A record of over $222 million is being invested to improve the health of our waterways and catchments so that we can deliver rivers and landscapes Victorians love and use.
Working with people
We are giving the community and Traditional Owners more say in decisions by broadening the scope of water sector by embedding consideration of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal values in all aspects. The expectation to include shared benefits and Traditional Owner outcomes in everything the water sector does will be made clear through changes to the Water Act 1989, the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 and directions to our water corporations and CMAs.
In March 2017, delivery of water for the environment was timed to coincide with the annual Johnny Mullagh Cricket competition in Harrow along the Glenelg River, an event held in recognition of the first Australian all-Aboriginal cricket team. Timing of the water release with the competition meant that there was better water quality for activities including swimming and camping. The water release also supported native plants and animals and cultural heritage values such as scar trees.
CMAs have connected with over 20 angling groups as part of the $1 million Angler Riparian Partnerships Program to plan and deliver works at their favourite fishing streams. Goulburn Broken CMA has run events at five sites (Jamieson River, Hughes Creek, Ryans Creek, Little River and a tributary of the Delatite River) involving ten angling groups and four community groups. At the events, groups planted about 1,900 trees and shrubs and improved several kilometres of fencing and weed management to protect important angling fish like the Murray cod, trout, and golden perch.
We are also investing $12.5 million to fund on-ground environmental works and support improved management arrangements for the Gippsland Lakes. The Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee has already allocated $8.53 million for projects to improve the health of the lakes and engage the community. Projects funded so far include:
- $715,000 to 11 community groups through 16 individual
- $7.85 million to 21 regional agency partners involved in the management of the Lakes, including coordination
by the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation of a $1.1 million integrated program of works to protect Traditional Owner Country of the Gippsland Lakes outer barrier.
To address local waterway priorities across the state we are supporting community partnerships through Landcare, Waterwatch, EstuaryWatch and other citizen science initiatives. Ninety schools and counting are now signed up in the new state-wide River Detectives program, which has reached an estimated 4,000 students across the state since its launch in 2017. Participating schools have access to water quality monitoring kits, teacher training sessions and a great range of educational resources through the River Detectives website.
Tackling environmental pressures
CMAs have been working with communities to deliver significant regional on-ground works and projects to maintain and improve waterway health in priority areas across the state. They are accelerating their works programs – such as revegetation, fencing, weed management and off-stream stock watering infrastructure - through the delivery of the $40 million Regional Riparian Action Plan (2015-2020). In two years we have already achieved over half of the 2,490 km riparian land targeted to be protected or improved by 2020.
The Our Catchments, Our Communities strategy was released in 2016. We are investing $22 million to strengthen integrated catchment management through improved collaboration, partnerships and on-ground actions by 2019 via 19 new integrated catchment management projects focussing on regional priorities. This is implementing stronger performance and accountability, partnerships, investment, and monitoring and reporting in the catchment management sector as recommended by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO).
In 2016-17, the VEWH delivered over 706 GL of water for the environment to 127 sites. The water release had beneficial outcomes for rivers and wetlands across the state including increased native fish migration into Victoria. Water for the environment also encouraged fish to move from the Lower Darling river into the iconic Murray, and then into the Goulburn and Campaspe rivers. We will have more data in coming seasons on the impact on vegetation, fish, waterbirds, and frogs.
We delivered on the commitment to provide an additional eight gigalitres of water for the environment in the Thomson River to improve the health of the heritage listed river and surrounding local communities. This water will also help protect and boost native fish populations, including the Australian Grayling, Tupong and Australian Bass.
Over 4000 students have been reached through the new River Detectives program. The program supports teachers and students to get out and explore waterways and have fun learning about water science.
Catchment Management Leadership Development Grants have been awarded for the first time in the following categories: Women in Leadership, Aboriginal Victorians, and Innovation. The grants will support the next generation of leaders in water and catchment management across Victoria. The $120,000 grants will be given to keep the water and catchment management leadership highly skilled and to support a diverse workforce over the next four years.
IMAGE: VCMC Chair Angus Hume (far left) and Minister Neville (far right) with grant recipients at the inaugural State Catchment Summit June 2017.
One of the ways we are improving coordination is through Victoria’s first state-level Catchments Summit, held in June 2017. The Summit’s focus was on working better together. It brought together 200 delegates representing CMAs and other organisations from across the state to share knowledge, approaches and successes and to strengthen our partnerships with each other. The event will now be held annually.
Victoria’s waterway health monitoring programs are being improved with the first ever condition assessment of our estuaries. We have developed the Index of Estuary Condition for the assessment and are partnering with EstuaryWatch volunteers to collect data. The assessment will play a crucial role in improving our knowledge and information about estuarine health and will guide future works and investment.
We are also working with the Victorian Fisheries Authority to track the health of key native recreational fish species. Annual health checks are now happening at 10 priority rivers across the state, with results made available to communities through an on-line web portal.
The health, wellbeing and prosperity of our Victorian communities depend on healthy waterways and catchments. Yet so many of our most loved rivers, estuaries and wetlands have been degraded over time. Protecting and improving waterway health is a long-term and large-scale commitment; it can take a generation to realise these outcomes. Water for Victoria commits to large-scale restoration projects for 36 priority waterways across the state, with a focus on 10 Flagship Waterways.
Fostering collaboration and partnerships – with Traditional Owners, communities, water corporations, local government, peak groups and others – is central to the Flagship Waterways approach. This is paying off: by helping waterway managers to efficiently deliver on-ground works, support local employment, identify shared benefits and secure co-investment.
Water for Victoria emphasizes that stronger links are needed between waterway and catchment management and the state planning system to protect waterways.
A new State Environment Protection Policy (Water) is being developed to make improvements to the planning arrangements for waterways and to protect groundwater and surface water from pollution or degradation. We are working with the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, water corporations, CMAs, Traditional Owners, the Municipal Association of Victoria, DEDJTR and other stakeholders to develop the policy. More information on public consultation