An investigation was undertaken by the then Department of Sustainability and Environment from 2011 to 2012 to evaluate a sample of riparian sites in Victoria where on-ground works had been completed over the last decade.
It determined the condition of riparian works and landholder attitude to the works. For example:
- Where fencing was erected to prevent stock access to riparian land the fencing was still functional at 86 per cent of sites;
- On average, landholders gave ‘willing to recommend riparian work to others’ a score of 9/10 and most considered they would do more riparian work themselves;
- 76 per cent of landholders indicated that there had been no loss of productivity across the property as a result of the riparian works;
- 74 per cent of landholders indicated that they considered that the condition of the waterway had improved as a result of riparian works; and
- Landholders have been involved in long-term management at 93 per cent of sites.
Landholders overwhelmingly supported the works and would recommend similar work to other landholders. With some thanking the catchment management authority for a job well done.
One landholder stated, “I can’t understand why more farmers don’t do it. In the past we would lose one or two animals in the stream each year, but we haven’t lost any for years. Property looks better with healthier streams and surrounds, and has increased in value.”
Riparian land poses a lower fire threat to a landholder’s property, including to crops, livestock and built assets (such as houses and farm buildings), than the threat posed by other parts of the landscape.
Any significant patch of vegetation situated close to assets may pose a fire threat. Under low-to-moderate fire danger conditions, however, well-managed riparian vegetation is less likely than pasture or crops to contribute to the spread of fire across a property or the wider landscape.
This is largely because:
- Fire will spread more quickly in cured grass or crops compared with forest (provided there is only limited spotting);
- Trees generally reduce wind speed, and the rate and intensity of fire; and
- Riparian land occupies a relatively small proportion of the broader landscape.
Fire is also much less likely to start in riparian land than other parts of the landscape, typically because it is not as prone to lightning strikes, is remote from access for arsonists, has fuel too moist to burn and is sheltered from the wind and sun.
Built assets would typically be under greater threat from cured pasture and nearby unmanaged windbreaks than from riparian land, which is often further away from farm assets. In addition, riparian land does not typically act as a ‘wick’ or ‘fuse’. Fires will burn most rapidly in the direction of the wind.
Extreme fire events, such as the February 2009 bushfires in Victoria, are rare. In such conditions of protracted drought and extreme fire weather all vegetation can burn.
In these situations, riparian land will have less influence on fire spread and impacts than the landscape level grass and forest fuels.
Fire management and planning need to be considered in riparian management activities including:
- Long-term weed management;
- Setbacks from the riparian land to built assets (such as houses and sheds); and
- The establishment of access points at strategic locations within the riparian land for fire suppression agencies, particularly to access reliable watering supplies for firefighting tankers.
Ongoing management of riparian land from a fire management perspective is the responsibility of landholders on both private land and licensed Crown frontage.
For more information on riparian land and bushfire or about fire management and how to prepare your property for bushfire, vist the CFA website
Completely excluding grazing on riparian land can discourage involvement of landholders in improving the management of such land, particularly due to concerns about the build-up of weeds.
Landholders often want to know if they can still undertake some grazing in the fenced riparian land.
Controlled grazing limits stocking rates and restricts the timing, duration and conditions under which grazing takes place. It can be a useful management tool in some circumstances, typically in:
- Controlling palatable weeds, particularly pasture grasses;
- Maintaining or improving the vegetation condition of certain vegetation types such as native grasses; and
- Promoting natural regeneration of indigenous woody species.
A decision support tool and guidelines have been developed by DELWP in collaboration with waterway managers and other stakeholders to determine the acceptability of grazing in different types of riparian land. It is accompanied by a more compact field companion designed to allow easier access to the key elements of the full guidelines for use by waterway managers with landholders.
The decisions about grazing management based on these guidelines will be included in riparian management agreements and in riparian management licence conditions on Crown frontages.
The decision support tool and guidelines will be used to assist implementation of the policy on controlled grazing in the Victorian Waterway Management Strategy (Policy 9.5). This policy states that, in general, controlled grazing will be allowed on riparian land subject to riparian management agreements if it:
- Is environmentally beneficial;
- Is acceptable as a management tool; and/or
- Does not compromise the environmental, social, cultural or economic values of the riparian land or downstream.
Further exploration of grazing management can be found here:
Landholders who fence off Crown land along rivers to manage stock access as part of riparian management projects, done in conjunction with catchment management authorities, are not required to pay the full costs for take and use licence fees.
Landholders whose land abuts a Crown frontage who apply for a new take and use licence for stock water will be re-imbursed for their application fee. They will also have their annual fee waived for three years by the water corporation and be given a longer licence period saving up to $2100 in total. This took effect from 1 November, 2013.
Part of the State Government's Waterway Management Program involves providing funding for CMAs to partner with landholders to improve the health of waterways.
One of the activities undertaken is encouraging landholders to install a fence to manage stock access to waterways but the licence fee for a take and use licence was a stumbling block for some people coming on board.
CMAs will pay the cost of the initial application fee back to landholders to encourage more farmers with Crown frontages to sign up to works like fencing, revegetation and off-stream stock watering, which will provide flow-on environmental benefits.
For more information on these reduced costs and to whom they apply, see the following fact sheet, developed at the time of the costs changes in 2013:
The environmental and waterway health benefits of undertaking riparian management are fairly well known. The benefits to landholders of undertaking the works, however, have been less well documented. They have often been based on 'what people expected the benefits should be'.
To fill this gap, DELWP commissioned a consultant to investigate the benefits to landholders of undertaking riparian management works, by reviewing existing literature and reports. These works include fencing, revegetation, off stream stock watering and weed management.
The final report shows that, based on well-documented evidence, there are some very clear benefits, in particular:
- Reduced costs to landholders through increased ease of mustering;
- Access to high quality water for stock leads to increased water and forage intake which leads to increased weight gain or milk production;
- The presence of on-farm native vegetation increases the land value of the farm; and
- The presence of healthy riparian land leads to a sense of farmer well-being and contribution to nature conservation.
The next steps are for the Department to use this evidence to develop fact sheets and other communication information specific to landholders.
As the report was prepared by a consultant, its findings and views are those of the consultant and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department.
Revegetation on the Buchan River, East Gippsland. Photo courtesy East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.
The presence of livestock, particularly juvenile stock, in waterways creates a risk to human and stock health. Stock manure contains disease-causing microorganisms known as pathogens. Juvenile stock, particularly calves, contain many times more of these human-infectious pathogens than adult stock. This is because juvenile stock take a while to develop resistance to the pathogens.
Stock defecate more when standing in waterways to drink or when crossing waterways. They also stir up sediments and any pathogens that may be in the water. If stock manure contaminates drinking water sources, and the required level of water treatment is not applied, pathogens can cause serious outbreaks of human disease.
Therefore, managing stock access to waterways upstream of drinking water off-takes is a priority for riparian management programs in Victoria. Managing juvenile stock is the most cost-effective first action for the protection of drinking water catchments.
The following documents have been developed to provide an overview of the issues related to juvenile stock in waterways and to provide steps landholders can take to help manage the problem.
Cattle in a creek near Milawa, North East Victoria. Credit: Leanne Wells, Department of Health and Human Services)
Fenced riparian land and off stream watering for stock. Credit: West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority
Major floods in Victoria in 2010, 2011 and 2012 resulted in significant damage to, or loss of, fences installed close to rivers and creeks.
This raised issues about the type, design, construction and location of fences on active floodplains, and about the usefulness of funding riparian works, such as fencing on floodplains that can be damaged during floods.
Consequently, guidelines were developed by DELWP in collaboration with catchment management authorities (CMAs), and other stakeholders to help choose the best techniques for siting, designing and constructing fences in flood-prone areas. This will help ensure that the maximum benefit is gained from the resources applied to riparian fencing.
These guidelines help choose fencing for a riparian area by:
- Providing a key to identify the type of floodplain;
- Explaining the range of fencing options for that type of floodplain; and
- Giving the information needed to decide on the most suitable fencing option (or options) for the site.
The guidelines detail three strategies for minimising floodwater and debris damage to fencing:
- Avoiding flood impact;
- Making the fencing flood-resistant; and
- Making the fencing flood-resilient.
Choosing the right strategy for a site requires striking a balance between capital, recurrent and repair costs and what is appropriate for different land uses.
An example of what can happen to a riparian fence when placed too close to the channel. Jeremal Creek (North East Victoria) after the 2012 flood (photo courtesy: North East Catchment Management Authority
Exotic species such as willows were historically planted along waterways for erosion control and aesthetic purposes. The spread of these species over time has degraded riparian land (riparian land is land that runs along rivers, creeks and wetlands). Willows have now invaded thousands of kilometres of riparian environments in south eastern Australia.
Consequently, over the last 20 years or so, catchment management authorities (CMAs) have been removing willows along many Victorian waterways.
These willow management programs have sometimes caused concern with the public, particularly landholders and recreational fishers, who have a strong interest in the health of our waterways. Concerns have been raised about the location and extent of willow control, the management techniques used, the timing of revegetation efforts after willow control and the limited consultation with the public about willow control projects.
A brochure has been developed to acknowledge those concerns, improve communication and raise awareness of the 'why, what and how' about willow management in Victoria. It was prepared in consultation with CMAs, Fisheries Victoria (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources), VRFish (Victorian Recreational Fishing Peak Body) and the Australian Trout Foundation.
More information about willows and their management can be found on the Weeds of National Significance website.
Rubicon River, Thornton, showing the river widening out behind the willows. Photo courtesy Goulburn Broken CMA
Willow blockage on the Ovens River near Bright causing obstructions for recreational activity. Photo courtesy North East CMA