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Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Strategy

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Regional Catchment Strategy 2013-2019

2 Productive Plains

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The Productive Plains SES is located across the lower slopes and plains of the central Goulburn Broken Catchment and includes the towns of Nagambie, Euroa, Violet Town, Dookie and Tungamah.

Yorta Yorta and Taungurung Clans utilised the productive plains area which were abundant in food, water and cultural sites. Since European settlement, land use change has included: clearing for farming, gold rushes, the post-1930s farm mechanisation boom and the wool boom of the 1950s.

Values, products, goods and services of this system

Agricultural land-use is highly valued in this area for the economic and social services it provides. There is also high value placed on the remaining native vegetation, on land and along waterways for the ecosystem and social services it contributes. The social capital in the community is highly valued for the activity and support it generates.

The resilience of the Productive Plains 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 Productive Plains: to balance productive capacity with vegetation extent and maintain social networks.


Before extensive clearing for agriculture and the introduction of exotic pasture grasses, this area was dominated by open Box Ironbark forests and Box Gum Grassy Woodlands. Wetlands were common and varied in diversity and structure. The current area of terrestrial and aquatic habitat is generally small, particularly on the more fertile plains, with the less fertile stony hills and rises containing relatively large forest blocks (e.g. Whroo Rushworth forests). In this SES, conservation reserves are too few and small to sustain wildlife in the plains (Bennett et al 1998). However, this area can be considered fragmented (generally a native vegetation cover of between 10 and 30 percent), with potential for revegetation and connection of remnant patches with an aim of making the wildlife more resilient in the future.

The major threats to biodiversity in this SES are continued fragmentation and loss of species diversity resulting in a shift from a fragmented (10-30 percent extent) to a relictual ecosystem (less than 10 percent extent).

Terrestrial habitat: High value assets in this SES, identified through NaturePrint and local knowledge include: Warby Ranges, Reef Hills State Park,  Dookie Hills and Chesney Hills.

Threatened species and communities: Focus species include: the threatened woodland bird community, Bush Stone-curlew, Squirrel Glider, Grey-crowned Babbler, Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater; and flora such as the Euroa Guinea flower, orchids and species associated with grasslands. Focus communities include: Box Grassy Woodlands, and creek line Grassy Woodlands in the Goldfields Bioregion.


Agriculture continues to be the dominant land-use in the Productive Plains. Nature conservation is interspersed across the SES generally as public forests and parks. Land-use varies in relation to soil type and climatic conditions.

Ideally, soils support a range of land-uses, however erosion, organic matter decline, soil acidification, contamination, compaction, salinisation and biodiversity decline are all threats to soil in this SES. Pest plant and animal invasion also threatens land-use, in particular agricultural production. Chilean Needle Grass is a recently introduced Weed of National Significance (WONS) into this SES and is one example of an emerging weed that threatens both production and biodiversity values. Foxes are a major issue for landowners, in this largely sheep growing region, and control programs should also simultaneously target rabbits.

Dryland salinity has been considered a significant threat to land and water condition in this SES since the 1980s. Land and soil health to support agricultural production continues to be a priority in this SES.


Waterways in this area comes from the Strathbogie Ranges and other surrounding hills, where they begin to meander across the plains. They are largely unregulated, except for the Goulburn River. Generally these waterways are considered to be in moderate condition. Major threats to waterways in this SES are European Carp, which muddy water, outcompete and predate on native fish and frogs. Reduction in quality of riparian habitat through set-stock grazing impacts on rates of erosion and reduces the filtration effect, increasing nutrient loads to waterways. Priority waterway assets are:

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

Gobarup Creek: Associated with wetlands of national significance.

Hughes Creek: Supports the threatened Macquarie Perch and Murray Cod.

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

Holland Creek: Supports the threatened Macquarie Perch.

Ryans Creek: Contains an ecologically healthy reach.

Wetlands of the Productive Plains are generally in a moderate to good state. Priority wetland assets are:

Doctors Swamp (Bioregional): One of the most intact River Red Gum swamps in Victoria which supports a diverse number of species including 73 wetland flora species and 44 wetland fauna species. It can receive environmental water via irrigation infrastructure.

Winton Wetlands (Bioregional): The largest wetland restoration project in the southern hemisphere. The wetland complex provides important habitat for a large number of waterbird species including the migratory Lathams Snipe and protects seven nationally threatened flora species.

Tahbilk Lagoon (Bioregional): A large billabong connected to the Goulburn River. The wetland is a biological hot spot that protects a number of threatened species including the Broad-shelled Turtle, the most southerly remnant freshwater Catfish population and the largest known Watershield (native waterlily) population in Victoria.

Moodies Swamp (DIWA listed): A large Cane Grass wetland that provides important habitat for waterbirds including the threatened Brolga and Eastern Great Egret. It protects the nationally threatened Rigid Water Milfoil.

Larger aquifers support agricultural pursuits, as well as stock and domestic supply. Climate variability and reduced recharge and over extraction are  threats to these larger groundwater aquifer assets. The deep lead aquifer asset in this area is the Mid Goulburn deep lead aquifer system associated with the Goulburn River.


Land ownership in this SES is relatively stable in comparison to the rest of the Catchment, with properties changing hands on average, once-in-? years. This long-term ownership often creates a strong sense of land and water stewardship among land owners.

The current condition of communities in the Productive Plains is considered by people who were interviewed to be good but declining. The effects of the recent drought are long-lasting and the average age of farmers in this SES is increasing, which is driving changes in land management, such as leasing.

Landcare Networks and CMNs are well established in this SES and are key delivery partners of on ground works. They play a pivotal role in identifying relevant projects that consider both the productive needs of this SES whilst enhancing the natural environment.

The Taungurung people live on country and are very active in the protection and preservation of their culture and land. The recognised Taungurung land consists of the main towns of Nagambie, Seymour, Rushworth, Kyneton, Kilmore, Marysville, Jamieson, Mount Buller, Mansfield, Euroa and Yea. The GB CMA are respectful of the tradional people and continue to work alongside the Taungurung to protect and restore native habitat and preserve the precious waterways in this region.

The Yorta Yorta Nation are comprised of 8 different clan groups where the Yorta Yorta language is spoken including towns such as Echuca, Cohuna, Shepparton, Benalla, Corowa, Wangaratta, Glenrowan, Rutherglen, Chiltern, Wahgunyah, Thoona and Violet Town.. They continue to exercise their natural rights as the indigenous occupants and owners of country. Our social, spiritual, economic and cultural links with the area have never been broken.

Developing resilience of the Productive Plains SES

The Productive Plains SES’s relative stability presents an opportunity to address incremental threats and to develop general resilience in advance of an uncertain future

Table 9 details what is needed to develop resilience in the Productive Plains SES, building on needs best addressed at whole-of-Catchment scale, which were listed in Chapter two.

Table 9.  Adapting to drivers of change in the Productive Plains SES*


Management measure

Possible specific action (examples)

The ageing demographic suggests there could be significant land ownership or management changes over the next decade, 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 contribute.

There is significant opportunity in many areas to:

  • prevent the decline in native vegetation from fragmented (10-30 percent cover) to relictual status (less than 10 percent cover)
  • revegetate and connect remnant patches.

Strategic priority: Increase biodiversity as part of agricultural land-use

Create awareness and acceptance of land management practices to protect and improve terrestrial and aquatic habitat

Provide education opportunities through conservation groups such as Landcare, Conservation Management Networks and Indigenous organisations.

Identify environmental stewardship opportunities for land managers

Support projects like the Grey-crowned Babbler and Regent Honeyeater projects.

Purchase of land that Taunurung can manage.

Work with landholders to protect and improve biodiversity on private land and build understanding of its contribution to the landscapes and sustainable and profitable farming

Implement a biodiversity incentives project that protects and enhances habitat

 E.g: Blackberry control

Significant land-use changes are mostly in the south-western part of this SES, in areas around Nagambie and across to the Strathbogie Ranges, where broadacre mixed farming properties are making way for more intensive enterprises such as thoroughbred horse studs. Such enterprises present significant risks and opportunities for catchment management.

Strategic priority: Capture opportunities from land development

Deliver farm planning to integrate ecological and agricultural productivity benefits

Environmental Best Management Practice courses by Gecko CLaN

Promote development, use and management of land that matches land capability

Sustainable agriculture practice research and extension e.g. Gecko CLaN’s Pasture Cropping and sustainable farming education
Strathbogie Tablelands Landcare Alternative Fertiliser Trials

Short-term agricultural production objectives and long-term native biodiversity objectives on the one piece of land are usually not well aligned in this SES: if climate variability and increased food production drivers stimulate more or different agricultural production, such as cereal crops and fat lambs, biodiversity will be further threatened and agricultural soils will be pushed to produce more. These changes may also introduce new or increased threats to land and soil health, e.g. invasive pest species

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.

Strategic priority: Establish sustainable agricultural practices

Create awareness and acceptance of sustainable management practices to improve land and soil condition

Engagement with farming groups on benefits of changed management practice e.g.; Gecko CLaN’s Pasture Cropping project - farmers teaching farmers

Strategic priority: Adapt to climate variability risks

Factor risks of climate variability and identify adaptation strategies in Goulburn Broken CMA plans

Sustainable Agriculture Practices, e.g.: Gecko CLaN’s Soil Carbon activities
Education of landholders to adapt to climate variability.

Use Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property when relevant.

Develop public land fire management plans that consider loss of biodiversity

Partner agencies (including Yorta Yorta and Taunurung organisations) involvement in fire management meetings.

Climate variability has resulted in extreme drought and floods over the last decade, impacting on this SES long after the event, exacerbating the burden on rural communities.

Strategic priority: Respond to and from climatic events

Plan and implement flood, fire and drought response and recovery

Examples would be very useful here! See Dean!

* 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.)