans Ck becoming inundated (anabranches mergewith the River Murray to return flows to the river).

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267Discussion Paper

Box 15.7 Changes in flow regimes of Lindsay–Wallpolla Islands based on ananalysis of the 109 year flow record

Reduced floodfrequency

Reduced floodduration

Reduced annualvolume andchanges toseasonality

Source: MDBC (2005b).

Downstream of Wentworth Weir, under current conditions, the frequency of flood eventswith peaks greater than 10 GL/d has been reduced. Small flood events that are aboveregulated flow (peaks between 20 GL/d to 40 GL/d) now occur approximately 56 – 86 timesper year rather than approximately 106 – 117 times per year. However, it is the frequency of events larger than this (classed as 'medium-sized' events) that have suffered the greatestimpact under current conditions. This is due to the dampening effect of lock and weiroperation. For these events (peaks between 50 GL/day to 100 GL/d) frequency has been at least halved under current conditions. For floods with peaks >100 GL/d the frequency isless than one third of the natural frequency. In contrast to the reduced frequency of floodswith peaks >10 GL/d, it should be noted that the frequency of small in-channel events with a peak of <10 GL/d has doubled.

For the Lindsay–Wallpolla Islands, the greatest change in event duration has been for flowsup to 10 GL/d. The median duration of events below 10 GL/d has been reduced from 258days to 46 days. Flows above 20 GL/d and below 115 GL/d suffered the greatest decrease in the duration of events as a result of river regulation. Larger flood events (greater thanapproximately 115 GL/d) have been relatively unaltered.

For flows up to approximately 20 GL/d, the seasonal pattern has largely been retained, withthe exception that more low flows occur in winter than could be expected under naturalseasonal conditions. For higher events, up to 60 GL/d, seasonality has shifted, now occurringone to two months later in the season. For larger events (> 60 GL/d) the onset of floodinghas been slightly delayed. At the South Australian border, current median flow is 39% ofnatural (Gippel & Blackham 2002). Mean flow is 46% of the natural volume.

Table 15.12 Table Water Management Unit Flow Requirements.

Source: MDBC (2005b).

Water Management Unit

River red gum

Black box woodland

Lignum shrubland

Open areas

Permanent wetlands

Wetlands connected by 60-115 GL/day

Connected by >15 GL/day

Lake Wallawalla

Herbfield zone

Red gum zone

Black box zone

Active channels connected to weir pools


3 to 8 months

2 to 6 months

3 to 12 months


Increase water level variability, provide a low water phaseAssess individual wetlands for requirements


Maintain flood duration


2 to 4 months


1 in 2 years

1 in 5 years

1 in 8 years




1 in 3 years

Active channels drier than natural

Minimum of 6 months 1 in 2 to 5 years


Spring to early summer

Spring to early summer

Spring to autumn


Late Winter/Spring/early Summer

Wetlands connected by 60 GL/day(individual medium sized wetlands)

Evaluate water regime needs

2 to 4 months 1 in 3 to 5 years

Reduce Reduce

– Increase

Not critical

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268 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

In some situations, water from Lake Victoria could beused to achieve water spills onto the floodplain, forfloods less than 50 GL per day because of the outletconstraint of Lake Victoria. Water could be suppliedfrom Lake Victoria through Rufus Creek to `top up’smaller floods for the western end of Lindsay Islandsystem (Wallpolla Island is just upstream of LakeVictoria). This method has the potential to increase floodfrequency or duration of medium-sized events that allowconnectivity of the anabranches.

Existing weirs and regulators on channels could befurther enhanced to manage flows through a range ofactive channel habitats. These structures provideoperational flexibility in that they can be used tofacilitate flooding and prevent flooding combined withextending the time for flood inundation and the timingof the flood. Levees could be used in conjunction withweirs to pond water, but the negative effect ofinterfering with the distribution of waters from naturalfloods was considered to be sufficient reason to rejectthis method. The construction of fish passages also fallsunder this category.

Pumping is carried out in the Chowilla andLindsay–Wallpolla as an emergency measure for isolatedwetlands that have not been watered for a long time.Pumping also has the potential to water areas offloodplain, such as Black Box, which are located on highelevation areas. It can also be used for filling wetlandsystems to simulate flooding. There are, however,arguments against pumping because of the highongoing cost and intensive management required andthe need for the construction of levees to pool the waterand prevent run-off.

Successes from Environmental Flows

A range of benefits for Victoria’s significant ecologicalsites from environmental flows has already beenachieved. Figures 15.16, 17 and 18 illustrate some ofthe ecological benefits of environmental flows. In the2005–06 season, Victoria provided half of the 510 GLenvironmental water released for Barmah–Millewa, 19GLfor Gunbower, 6 GL for Hattah lakes site (to fill over 220ha of lakes and creek systems), 10 GL for the wetlandson Lindsay–Wallpolla (over 700 ha), and over 5 GL forother sites along the Murray channel. Of this water, 20GL was targeted specifically at arresting the decline inriver red gum condition.

In Barmah forest environmental watering opportunitiesto date, have resulted, in breeding events by colonialwaterbirds including egrets, spoonbills, herons, ibis,cormorants and darters. Native fish have also spawnedincluding Murray cod, silver perch, and smaller speciessuch as Murray hardyhead and smelt. There has beenwidespread and prolific breeding by frogs (includingthreatened species such as growling grass frog) alongwith vigorous growth from wetland plants and river redgums. Surveillance from aerial flights followingenvironmental watering has shown an increase in riverred gum crown cover and extensive new leaf growth.Further discussion of biodiversity and forestry benefitsassociated with environmental water flows can be foundin chapters 5, 10 and 14.

Gunbower forest over recent years has receivedenvironmental flows. In 2005–06 Gunbower received19 GL of water sourced from Victorian surplus flows andVictoria’s Flora and Fauna Environmental WaterAllocation. There have been major

Figure 15.15 Pumping structures for environmental flows directly from river.

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269Discussion Paper

ecological responses in the forest in response to thesewaterings. The most significant response is recruitmentby a colony of endangered great egrets. Colonies ofother wetland birds have also responded to the forestwatering, including yellow billed spoonbills, darters,sacred ibis and cormorants. Over 200 colonialwaterbirds bred in Gunbower forest during this period.Fish living in the wetlands and creeks such as goldenperch, fly-specked hardyhead, crimson spotted rainbowfish, gudgeons and Australian smelt also responded tothe waterings.

The wetland plants, which provide habitat for birds,frogs and fish, responded, resulting in a dense tree andvegetation cover at Gunbower forest. River red gums inareas where environmental water has been provided aredisplaying new growth. Other animals which werenoted are tortoises, invertebrates (valuable fish and birdfood) and also snakes, probably feeding on the frogs.

Maps 15.3 and 15. 4 illustrate the increase in flooddistribution with increases in water volume for bothBarmah–Millewa and Gunbower andKoondrook–Perricoota Forests. Both of these floodingevents were associated with the successfulenvironmental flow events in late 2005 and illustrate thegreater flood spread and the increase likelihood ofachieving greater connectivity between floodplainsystems and the River Murray—see chapter 4.

During April to June 2005 and September to December2005, environmental water was delivered to the HattahLakes system by pumping water from the River Murrayinto Chalka Creek. This resulted in re-wetting 20 km of

Figures 15.16 and 17 Environmental flow achievements.

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270 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

25th November 2005 (peaked Yarrawonga 12-13 November 28,000 ML/day)

14th October 2005 (peaked Yarrawonga 3-4 October 17,000 ML/day)

– Kilometres

0 10 20 305

Current Public Land



Water Proportion

V. High (90 - 100)

High (80 - 90)

Medium (70 - 80)

Low - Medium (60 - 70)

Low (50 - 60)

Very Low (41 - 50) No Significant Surface Flooding

No Flooding

Flood Mapping in the Barmah-Millewa Forests October - November 2005 (period of high released flows) Spot -4 satellite imagery

Maps 15.3 Distribution of Environmental Flows at Barmah-Millewa 2005-06.

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July 2004 September 2004

November 2004 February 2005

March 2005


0 10 20 305


Current Public Land

Water Proportion

V. High (90 - 100)

High (80 - 90)

Medium (70 - 80)

Low - Medium (60 - 70)

Low (50 - 60)

Very Low (41 - 50)

No Flooding


Flood mapping in the Gunbower State Forest July 2004 - March 2005(period of high release flows) Landsat 5 Satellite imagery

271Discussion Paper

Maps 15.4 Distribution of Environmental Flows at Gunbower and Koondrook–Perricoota Sites 2005-06.

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272 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Chalka Creek and filling three lakes for the first timesince 2002, resulting in growth and regeneration of riverred gums along the creek. Murray cod, silver perch,golden perch and smaller native fish species were foundin the lakes, most probably pumped into the system aslarvae. Thousands of waterbirds were and are present,including a number of threatened species such bluebilled duck, freckled duck and blue winged shovellers.There was also an explosion in the frog population, andmany tortoises also enjoyed the flooding. Australasiangrebes and waterfowl species successfully bred on thelakes for the first time since 2001.

In 2005–06, environmental water was delivered to partsof the Chowilla Floodplain. Sites included Kulkurna,Werta Wert, Lake Littra, Twin Creek, Pilby Creek,Chowilla Loop, Chowilla Oxbow, Copper MineWaterhole, Brandy Bottle Waterhole, Punkah Creek andMonoman Island Depression. The area watered isestimated at over 800 ha. Across all sites, 50–90percent of the stressed trees have responded positivelyto the increase in available fresh water. Thousands ofwaterbirds inhabited the wetlands, including state listedspecies.

During 2005–06, 22 sites on Lindsay, Mulcra andWallpolla Islands received environmental water frompumping and by temporarily raising the upstream poollevel of Lock 8. Approximately 1,800 ha was watered.Significant environmental outcomes included increasedvigour of river red gums, and growth and flowering ofblack box. In addition, over 30 species of waterbirdswere present on Mulcra and Wallpolla Islands.


Although considerable research and knowledge existaround environmental flows, more knowledge is neededfor specific sites and the fate of the water after it leaves

the creek and anabranches and moves across the plain.Successful management of environmental flows requiresinstant action when water becomes available as well asbeing able to ensure that there is sufficient water overadequate time to achieve nesting requirements of birds,fish, amphibians etc. Further research is also required onthe connectivity between waterways and floodplains andthe effect this has on the lifetime reproductive success ofaquatic species.

The current infrastructure approach is derived from, andremains geared towards delivering water for irrigation.Further knowledge about managing environmental flowswill assist in adapting this technology towardsenvironmental goals. The current adaptive managementprocedures and processes in place are dependent onresponses to specific locations rather than an integratedplan across the system. Further development ofsuccessful environmental water flows will requireongoing commitment from management andgovernment authorities.

Climate change is likely to reduce the total amount ofwater available from each river basin in the future foruse by humans and by the environment. Consequently,there will be increasing pressure on these decliningwater resource stocks. The influence of climate changeon water availability is discussed in depth in chapters 4,5 and 19.

Increased competition for access to a declining resourcewill generate considerable political and economicdiscussion in the future. In the current water allocationframework the burden of sacrifice is born equally acrossall users with the environment having equal status to allother users. However, will this policy framework besufficiently robust to withstand the increasing demandsfor the decreasing stock of water resources at anoperational level?

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Figures 15.18 Australian white ibis nesting in a river red gum forest.

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274 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

16 Earth ResourcesCurrently earth resources such as road and buildingconstruction materials are accessed throughout thestudy area. New research and technologydevelopments suggest that the area may alsocontain minerals including gold and heavy mineralsands.

A detailed description of the geology andgeomorphology of the River Red Gum Forests study areais provided in chapters 2 and 3. This chapter describesthe earth resources and highlights the active explorationand mining tenements within the study area particularlyindustrial minerals such as mineral sands and gypsum(McHaffie & Buckley 1995; Campbell et al. 2003) (Map16.1). More generally, sand and gravel deposits in thevicinity of the major river systems may be significantsources of construction materials for local communities.There are also areas of brown coal near the surface inthe Kerang-Torrumbarry area that are currently noteconomic to extract. The central part of the study areahas Bendigo-style gold deposits buried under a cover ofmore recent sediments (Phillips & Hughes 2003).Copper, gold, molybdenum, tin, nickel, iron, bentonite,platinum group elements and base metals (e.g. lead,copper and zinc) may also be present in economicquantities.

Currently, the earth resources tenements on Crown landwithin the study area are:

• Two petroleum exploration permits;

• 17 mining exploration licences comprising:

> three for mineral sands;

> two for gypsum;

> 12 for gold/silver/platinum;

• Four mining licences for extraction of gypsum;

• Four work authorities - three for sand or gravel, andone for granite extraction; and

• 8 pipeline licences associated with mining andresource extraction activities.

In addition to existing tenements, the study area maycontain more extensive areas of extractive materials,mineral sands, base metals and potential for economicgold deposits (Map 16.2).



Gold-bearing bedrock is well exposed in the centralportion of what is known as the Bendigo Zone (seechapter 2). The Bendigo Zone is a distinct geologicalstrip running north-south through central Victoria.Within the study area, this zone is covered by youngersediments from near Swan Hill to Echuca, and outsidethe study area south to Werribee and a point about 20km south of Colac. More recent Cainozoic rocks coverthe northern third of the zone (see Map 2.1).

Most of the viable gold has been extracted from theexposed portion of the Bendigo Zone although this iscurrently being re-evaluated (e.g. Bush et al. 1995).

Preliminary estimates of gold potential within theBendigo Zone of the study area suggest that up to300,000 kg of gold resource may be present(GeoScience Victoria DPI in-house estimate) worth anestimated $6 billion to $8+ billion at current gold prices($830 AUD per oz).

The main gold-prospective area within the study area lieunder surface sediments and are not exposed on thesurface. About 60 percent of this Bendigo Zone ‘undercover’ area is lies within the River Red Gum Forests studyarea, although a considerably lower percentage of thisarea is public land.

The Victorian Government recently commenced thethree year Delivering Gold Undercover project to attractexploration and development and invest in data andtechnologies for identifying gold north of the goldentriangle in central Victoria, in the ‘under cover’ area(DIIRD 2005). This initiative is aimed at encouragingnew areas of gold exploration, where an additional2,270,000 kg gold resource has been estimated(GeoScience Victoria DPI in-house estimate).

The likelihood of finding economically viable golddeposits in the study area outside the Bendigo Zone islow (Phillips & Hughes 2003). However, gold has beenfound in some areas in east in the past; notably theOvens River, which yielded around 15,000 kg (currentvalue over $300 million). The Kiewa valley has also beenworked in the past and may still contain gold deposits.It is likely that not all the gold was extracted anddevelopments in mining technology may make this area(and similar alluvial systems) of economic interest in thefuture.

Mineral Sands

Mineral sands contain a group of minerals which are richin the elements titanium and zirconium (the mainelements of economic interest at present). In placesthese deposits contain economic concentrations of heavyminerals such as ilmenite, rutile and zircon. Thetitanium-bearing minerals are primarily used forproducing paint, but could also be used to producetitanium metal. The zirconium-containing mineral(zircon) is mostly used as a high-temperature refractoryin lining furnaces for smelting and casting metals, butalso has other uses.

Past drilling found deposits close to the Murray Basinmargin near Kerang, Boort and in an area through toEdenhope and Casterton. The Wemen deposit nearRobinvale was discovered in 1995 and was the first tobe mined with operations commencing in 2001(Campbell et al. 2003). Economic deposits have beenidentified near Ouyen (KWR deposit) and explorationindicates that the Murray Basin may contain otherworld-scale heavy mineral sand deposits (Campbell et al.2003).

There are currently three exploration licences for mineralsands within the study area. These are primarily in thewestern portion of the study area where the lateMiocene-early Pliocene shallow sea deposited sanddunes and strandlines—the Parilla Sand—containingheavy minerals (Brown & Stephenson 1991; Campbell etal. 2003).

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Victorian gypsum deposits occur typically in Quaternarylakes and aeolian dunes located in northwest Victoria.Major deposits are located between Kerang and SwanHill, within the River Red Gum Forests study area, andthe Raak Plains to the west of Hattah (Olshina 1999;Buckley 2003; Campbell et al. 2003). Gypsum mined inVictoria is mostly used as soil conditioner, for plaster andplasterboard and in the construction industry. Currentlythere are two exploration licences and four mininglicences to extract gypsum in the study area.

Other Minerals

Porphyry—a variety of granite—can sometimes containcopper, gold and molybdenum. Two such deposits areknown in east Gippsland (both currently sub-economic).Granitic rocks within the study area may be found tocontain porphyry systems in the future.

Ultra-mafic rocks (i.e. rocks with a volcanic origin thatare often rich in certain minerals) are known to hostbase metal deposits, for example those in the WestCoast Mine District of Tasmania. The Tasmanian terrainhosts many major mines, and has produced between700 and 1000 million tonnes of ore-grade rock. It isunlikely that deposits of this magnitude would remain inVictoria, however there may be smaller base metaldeposits within the study area. A reasonable estimate ofthe potential value of base metal resources within thestudy area is between $150 and $300 million(GeoScience Victoria DPI in-house estimate).

A large bentonite clay deposit is currently being workedat Arumpo, in NSW, north of Robinvale and 70 km eastof Mildura (McHaffie & Buckley 1995). This deposit hasreserves of up to 70 million tonnes with a current valuein the range of $10 to $40 per tonne, depending onquality. Its proximity to the River Red Gum Forests studyarea, in an area of similar geology, implies a significantpotential for such deposits in this region.


Hydrocarbons have been detected in most Mesozoic agesedimentary basins within Victoria. The largesteconomic accumulations of oil and gas in Victoria arefound within sections of the southern rift Gippsland andOtway Basins, which have produced commercialquantities for over 30 years.

The River Red Gum Forests study area contains at depth,Mesozoic sediments of the Murray Basin (see chapter 2).To date exploration for petroleum has been limiteddespite new data acquisitions by the Minerals andPetroleum Division of DPI. Generally the amount is smalland only detected by sophisticated equipment. Twopetroleum exploration permits are currently held. Lackof appropriate rock structures and poor petroleumgeneration conditions, combined with the expensivenature of petroleum investigations, have limitedexploration in the Murray Basin and favoured continuedexploration in the southern rift basins (Bernecker et al.2003).

Energy Resources

A large area of brown coal—equivalent to about 2,000 km2 and one third the size of the Latrobe Valleycoalfields—occurs in seams up to 40 metres in the

centre of the River Red Gum Forests study area nearKerang, Torrumbarry and Echuca (Holdgate 2003). Thisresource is buried up to 100 metres deep and is notregarded as economic to extract at the moment. Futurechanges in energy costs or advances in technology (e.g.coal-to-liquid fuels and ‘clean coal’ technology) mayenhance the economic viability of this deposit.

Very little is known about other resources such asgeothermal energy potential within the study area.


Extractive Industry

Extractive industries produce crushed rock, sand, graveland clay, mostly for building, construction and road-making, as well as stone blocks and slabs for decorativeuse in buildings, paving and monuments. Crushed rockis used as aggregate for road surfacing and road baseconstruction, bedding materials for dam constructionand pipe laying, and armour stone for embankments.Each such application requires stone of defined size andproperties, with basaltic rocks the most widely usedmaterial in Victoria (i.e. bluemetal is used extensively inconstruction industries). Stone can be cut to specificproportions for use in building (especially for cladding),construction (paving) and monuments (dimension stone).Decorative stone is increasingly used for themanufacture of bench-tops and other furniture.

The industry is of significant economic importance as aprovider of essential materials for housing andinfrastructure. In general, stone resources are soughtclose to where they will be used to reduce transportcosts. The value of extractive materials produced withinthe study area, as reported by licensees, is shown inTable 16.1.

Mining of Minerals and Petroleum

Within Victoria the production of gold, brown coal andpetroleum has long been a significant producer ofwealth, with mineral sands production of increasingimportance. The economic value of products extractedfrom mining licences within the River Red Gum Forestsstudy area is shown in Table 16.2.

Value to the Community

Earth resources operations vary greatly in their economic,environmental and social impacts. There are over 800extractive industry operations registered in Victoriaproducing almost 40 million tonnes of material perannum. The industry occupies sites in metropolitan,regional and rural areas with more than 75 percent ofquarries located outside the greater Melbourne region.The industry is characterised by a mix of some largeoperators and many medium and small operators, someemploying only one or two people. Many of the smalleroperators are based in remote localities.

The industry directly employs over 2200 people, with aflow-on effect of an additional 2–3 people indirectlyemployed for every direct job. The extractive industry iswidely distributed across the region and has providedemployment over many decades making it an importantemployer in many rural and regional communities.

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278 River Red Gum Forests Investigation > 2006

Transport costs typically make up most (up to 25 percent) of the price of materials and so proximity to market is important. Minimising transport distancealso reduces the environmental impact and energyconsumption associated with the movement of largequantities of construction materials.


Open-cut and underground mining are the two majormining operations likely to be used within the studyarea:

Economically viable deposits of mineral sands, coal,extractive industry material (sand, gravel, etc) and someindustrial minerals (e.g. gypsum or clay minerals such asbentonite and kaolinite) are most likely be extractedusing open-cut methods. Open-cut mines vary frommodest pits for small sand quarries or gypsum mines tolarge pits for mineral sands or extensive clay deposits.

Gold and base metals are likely to be accessedunderground through shafts or declines unless there is amajor deposit overlain by relatively thin cover, in whichcase open-cut methods are more economic.

Research on remote mining could significantly enlargethe window of economically viable resources at depth.Remote mining extracts resources with robotic devicesand modified drilling equipment operated from thesurface and does not require the mine to be free ofwater or ventilated (or made safe for people). Whenand if such techniques become commercially available,they may be able to access ore deposits which arecurrently out of reach for intractable geotechnical orother reasons.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) regulates a

number of primary industries to achieve agreed social,economic and environmental outcomes. For example,the Minerals and Petroleum Division (MPD) within DPIensures that mining, petroleum, extractives, pipeline andgeothermal operations meet health, safety andenvironmental requirements. This responsibility is carriedout with the support of other government agencieswhich administer associated legislation, including theDepartment of Sustainability and Environment, theDepartment of Infrastructure, the EnvironmentProtection Authority, WorkCover and local government.

The principal Acts administered by MPD as a regulatorfor earth resources activities are the Mineral ResourcesDevelopment Act 1990, Extractive IndustriesDevelopment Act 1995, Geothermal Energy ResourcesAct 2005, Petroleum Act 1998, and the Pipelines Act1967. The Pipelines Act 1967 regulates the constructionand operation of major transmission pipelines such asthose used for oil and gas which, as infrastructure,would be distinguished from regulations for extractiveand mining activities.

The Mineral Resources Development Act 1990 providesthe legislative framework to develop and regulate themineral exploration and mining industry. This Actapplies to all minerals, including gold, coal, and mineralsands. The Act establishes the system for resourceallocation and approval of mineral exploration anddevelopment, including compensation, rehabilitation androyalty requirements. Additionally, it defines the term‘restricted Crown land’ that is used under various acts,to control exploration or production of earth resources(see land use arrangements discussion below).

Earth resources legislation contains a number of specificmeasures that seek to minimise the impacts of earthresources activities on the environment. The key toolsare summarised below.

Table 16.1 Value of extractive production from licences within the study area.

Date Tonnes Produced Dollar Value ($)

11 years (94/95 to 04/05) 11,221,760 90,598,980

Average over 11 years 1,010,160 8,236,270

2004/2005 total 1,289,260 12,547,850

Source: DPI, January (2006).

Table 16.2 Value of mining production from licences within the study area.

Date Cubic Metres Produced Dollar Value ($)*

9 years (total) (96/97 to 04/05) 414,930 -

Average over 9 years 46,100 -

2003/04-2004/05 data 71,140 236,910

Source: DPI, January (2006).

* Dollar value: the dash indicates there are no data for this period.

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279Discussion Paper

Regulated Activities

Before any activities (such as exploration, mining oractual extraction of material or energy) can beundertaken, companies must have an exploration ormining licence, or permit for extraction of the resourcein accordance with the relevant legislation, and also haveobtained a ‘work authority’ or permit. In order to gain awork authority a company must demonstrate that it has:

• an approved work plan (addressing safety andenvironmental matters)

• entered into a rehabilitation bond

• met any planning requirements

• obtained any other consents and authorities required,and

• obtained the landowner’s consent with regards to anappropriate site and an agreement with thelandowner for compensation for extraction activity.

Work Plans

Resource companies must submit work plans forapproval prior to the granting of consent to undertakeactivity within a licensed area. DPI is responsible forassessing and approving these work plans. Work plansprovide detailed regulatory information about theproposed operation—particularly its health, safety andenvironmental management (including rehabilitation). Atypical draft work plan covers the following areas:

• description of proposal

• site location, infrastructure and resource assessment

• site details (location of crushing plants, on-site officesand transport ‘haulage’ routes, sludge ponds, andgeographical features like water courses, vegetationand topography)

• details of operation

• environmental, and occupational health and safetycontrols

• rehabilitation plan

• dust and noise emission control

• drainage and discharge control (including storm watermanagement)

• erosion control and ground water protection

• removal or restoration of native vegetation

• noxious weeds and pests control

• internal buffers, screening and roads

• progressive and final rehabilitation

• fencing and security.


The above Acts prevent a licence holder from operatingunless they have an approved rehabilitation plan andhave provided an approved rehabilitation bond. TheMineral Resources Development Act 1990 also requiresany potential long term degradation of the environmentto be taken into account while the Extractive IndustriesDevelopment Act 1995 requires the rehabilitation plan totake into account the need to protect or conserve nativevegetation and protected flora and fauna.

Rehabilitation bonds are financial securities providedprior to the commencement of works. The bondguarantees that rehabilitation will be undertaken. Bonds

must be high enough to fund any rehabilitation worknecessary as a result of approved works. This ensuresthat any costs of rehabilitation are borne by the licenseeand not the community.

Native Vegetation

All resources industries are subject to Victoria’s NativeVegetation Framework Native VegetationManagement—A Framework for Action (DNRE 2002)and DPI administers this through licences and work planconditions in consultation with the Department ofSustainability and Environment. A proponent must havethe significance of any native vegetation to be removedassessed, and ensure that the proposal is consistent withVictoria’s Native Vegetation Framework e.g. throughrehabilitation and offsets.

Planning Requirements and Environment EffectsStatements

All resources industries are subject to planningrequirements under the Planning and Environment Act1987 although some activities such as exploration donot require planning approval. Planning approvalfocuses on land use issues, including the appropriatelocation of operations. If significant risks to theenvironment are anticipated, or there are significantlevels of public concern, proposed projects under all Actsmay be subject to rigorous public assessment and reviewunder the Environment Effects Act 1978. Normally thiswould only be done for major projects with significantrisks.

Native Title

Mining and extractive activities on Crown Land,including the grant of occupancies, may be considered‘future acts’ under the Native Title Act 1993 whichtriggers consultation processes with Native Title claimantgroups. Proposed activities require assessment forimplications under this Act prior to work commencing.DPI will not grant an exploration or mining licence onCrown land that may be subject to or has an existingnative title claim until the future act provisions under theNative Title Act 1993 have been satisfied. Guidelines byDPI for industry and native title claimants assist with thisprocess.


Specific extractive industry operations are governed bythe legislation described above. The implications forthese activities on Crown land are explored in moredetail below.


Exempted Land

Section 6 of the Mineral Resources Development Act1990 exempts certain areas of land from exploration,minining and searching licences or other authoritiesunder the Act. Licences would not be issued for theseareas except under special and limited circ*mstances(examples of which are given below). These exemptedareas include:

• and in a reference area under the Reference Areas Act 1978;

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• land in a national park, marine national park orsanctuary, wilderness park or state park under theNational Parks Act 1975, with the exception of pre-existing (i.e. at the time of park establishment)tenements (mining or exploration licences), andminer’s rights and tourist fossicking authorities whichapply in certain park areas that are subject to noticesunder section 32D(1) of the National Parks Act 1975;

• land that is an Aboriginal area or place to the extentof the terms of a permanent declaration under Section10 or 21E of the Commonwealth Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984;and

• land that is a permanent archaeological area underSection 15 of the Archaeological and Aboriginal RelicsPreservation Act 1972.

In addition to the permanent exemptions under Section6, the Minister responsible for the Mineral ResourcesDevelopment Act 1990 has the ability under Section 7 toexempt other land from exploration or mining licences.The Minister can grant an exemption for any reasonconsidered appropriate including (but not limited to):

• to protect land that is of significant environmentalimportance;

• to implement a recommendation from the LandConservation Council; and

• to enable the orderly and optimal development ofmineral resources in Victoria.

These exemptions can by revoked by the Minister at anytime under Section 7(5) by notice in the GovernmentGazette and recorded in the mining register.

The Act establishes two further categories of Crownland—‘restricted’ and ‘unrestricted’—with differentrequirements flowing as a result.

Restricted Crown Land

Under Section 44, a licensee who proposes to do workon restricted Crown land must obtain the consent of theMinisters administering the land under the Crown Land(Reserves) Act 1978 and the Forests Act 1958. Schedule3 to the Mineral Resources Development Act 1990 statesthat restricted Crown land comprises:

• any land that is the subject of relevantrecommendations proposing that the land be reservedunder the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 forregional parks, coastal parks, marine parks, flora andfauna reserves, wildlife reserves, natural features andscenic reserves (including caves and geologicalreserves), bushland reserves, historic areas, public landwater frontage reserves, streamside reserves, coastalreserves, national heritage parks, nature conservationreserves, and historic and cultural features reserves;

• any land subject to Government accepted relevantrecommendations of the Victorian EnvironmentalAssessment Council, or that is subject to relevantrecommendations of the Land Conservation Councilfor which notice has been given by the Governor inCouncil (prior to the repeal of the Land ConservationAct 1970);

• any land that is an alpine resort within the meaning ofthe Alpine Resorts Act 1983;

• any land that is a heritage river area under Section 5

of the Heritage Rivers Act 1992 or a naturalcatchment area under Section 6 of the Heritage RiversAct 1992, other than land which is already exemptedfrom exploration and mining activity under Section 6of the Mineral Resources Development Act 1990; and

• any other Crown land (other than land exempted fromexploration and mining activity under Section 6 of theMineral Resources Development Act 1990) that theMinister for Resources and the Minister administeringthe Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and the ForestsAct 1958, declare to be restricted Crown land for thepurposes of the Mineral Resources Development Act1990.

Unrestricted Crown Land

No additional consent requirements apply to unrestrictedCrown land, although the Minister for Resources isrequired to consult with the Ministers administering theland under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and theForests Act 1958 when considering an application for alicence. Those Ministers may recommend conditions towhich the licence should be made subject.

Additionally, land purchased or donated to the Crownmay be unrestricted because it may not be subject to arecommendation by LCC, ECC or VEAC, or beennominated as restricted or exempted. However, otherobligations and contractual arrangements maytechnically restrict mining activities, even on unrestrictedCrown Land.


Stone resources are owned by the landowner andextraction requires a work authority under the ExtractiveIndustries Development Act 1995. The owner of Crownland is the Minister responsible for the Act under whichthe land is controlled or managed. The ExtractiveIndustries Development Act 1995 applies to theextraction or removal of stone from land for sale orcommercial use in construction, building, road ormanufacturing works. Under the Act, stone includesgravel, sand, soil, building stone and clay (but does notinclude fine clay, kaolin or salt).

Under the Extractive Industries Development Act 1995,the following areas are not available for production ofstone:

• land in a reference area under the Reference Areas Act1978;

• land in a national park, wilderness park, state park,marine national park or marine sanctuary under theNational Parks Act 1975;

• land that is an Aboriginal place, to the extent of anyterms of a declaration of preservation in force underSection 21C, 21D or 21E of the CommonwealthAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HeritageProtection Act 1984; and

• land that is an archaeological area or contains relicsregistered under Section 10(a) of the Archaeologicaland Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1972.

References to restricted Crown land or exempt Crownland as defined in the Schedule 3 to the MineralResources Development Act 1990 (see descriptionabove) have been recently removed from the ExtractiveIndustries Development Act 1995. New provisions under

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Section 11 of the Extractive Industries Development Act1995 provide for applications to consent to search forstone on any Crown land. The Minister responsible forthe Act under which the Crown land in controlled ormanaged may agree, agree subject to conditions, orrefuse consent but not without valid reason.


The Petroleum Act 1998 governs onshore explorationand development of petroleum resources in Victoria.The maximum holding permitted under a PetroleumExploration Permit (PEP) is 12,500 square km for aperiod of five years. The permit can be renewed oncefor another five year period with a reduction in area ofat least 50 percent. The Act also provides for the issueof Petroleum Production Leases (PPL) and generaladministrative procedures supported by the PetroleumRegulations 2000.

Petroleum exploration and production activities must notbe carried out in reference areas defined under theReference Areas Act 1978, or wilderness zones orwilderness parks as defined under the National Parks Act1975. Written consent to undertake petroleumoperations on restricted Crown land (defined under theMineral Resources Development Act 1990) may beobtained from the responsible Minister. In general,written permission or consultation with the landmanager or Minister responsible for the land must beundertaken prior to any significant petroleum operationscarried out on Crown land, whether it is restricted orunrestricted. Other exemptions may be applied by theMinister for land that requires protection for significantenvironmental, commercial, economic or any otherreason considered appropriate. The Minister may alsorevoke any exemptions issued in this way.

While the Petroleum Act 1998 permits construction ofpipelines of limited length within the permit area, thePipelines Act 1967 governs the control, ownership,location, construction and operation of pipelines moregenerally. Following a major review, the new PipelinesAct 2005 was passed by Parliament in September 2005and will come into effect when supporting Regulationsare developed by MPD in consultation with interestedstakeholders.

Geothermal Energy Resources

The Geothermal Energy Resources Act 2005 provides thelegislative framework for the development andregulation of the large-scale commercial geothermalexploration and extraction industry. This Act establishesthat the heat energy within the Earth belongs to allVictorians, and is therefore vested in the Crown. Basedon the Petroleum Act 1998 model, the GeothermalEnergy Resources Act 2005 establishes the system forresource allocations and approvals required forgeothermal exploration and extraction, includingcompensation and rehabilitation requirements.

The Act sets out permanent exemptions where a personmust not carry out any geothermal energy operation onland that is a reference area, a marine national park orsanctuary, a national park, wilderness zone or park in asimilar manner to the Mineral Resources DevelopmentAct 1990. Consent is required to carry out anygeothermal energy operation on restricted Crown land

(as defined above) but this is dependent on firstobtaining consent of the Minister responsible for thatland. Consent is also required for any land owned,vested in or managed or controlled by a water authorityas defined under the Act.

In addition, the Minister can exempt land fromgeothermal energy operations for significantenvironmental reasons, to protect significant commercialor economic operations, to protect the land; or for anyother reason considered appropriate. The Minister canalso revoke these exemptions.


Obtaining general community consent to operate is vitalfor securing future access to resources. It also ensuresdevelopment in accordance with principles ofsustainability. Increasingly, the community expects betterenvironmental and safety management and continues topush to minimize environmental disturbance duringresource extraction. Consequently, these pressuresdemand that industry’s performance needs to improvecontinually.

Earth resource operations are commonly regarded asproducing large and undesired environmental impacts.Yet only a small number of operations fit thisdescription. Extractive operations can have lowenvironmental impacts and a small environmentalfootprint. In addition, extractive operations are obligedto progressively rehabilitate the land they occupy.Exploration can have little impact on the environment,particularly aerial surveys and geological mapping, forexample.

Some production activities also have a relatively smallecological footprint. For example, underground mininginvolves tunnelling from a surface portal to extractresources (such as reef or deep lead gold), frequentlyhundreds of metres below the surface. An importantadvantage of underground mining is the high value ofproduction relative to the generally small area of surfacedisturbance.

Increasingly, earth resources operations have focussednot only on economic and social gains, but also on theability to offset any environmental impacts. Forexample, using reclaimed water for processing plantsdoes not providing an environmental ‘gain’ but doesreduce consumption of fresh water reserves.

Society’s ever increasing demand for minerals and energyrequires ongoing exploration and technologicaldevelopments. Continued access to highly prospectiveareas is an important consideration in any land useplanning decision-making process.


Exploration, mining and extractive industry activity arecurrently limited on public land in the study area, butthere is the potential for future expansion. ‘Under cover’gold and near surface mineral sands resources offer thegreatest potential. Current relatively minor uses ofconstruction materials and dimension stones are ofvalue, particularly for local communities.

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17 Community Uses and Services

Small areas of public land throughout the studyarea are used for community uses and theprovision of services by public utilities. Many ofthese areas are within townships or along majorservice routes, while others are located in moreisolated areas.

This chapter focuses on only two public land usecategories: community use areas, and services andutilities. These land use categories occupy a smallproportion of public land across the study area, but howthey provide community services and how they aremanaged are important issues for VEAC to consider. An extensive description of all other pubicland use categories can be found in chapter 9.


Many blocks of public land have been set aside forcommunity uses in townships and small communities.Activities associated with these areas include education,recreation or other specific community purposes. Locallybased Committees of Management are responsible formanagement of many of these reserves. Falling withinthe community use category are:

• Recreation Areas

• Parklands and Gardens

• Buildings in Public Use

• Education Areas.

Recreation Areas

Recreation relates to the various activities that peopleundertake during their leisure time. For a discussion ofrecreational and tourism use of public land moregenerally and in larger public blocks, refer to chapter 11.

Recreation areas are generally small reserves close totownships with facilities for organised sports with anemphasis on outdoor activities—cricket ovals and netballcourts, for example. There are many recreation areaslocated across the study area. These networks ofrecreation areas are important for people’s health andwell-being as well as for the social vitality of localcommunities.

Parklands and Gardens

The parklands and gardens include small intensively usedcommunity parklands, playgrounds and ornamentalgardens. Examples are municipal parks and playgrounds,public barbecue facilities, and botanic or ornamentalgardens that are used for informal recreation. Parklandsand gardens are located within town areas in easy reachof shops and town facilities. They are found in nearly alltowns and regional cities within the study area, and arepredominantly managed by local government. Most aresmall and highly modified, but some retain naturalhabitat. Some also have historical values.

Buildings in Public Use

Many public buildings such as halls, schools, libraries,museums and their associated facilities which have beenprincipally established for community use are located on

public land. These facilities are used for a range ofcommunity activities including education, recreation,meetings, community information dissemination andtourist advice. Some buildings, such as schools, are use-specific but also double as multi-purpose buildings for arange of activities. Community halls also serve a range ofpurposes including entertainment, indoor sports activitiesand meeting forums. Older buildings such as educationbuildings may also have historical values. These buildingsmay be managed by the Department of Education andTraining, local government, appointed Committees ofManagement or community organisations (not for profitgroups).

Education Areas

Environmental education is a key strategy for ensuringthe long-term sustainability of natural systems acrossVictoria and has been an important element ofgovernment environmental policy over recent decades.Under legislation, the Victorian Commissioner forEnvironmental Sustainability is required to evaluate andaudit all public environmental education programs in thestate. Environmental education is now also a key aspectof the formal school education system as well as being ahigh profile area in the vocational and tertiary educationsectors.

Because of its biophysical focus, environmentaleducation frequently involves field studies andinvestigations, which require access to specificallyallocated areas of public land. These education areas areset aside as reserves of modest size where people,usually students can study natural ecosystems, observeand practice methods of environmental analysis and fieldtechniques associated with the natural sciences andconduct long-term experiments. Such areas are usuallyselected on the basis of whether the area has relativelyundisturbed natural vegetation. They may have a rangeof facilities on site, including buildings foraccommodation purposes which greatly affects howmuch they are used. A further description of educationareas, particularly those in the study area, can be foundin chapter 9.


There are numerous, generally small, service and utilityareas in the study area. These are used for transportnetworks, electricity and gas distribution,communications, survey and navigation, municipalbuildings and services, hospitals, public offices andjustice, water and sewerage services, cemeteries andother utilities.



Victoria has an extensive and complex road network.Statewide there is approximately 196,000 km of roads(from major arterial roads to minor local roads, to foresttracks). The Road Management Act 2004 categorisesand establishes the management responsibility for allpublic roads in Victoria as follows:

• freeways including tollway freeways (VicRoads)

• arterial roads

• urban (local municipal council)

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• non-urban (VicRoads)

• non-arterial state roads such as forest roads (relevantstate agency, e.g. the Department of Sustainability andEnvironment)

• municipal or local roads (local municipal council).

With the exception of freeway tollways, all types ofroads are found in the River Red Gum Forests study arealocated on public land either retained as Crown land atthe time of land survey and settlement or sincepurchased for roads.

The primary purpose of roadside reserve management isto maintain road functionality. This frequently involvesvegetation removal or trimming both of native andintroduced plant species. It may also involve moreextensive disturbance to land and drainage systems tomaintain an existing road or for the construction ofstructures such as bridges (see chapter 9 for moredetail). As well as these functional aspects road reservesmay also protect natural, historical and communityvalues such as biodiversity, visual amenity andrecreational opportunities. VEAC is particularlyinterested in these reserves from a nature conservationperspective as they often provide for biodiversity valuesas habitat corridors linking vegetated reserves. Manyunused road reserves retain native vegetation, some withrare plant species.

As part of its commitment to biodiversity conservationon major arterial roads and freeways VicRoads has anumber of strategies and plans in place to guide itsoperations that may impact on biodiversity values.These include the:

• Roadside Habitat Values Plan

• Roadside Management Strategy

• Roadside Management Plans

• Roadsides and the Environment Strategy.

At an operational level, these plans and strategiesinvolve detailed biological surveys on road reserves.They also involve VicRoads working with localgovernment, particularly around the issue of nativevegetation removal under the Planning and EnvironmentAct 1987. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of theseplans and strategies is conducted to establish whether ornot on-ground actions are achieving the strategic andmanagement objectives, as well as VicRoads’ statutoryresponsibilities.


Historically, rail transport has played a critical role in theexpansion of Victoria’s economy but today, rail’ssignificance relative to road transport has decreased inrecent decades as the road network has improved.Several rail lines were closed during the 1980s and1990s. Some of these decommissioned lines haveremained as public land and have ‘rail trails’ forrecreational use or bushland reserves where naturalvalues have been identified. In other places, rail reserveshave been sold, usually to adjoining landowners. Asystematic review of rail reserves was undertaken in the1980s by the Victorian government. This resulted in theoutstanding natural or recreational values along certainlines being identified and this land being retained aspublic land to protect these values (see also chapter 9).For example, the Bonegilla Station Bushland Reserve,east of Wodonga, was established partly to protect astand of the threatened purple diuris orchid.

Railways located on the northern plains are in a highlymodified biophysical environment. Plants that wereonce common have been removed through large-scaleagricultural development and human settlement. Somethreatened species and communities persist on railreserves. In part, this is due to the management historyof many rail reserves, including the exclusion of grazing,ploughing, grading, herbicide and fertiliser applicationand the use of fire as a management tool. Regularburning for fuel reduction was an essential part of railreserve management for over a century. Timing of thismanagement regime fortuitously replicated theecological conditions necessary for some plantcommunities, but had negative effects on others.

Species persisting in rail reserves include the nationallyendangered turnip copperburr and mountain swainson-pea, and the nationally critically endangered spiny rice-flower. Some of the best examples of Northern PlainsGrassland community, listed under the Victorian Floraand Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, occur on rail reserveswithin the study area.

Informal management of these sites is important for theconservation and protection of certain threatenedspecies and communities. The Victorian Rail IndustryEnvironment Forum (consisting of DSE, DPI, Country FireAuthority, VicTrack, Pacific National, Australian Rail TrackCorporation, Connex, and Municipal Association ofVictoria) is currently developing Vegetation ManagementGuidelines for Rail Corridors (due to be released later in2006). These guidelines will provide a framework forland managers and rail lessees to encourage changes toworks practices, to address the interlinked issues ofbiodiversity conservation, prevention of weed invasionand reduction of weed impacts, management of the riskof wildfire and efficient operation of the rail network.

Gas and Electricity

In previous LCC, ECC and to a lesser extent VEACinvestigations, gas and electricity utilities were importantconsiderations for the services and utilities land usecategory. During these times Victoria’s gas andelectricity industries were managed by integrated,government-owned entities such as the State ElectricityCommission and the Gas and Fuel Corporation ofVictoria. Private land purchased by these entities for

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their systems and infrastructure was “public land” forthe purposes of LCC and ECC investigations. The supplyof petroleum products, including the production ofnatural gas was controlled by the private sector.

In the 1990s, government changes led to theprivatisation of these entities and divisions into threediscrete business activities: supply, distribution and retail.Under these business arrangements the government’srole changed from directly owning and managing energybusinesses on behalf of the community to one of settingpolicy objectives and managing the statutory frameworkgoverning the energy market. Today, Victoria’s energyindustry is largely privately owned and operated.


Victoria’s 1900 km gas distribution pipeline is owned byGasNet, a privately owned company whose corebusiness activities are pipeline ownership, constructionand operations. GasNet supplies approximately 1.4million residential consumers and approximately 43,000industrial and commercial users throughout Victoria. Theprimary function of GasNet’s infrastructure is totransport gas from Esso’s Longford treatment plant insoutheast Victoria (which processes gas from offshoreBass Strait gas fields) and from the onshore Otway Basinto areas across Victoria as well as into parts of NSW.

The GasNet distribution network is relatively limited in itscoverage within the River Red Gum Forests study area.

Only minimal amounts of the pipeline network rununder public land in the study area. Map 17.1 illustratesthe gas distribution network across Victoria. It highlightsthat natural gas is mostly distributed around the easternpart of the study area. Where gas pipelines cross publicland, the land remains public land.

GasNet’s provides high pressure transmission pipelinesand associated assets, maintains services and connectsthe gas network to gas suppliers, distributors anddirectly to customers.

As part of the changes in the 1990s, the VictorianGovernment established the Victorian Energy NetworksCorporation (VENCorp). This statutory authority hasoverall responsibility for the operation of the gastransmission system including:

• analysing the system capacity and security standardsand controlling the flow of gas through the system ona day to day basis;

• administering the gas spot market, including allsettlement functions;

• providing connection and other services to gassuppliers, distributors and directly to the connectedcustomer; and

• administering the Market and System Operations Rulesunder which the Victorian gas market functions.

In Victoria natural gas is distributed to local areas by

Gippsland Basin

Otway Basin

Murray Basin

Swan Hill Study Area



Existing gas pipeline

Proposed or underconstruction gas pipeline

Gas liquid pipeline

Ethane pipeline

Gas plants or facilities

Liquids processing

Locations to be connectedfrom 2004 under RIDF









From Cooper BasinSouth Australia


LeongathaPort Fairy




Maiden Gully


To Bass Basin

Map 17.1 Victoria’s natural gas networks and processing facilities, 2005.

Source: DPI 2004, Minerals and Petroleum Divisions Statistical Review; Australian Government (2004); BusinessVictoria (2006).

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three private distribution companies, Multinet, Envestra(which services the major population areas aroundMildura) and TXU/TRU (which the areas around Echuca,Shepparton and Wodonga). Only a minimal amount ofpublic land in the study area is associated with the gasdistribution pipelines network. Where compressionstations existed on public land held by the former Gasand Fuel Corporation, this land has been transferred toGasNet and is now freehold.


Victoria’s 6000 km high voltage electricity transmissionsystem is owned and maintained by AusNet, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore Power Limited(SPIPowerNet). AusNet’s core business functions arewidely known as the ‘pipes’ and ‘wires’ of the electricitynetwork. AusNet’s electricity distribution networkdelivers electricity to approximately 575,000 supplypoints in an area of more than 80,000 square kilometresin Victoria, including the study area (Map 17.2).

The high voltage transmission system is largely anetwork of transmission conductors (cables) supportedon more than 13,000 galvanised steel towers. Theconductors carry electricity at extra high voltages fromthe power stations to 46 terminal stations aroundVictoria, where the voltage is lowered for distribution forlocal distribution companies to deliver to homes andbusinesses.

The corridors of land upon which AusNet’s network isbuilt are referred to as ‘transmission line easem*nts’.More than 17,500 ha of easem*nts secure a ‘right ofway’ for the safe transmission of power. In most casesAusNet does not own the easem*nt land. Rather, theeasem*nt provides the right to use the land space byagreement with the original landowner. Ownership ofthe land remains with the landowner with the easem*ntalso allowing access for field crews to maintain thenetwork. Under the easem*nt right AusNet may limitthe type and scope of activities on the easem*nt,including restriction on what is grown or built on itincluding easem*nts on public land.

With its transmission system, AusNet is subject to theoperational control of the National Electricity MarketManagement Company (NEMMCO), a governmentbased agency, owned by the state and territorygovernments involved in the National Electricity Market(NEM) which includes Victoria, NSW, SA and ACT.NEMMCO’s role is to ensure the integrity of the systemand to operate the market. VENCorp is also responsiblefor planning of the Victorian electricity transmissionsystem to ensure existing and expected demands aremet.

Within Victoria there are five electricity distributors. The metropolitan area is serviced by AGL Electricity,CitiPower and United Energy whilst rural areas areserviced by TXU/TRU (formerly Eastern Energy) andPowercor.

Swan Hill






Mildura 500 kV330 kV220 kV66 kV

Type of network- kilo volt (kV)

Terminal stationSubstation

Study Area

LEGENDMap 17.2 Victoria’s electricity network, 2005.

Source: Modified from DSE (2005g) and data from Sustainable Energy Authority Victoria, 2005

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Statutory responsibility for communication networksthroughout Australia resides with the AustralianGovernment. Sites for these structures are favoured onthe basis of their elevation and absence of physicalbarriers to communication frequencies. Consequently,most communication towers or structures are built onprominent hills or high points. Reliable road access andthe availability of power to these sites are also importantsiting factors. Many communication towers and satellitedishes across Victoria are either located on public land orrequire access across public land. For example, withinthe study area, the communication structure located onHuon Hill near Wodonga requires access across publicland.

Survey and Navigational Infrastructure

Trigonometrical stations and sites are often located onpublic land and in some cases access to the sites isthrough public land. Trigonometrical stations are usedfor land survey control points. With widespread GlobalPositioning Systems now in use, they are becoming lesscentral to land surveying operations.

Municipal Buildings and Services

Municipal buildings and services are frequently locatedon public land. Such buildings include local governmentoffices, depots and outbuildings.

Hospitals and Public Offices

Public building such as hospitals, public offices, policestations, courthouses and prisons are generally locatedon public land. Some recent prison facilities operated bythe private sector are on private land. Within the studyarea many public buildings such as hospitals at Cobram,Echuca and Mildura are located on public land.

Water and Sewerage Services


Details on land-use categories for water production,particularly the use of declared water supply catchmentis presented in chapter 9. Chapters 4 and 15 refer tohydrological systems and water use and environmentalflows. This section describes the public land associatedwith the infrastructure for the distribution of water totownships across the study area for human use andeconomic production purposes, and systems of channelssupplying stock and domestic water to rural areas.

The water production land use category encompassesthe actual water storage areas, diversion weirs, pumpintakes and associated buffer areas. The Ovens Riveroff-take supplying urban Wangaratta is such acatchment off-take point. Separate land use provisionsapply to the harvesting areas—see chapter 9 for anoutline of declared water supply catchments. In mostcases these water supply catchments include private aswell as public land.

In the context of this chapter water production land isfirstly, land on which township water, storage andreticulation infrastructure is built, and secondly the stockand domestic channel distribution systems. A large

number of water utilisation areas were recognised in theLCC Mallee Study (1977b) and subsequent MalleeReview (1989a), Murray Valley (1985), North-EasternStudy 3, 4 and 5 (1977a), and North-Eastern Area(Benalla-Upper Murray) Review (1986).

In the Mallee, water for urban supply is pumped fromthe River Murray or from channels and pipes, and storedin elevated reservoirs in townships before beingdistributed. In the Kerang region, water is drawn forirrigation and stock purposes from Torrumbarry weir onthe River Murray, and diverted to the Loddon River, fromwhere it flows through a series of natural lakesconnected by channels. These lakes include ReedyLakes, Racecourse Lake, Lake Charm, Lake Tutchewop,Lake Kelly and Lake William. Drainage areas such as theKanyapella floodway, are diversions for flood waters andare included in the services and utilities land usecategory. Some water storages in the Kerang lakesregion are linked to areas used for other purposes. LakeTutchewop services and utilities area which is primarilyused for drainage and abuts Lake Tutchewop WildlifeReserve.

From time to time, new facilities are required and oldfacilities decommissioned. Consequently areas allocatedto water production will occasionally requireamendment. There have been many changes in theadministration of water services since the 1980s,particularly the amalgamations of water authorities inthe 1990s and the results of the Water White Paper, Our Water Our Future (DSE 2004i). All former waterauthorities have been restructured and the total numbersignificantly reduced. There are two rural waterauthorities in the study area, First Mildura Irrigation Trustand Goulburn-Murray Rural Water (trading as GoulburnMurray Water) and two urban rural water authorities,Lower Murray Urban and Rural Water and WimmeraMallee Water. Four regional water authorities maintainfacilities for the storage and distribution of water (andmanagement of sewage disposal) within the study area:Coliban Water; Goulburn Valley Water; and, North EastWater.

All land upon which water authority assets are located,whether Crown land or freehold, is considered publicland under the VEAC Act 2001. For example, GoulburnValley Water has around 40 treatment plants, 27wastewater facilities, 340 pumping stations, 92 tanksand reservoirs and operates a reclaimed water re-usefacility. Goulburn Murray Water is a major holder ofpublic land. Some key areas or sites falling withinGoulburn Murray Water’s portfolio include land adjacentto Green Lakes former farmland in the Kanyapella BasinWildlife Management Cooperative Area, Lake Williamand Lake Little drainage areas (Mystic Park) andYarrawonga Weir as well as numerous areas of Crownland.

Coliban Water also manages and maintains over 50reservoirs and water storage basins, 213 water andwastewater pumping stations, 23 water treatmentfacilities and 16 reclamation facilities, mostly on Crownland. Similar situations exist for other water authoritiessuch as Lower Murray Water, North East Water andGrampians Wimmera Mallee Water.

As described in chapters 4 and 15 the study area is

Uses of Public Land - VEAC C - complete.pdf· Uses of Public Land C. River Red Gum Forests investigation > 2006Discussion Paper 153 The river red gum forests have been a major - [PDF Document] (136)

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associated with some of Victoria’s most significantirrigation regions. The most notable of these are theShepparton, Campaspe, Rochester and TorrumbarryIrrigation Areas (see Map D). Such areas are dependenton an extensive network of irrigation channels. Some ofthe more extensive main channels include East and WestWaranga Main Channel, with the latter also supplyingstock and domestic water and the Yarrawonga channelheading south west from Lake Mulwala. These irrigationchannels are located on public land, owned or managedby Goulburn Murray Water. Such areas maybe ofinterest in this Investigation, particularly where lakesassociated with the provision of irrigation water foragricultural purposes are also important locations andsources of habitat for a variety of wetland species.

As well as the network of irrigation channels within thestudy area there is also a network of surface waterdrains. The purpose of these drains is to drain awayexcess surface water from irrigated land to preventwater logging, rising water tables and salinity problems.Some of the major surface drainage channels associatedwith the study area are the Muckatah, Mosquito,Timmering and Minchins Depressions drains. In thissituation Goulburn Murray Water has easem*nt rightsrather than ownership rights over the land. A networkof subsidiary drains established on public land, havebeen largely sold to adjoining landowners. Privatelyowned land associated with these subsidiary drains isnot public land and hence will not be considered in thisInvestigation.


Towns and regional cities located throughout the studyarea are serviced by sewage treatment systems. Thesesystems vary in scale and level of treatment. The largerurban centres have more sophisticated treatmentfacilities, often providing up to tertiary level treatment(to a standard suitable for environmental discharge).

Smaller towns are serviced by secondary treatmentplants (for removal of biological material).

Both secondary and tertiary level treatment plants utiliseevaporation basins and lagoons as part of the treatmentprocess. Basins and lagoons require large land areas forconstruction and operation. They also require anadequate buffer zone between the basin and thesurrounding land or watercourses. This is a requirementof the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Allsewage treatment facilities require licences issued by the EPA.

Water from treatment plants is used for irrigationpurposes or in some cases is discharged back into therivers. One particular use of this irrigation water is forplantations such as those owned by Goulburn ValleyWater on the northern outskirts of Shepparton.


Cemeteries in the study area (other than private familycemeteries and some Indigenous burial grounds) arelocated on Crown land. Cemeteries operate under theCemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 which replaced theCemeteries Act 1958. They are managed by CemeteryTrusts, which fall under the responsibilities of theDepartment of Human Services. Cemeteries are zoned aspublic use in local government planning schemes and insome cases changes in land use or developmentproposals within cemeteries may require a planningpermit. Land for graves within a cemetery cannot bepurchased privately, only the right to burial is purchased.

Because of declining population levels in many parts ofthe study area many smaller cemeteries today are usedless frequently for burial purposes. Often thesecemeteries contain areas of relatively undisturbed nativevegetation and may be important for the preservation ofsome plant species or communities, particularlygrasslands.

Uses of Public Land - VEAC C - complete.pdf · Uses of Public Land C. River Red Gum Forests investigation > 2006Discussion Paper 153 The river red gum forests have been a major - [PDF Document] (2024)


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