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Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Strategy

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Regional Catchment Strategy 2013-2019

6 Urban Centres

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Urban Centres are the smallest sub-catchment systems by area, but contain the largest populations in the Goulburn Broken Catchment. These areas are defined by a concentration and diversity of people, services and industries. Major urban centres are Shepparton, Seymour and Benalla.

Major urban centres have typically grown from settlement on rivers and floodplains, where waterways supported growth and development of these centres and surrounding agriculture. These waterways and their remaining native vegetation have been highly modified based on past use and are now in a degraded state. Built structures and supporting infrastructure are the main features of these landscapes.

Values, products, goods and services of this system

These centres are valued for the range of services and employment opportunities they provide. River and water features are valued for their aesthetic appeal and recreation and economic services provided. Communities are valued for their rich diversity.

The resilience of the Urban Centres is about this system’s ability to stay in a state that provides these values in the face of change. This state underpins the future aspiration for the Urban Centres as: centres that offer employment and support facilities for residents and service surrounding rural areas while valuing the natural environment.

Biodiversity

Urban centres have major waterways and associated riparian and terrestrial habitat, such as large old hollow bearing trees. The waterways provide native vegetation corridors through towns which can act to reduce the fragmentation effect of surrounding agricultural land by providing important links between remnants.

Urban centres contain many threats to biodiversity through high density of housing and the associated infrastructure, cats and dogs, invasive species (rats, Indian Mynas, sparrows), removal of indigenous vegetation and pollution. Native vegetation is scarce and highly fragmented, occurring mainly along the waterways. It is highly modified and generally in poor condition ecologically, managed more for recreational purposes, by DSE, Parks Victoria or local government.

Areas of high conservation value are the local parks, waterways and wetlands, which can be home to wildlife such as the threatened Squirrel Glider.

Land

Land-use in the Urban Centres is intensively built with houses, facilities and supporting infrastructure. These centres are typically surrounded by agricultural land-use and have some public parks and forests, particularly along waterways.

Soils are threatened by erosion, organic matter decline, soil acidification, contamination, compaction, salinisation, sodicity and biodiversity decline related to land-use. Many people enjoy the more natural areas of their urban centres, but some are unaware of their effect on land when they dump garden waste, which spreads weeds not only to the immediate area but potentially out in the rural landscape (Patersons Curse was initially a garden escape). Foxes thrive in urban centres, as do feral cats, preying on native species and consuming garbage. The current condition state of land and soil health in this SES is poor.

Water

Waterways in urban centres have been highly modified to accommodate development and built infrastructure. Water is extracted from the rivers for consumptive use, and waste and storm water is also discharged, following treatment. Waste water is treated prior to discharge, but often stormwater is not.

Waterways are a major feature of urban centres but are under stress from numerous threats associated with high density living, such as gross and diffuse pollutants, flood mitigation works that change flows, water weeds and European Carp, which all reduce the quality of water. Pollutants change the chemistry of water which in turn effects fish and the food on which they rely.

The floodplains have also been highly modified. Priority waterway assets are:

Goulburn River: A Heritage River associated with wetlands of national significance supporting threatened species including Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Macquarie Perch. It contains many cultural heritage sites and provides water for agriculture, urban and recreational use.

Broken River: Associated with wetlands of national significance and supports the threatened Murray Cod, Macquarie Perch and Silver Perch.

People

People from Urban Centres are very diverse. They live in Urban Centres for the services they provide, including employment, schools, support facilities, infrastructure, retail, health care and sporting opportunities. Urban communities are connected through employment, sporting and social groups but may not be connected to the natural environment. This connection has changed over time with more modern developments (such as Benalla Art Gallery) now capitalisng on river views and building communities' appreciation of waterways.

Developing resilience of the Urban Centres SES

Most areas within the Urban Centres SES are so ecologically degraded that they provide few ecosystem services beyond providing land upon which to place infrastructure for living, working or driving.

All three urban communities are increasingly embracing the significant riverine assets that run through them, especially for aesthetic and recreational reasons.  The many agencies that have responsibilities for managing these assets are capitalising on this shift in interest, with increasing efforts to restore the ecological functioning of riverine reaches to higher thresholds, including structural diversity of riparian habitat.

Urban Centres SESs’ inhabitants need some understanding of broader Catchment needs in order to support management measures, especially those implemented by local government.  Fostering the connection between urban inhabitants and their natural environment is likely to improve appreciation of rural environmental issues, resulting in benefits that extend beyond the Urban Centre SES.

Table 13 details what is needed to develop resilience in the Urban Centres SES, building on needs best addressed at the whole-of-Catchment scale, which were listed in Chapter two.

Table 13. Adapting to drivers of change in the Urban Centres SES*

Context

Management measure

Possible specific action (examples)

Land-use changes on the edge of urban centres, usually from agriculture to industrial enterprises or housing, present significant local impacts but little risk to the crossing of systemic thresholds, with long-established local government planning processes addressing flood threats and risks to biodiversity. Significant actions to manage stormwater run-off, including retrofitting stormwater pipes in long-established areas, have been underway for almost two decades, helping to keep the waterways and adjacent environment clean.

Climate variability has conditioned the community to be well prepared in responding to, and recovering from, the inevitable floods.

Strategic priority: Capture opportunities from land development

Contribute to land-use planning strategies to minimise loss of biodiversity

Influence development and implementation of the Hume Regional Growth Plan

Manage wastewater treatment and stormwater runoff to minimise pollutants to urban waterways and wetlands

Creation of projects such as a waste water wetland propsed by the South Yarrawonga Landcare Group 

Contribute to public land management to minimise loss of biodiversity

Consider how Shepparton and Mooroopna's multi-partner RiverConnect model might be adapted to other urban centres

Promote broader community awareness and acceptance of practices to protect and improve the condition of the natural environment

Continued implementation of programs such as Waterwatch

Strategic priority: Respond to recover from climatic events

Plan and implement flood, fire and drought response and recovery

Contribute to the Hume Regional Emergency Management Committee

* Notes on the table:
The table (and descriptions on the previous page) will be part of background information for consultative planning and implementation over the next few years, which will include decisions on how to keep the SES from breaching undesirable thresholds.
Significant uncertainties in setting desirable SES thresholds and measuring progress elevate the need for close collaboration between SES stakeholders when setting priorities.  Some key threshold parameters to be considered when making decisions are listed in the table (Appendix five includes a more complete list across all SESs, with some quantitative targets.)

1.the proposal for a min of 30 m of native veg from top of waterways is excessive it will result in problems for  weed control [particularly blackberries] and pest control [particularly rabbits] suggested distance should be 5 m with controlled watering points for livestock 2.there should be no more development of fish farms on these rivers [no new or expansion of existing farms] these have an impact on water quality 3.there should be monitoring of vehicle travel in the state forest [bike and car] these should be restricted to existing made roads the offroad use is leading to erosion, decline in water quality and littering in the forest

Hi Roger, Thanks very much for taking the time to read our draft RCS and to post some feedback.  I have alerted the relevant technical experts in the CMA to your comments so that they can be considered.  We hope to have some more specific feedback to your soon. Thanks again. Katie