The Challenge Ahead
The ageing primary producer demographic suggests there could be significant land ownership or management changes over the next few decades, although it is very uncertain what land-use changes will result. Social capital, in the form of the community-based workforce, might also decline as long-term community members leave the SES or are no longer able to continue.
There are significant opportunities in many areas to:
Significant land-use changes are mostly in the south-western part of this area, in areas around Nagambie and across to the Strathbogie Ranges, where broad acre mixed farming properties are making way for more intensive enterprises such as thoroughbred horse studs. Such enterprises present significant challenges and opportunities for catchment management.
Although water policy reforms are considering the suite of ecosystem services provided by waterways, regulation of the waterways for multiple purposes, especially downstream supply, limits operation of the waterways in terms of water quality and ecological benefits.
Short-term agricultural production objectives and long-term native biodiversity objectives on the one piece of land are not always easy to align in this area: if climate variability and increased farm production drivers stimulate more intensive or different agricultural production systems, such as more cereal crops, biodiversity may be further threatened. These changes may also introduce new or increased threats to land and soil health, such as invasive pest species and soil acidity.
Fire risks in public land such as the Whroo Rushworth Forest are exacerbated when there are extended dry periods, which are part of climate variability, placing biodiversity habitat at risk.
Droughts stemming from climate variability highlight the need for research into new crops, or modification of existing crops, and their management.
Climate variability has resulted in extreme drought and floods over the last decade, impacting on this area long after the event, exacerbating the burden on rural communities.