3,000 trees planted to give Curdies fish a helping hand

Over 30 recreational anglers enjoyed a cool but sunny Sunday morning planting thousands of trees along the lower Curdies River at Curdievale.

The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CMA) hosted the Curdies River Planting Day on 22nd September in partnership with VR Fish, Heytesbury District Landcare, and local angling clubs from Curdievale, Cobden, Lake Purrumbete and Camperdown.

Attendees also came from further afield, including Australian National Sportsfishing Association members from Drysdale and Greensborough, and OzFish South West members from Hamilton who arrived in style, straight from the Curdies River.

The planting site on Will and Beck Rundle’s property is just a few hundred metres downstream from the Curdievale boat ramp, a popular launching point for black bream fishers from across the region.

Corangamite CMA’s Gene Gardiner said healthy riparian habitat is vital for fish like black bream. “Planting native vegetation along waterways helps fish by providing shade, reducing extremes in water temperature, filtering nutrients and sediments from catchment run-off, and reducing erosion,” he said.

“Since 1997 the Corangamite CMA has helped landholders and the community plant over half a million trees along the Curdies River, protecting over 70 kilometres of waterway frontage.”

“Through partnerships with angling groups, Landcare, and landholders like the Rundle family, we can host more days like today where anyone can join in and plant a tree. A healthy river benefits everyone, and everyone can help care for their local river.”

The Curdies River Planting Day was supported by the Victorian Government’s $1 million Angler Riparian Partnerships Program, which engages recreational fishers in riparian habitat improvement projects across Victoria.

The new plantings contribute to ongoing revegetation works which will protect 900 metres of Curdies River frontage, as well as 400 metres of a stream with remnant stands of Swamp Scrub, an endangered vegetation community on the Warrnambool Plain.

What else is being done to improve fishing on the Curdies River?

  • After the 2018 St Patrick’s Day fires the Corangamite CMA partnered with Heytesbury District Landcare Network to assist landholders replant and protect waterway vegetation impacted by the fires. This project is supported by the Victorian Government.
  • In 2010 the Corangamite CMA constructed a fish ladder on the Curdies River near Timboon to improve passage for migratory fish including the threatened Australian grayling (Prototroctes maraena). This project is supported by the Victorian Government.
  • The Corangamite CMA is working on a project to improve instream woody habitat in the Curdies River by installing timber ‘fish hotels’. Scientific assessments will inform the best locations for each fish hotel, and this project is supported by the Victorian Government.
  • The Corangamite CMA provides ongoing support and training for citizen scientists to engage in Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch, and manages estuary openings to enhance the environmental condition of our estuaries.

 

Thompson Creek estuary community information day

Over 50 members of the Breamlea community attended an open forum on Wednesday, 24 July to learn about natural estuary processes, citizen science and the collaborative role of agencies in estuary management.

The event at Breamlea Caravan Park was hosted by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and featured presentations from local and regional government agencies, independent scientists and the State Member for South Barwon, Mr Darren Cheeseman.

The event was opened with a powerful Welcome to Country by Wadawurrung Traditional Owner, Melinda Kennedy. Agency representatives from the Corangamite CMA, Department of Land, Water and Planning, Victorian Fisheries Authority, City of Greater Geelong and Surf Coast Shire Council gave presentations on decision making in estuary management, statewide monitoring of estuary condition, responsible fishing and local nature reserve management.

The community also learned about the special role that citizen science volunteers play in looking after estuaries, with presentations on Corangamite CMA’s EstuaryWatch program and Birdlife Australia’s programs to monitor and protect the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot and the vulnerable Hooded Plover.

Presentations were followed by a question and answer session, which was of great community interest because of recent high water levels in the Thompson Creek estuary.

Hayley Vinden from the Corangamite CMA said the feedback from the event was positive. “The local community appreciated hearing about the roles and responsibilities of agencies involved in the management and protection of Thompson Creek estuary.”

Water, water everywhere: Estuary research on the Otway coast

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Scientists from the University of Melbourne and the Australian Rivers Institute are conducting research on artificial estuary openings in the Corangamite region.

The estuaries found along the coastline of the Corangamite region are fascinating and dynamic environments. Of the 23 estuaries in our region, the Barwon River estuary is the only one that is permanently open. All the rest are classed as “intermittently open/closed estuaries” (IOCE), which means they sometimes close to the ocean.

Artificial estuary openings

Corangamite CMA regulates artificial openings of estuaries throughout the region. An artificial opening most commonly occurs when the estuary mouth is closed off from the ocean due to a berm (a sandbar) that has naturally built up, meaning the river water cannot empty into the ocean. When heavy rain is forecast the decision is made whether or not to remove the berm to allow the excess water to flow into the ocean, avoiding the inundation of assets on adjacent land.

Estuary research

From January to May 2019, University of Melbourne scientists, led by Dr Sarah McSweeney, and the Australian Rivers Institute have been collecting field data during artificial estuary openings to answer questions such as:

  • How does the freshwater and saltwater drain out when the estuary mouth is opened?
  • Is the rate of drainage affected by management actions?
  • And how do changes at the estuary mouth affect the conditions upstream?

Researchers use special equipment to monitor the changes in the estuary mouth and water quality upstream, from the start of the artificial estuary opening up until the lagoon stops draining.

 

In collaboration with Corangamite CMA staff and EstuaryWatch volunteers, research will initially focus on the Curdies River and the Gellibrand River. All of the Corangamite estuaries will be eventually monitored as part of the study, including the Aire River, Barham River, Kennett River, Wye River, Erskine River, Painkalac River, Anglesea River, Spring Creek and Thompson Creek.

How can I be involved?

If you would like to join EstuaryWatch, please contact Deirdre Murphy phone  0418 145 818 or email deirdre.murphy@ccma.vic.gov.au.

 

 

Board tour of the upper Barwon catchment

On Thursday, 25 July 2019 the Corangamite CMA Board toured two revegetation sites in the upper Barwon catchment with staff from the CMA, Barwon Water and the Upper Barwon Landcare Network.

Dewing Creek Restoration Project

The Dewing Creek project has been successfully managed in a joint partnership that includes revegetation, weed management and stock fencing.  The land is owned by Barwon Water, leased by a neighbour, managed by Upper Barwon Landcare Network and has been funded by the Corangamite CMA.

 

Birregurra

The Waterways Frontage Protection Program at Birregurra has been a successful partnership between the Corangamite CMA, Upper Barwon Landcare Network, Birregurra Landcare and a private landowner.

This project has included willow and poplar removal from a section of the river and riparian zone in the Birregurra township. Stock exclusion fencing and revegetation has been completed on one side.  Weed monitoring and maintenance will be undertaken for the next 12 months on the township side of the river, with planting planned for spring 2020.

The upper Barwon is an important habitat for platypus, and platypus eDNA was detected at the Birregurra site in a 2018 study. A biodiversity risk assessment conducted by Corangamite CMA prior to undertaking works identified a minimal risk to platypus. Adult platypus have large home ranges of several kilometres, and works undertaken did not involve bank excavation or removal of roots and stumps within the river bank.

This initiative to improve waterway health in the Corangamite region is a joint project of the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Upper Barwon Landcare Network, Birregurra Landcare Group and Colac Otway Shire, with funding from the Victorian Government.

 

Thank you to Sarah Brien and Lach Gordon from the Upper Barwon Landcare Network, and Barwon Water staff, Brigid Creasey (Water & Catchment Officer), Will Buchanan (Asset Systems & Environment Manager) and Seamus Butcher (Strategy, Systems & Environment GM).

Wadawurrung Fishing “Buniya Baieer” – Celebrating Water and Culture Moorabul Yaluk

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On a beautiful Autumn day at Dog Rocks on the Morrabul Yaluk, Wadawurrung Traditional Owners joined community and agency with a love for the Moorabool River to celebrate Water and Culture and the recognition of Wadawurrung values in waterway management.

Ceremony was conducted to welcome the extra 500 megalitre fresh sent down the river to protect cultural values, and the Wadawurrung community placed a Buniya Binak traditional eel trap into the river under a Cultural Fishing Permit.

Gifts were exchanged, with community gifting water for ceremony. A beautifully designed possum skin, coolamon and baby Buniya Binak was given to Corangamite CMA Aboriginal Water Officer, Kristen Lees.

Wadawurrung woman Melinda Kennedy says the design on the possum skin “celebrates the projects and symbolises the mountains and confluences of the Moorabul and Barwon – and all the meeting places along the river banks.”

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Commemorative Possum “Walert” skin

This moving celebration was the culmination of an 18 month partnership between the Wadawurrung and Corangamite CMA to ensure Traditional Owners have a central voice in the management of waterways on their Country. Wadawurrung inclusion on the technical panel of the latest FLOWS study for the Barwon system identified the importance of protecting culturally significant species like the Eel, maintaining deep pools and the recognition of confluences as culturally important places.

This important work informed the Wadawurrung’s decision to create a Buniya Binak with the women of their community, led by Wadawurrung woman Tammy Gilson.  It was an honor to share the launch of the Eel trap and their celebration of water on Wadawurrung Country.

Acknowledgement: The 500 megalitre delivery of water was secured through the collaboration of Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation, Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Central Highlands Water.

To open, or not to open? Getting the balance right in estuary management

Hayley Oates
Hayley, Estuaries and Environmental Water Project Officer

Hi, I’m Hayley, Estuaries and Environmental Water Project Officer at Corangamite CMA. My background is in Ecology and Conservation Biology, and I’m one of a team of four at the CCMA that manages estuaries and wetlands in our region to provide benefits for the local community and the environment.

There are 40 estuaries within the Corangamite region, of all shapes and sizes. Some of the more significant estuaries include:

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Aire River estuary at Glenaire
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Gellibrand River estuary at Princetown

 

Why do estuaries need to be managed?

Estuaries are part of a dynamic coastal environment that is constantly changing thanks to the forces of  nature. Strong winds and ocean swells can form sand bars which cause the estuary to close. This can result in flooding on adjacent land as the water in the estuary has nowhere to escape. Add heavy rainfall to the equation and we start to face challenges.

The Corangamite CMA seeks to achieve healthy, abundant estuary ecosystems that can also provide safe and enjoyable recreational spaces for visitors and local communities.

When the estuary mouth is open, there is less water in the estuary for recreational activities such as kayaking and fishing. When the estuary mouth is closed, adjacent agricultural land and built assets such as houses and caravan parks may be flooded.

Weather events naturally cause estuary mouths to open or close, but they can also be artificially opened*.

Artificially opening an estuary requires heavy machinery, which can pose a risk to the health and safety of beach goers. There is also a risk of disturbing threatened species such as Hooded Plovers.

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Artificial opening of the Gellibrand estuary. Photo: EstuaryWatch
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Hooded plovers nest on ocean beaches during the summer months. Photo: Glenn Ehmke

Regular artificial openings may also impact the ecology of the estuary system in ways that are currently not well understood. The Corangamite CMA is partnering with university researchers to better understand the ecological processes at work in our region’s estuaries. Watch this space, as more details on this exciting research will be published soon!

*In case you were wondering: it is illegal to open an estuary without a permit from the Corangamite CMA.

 

Hayley – Estuaries and Environmental Water Project Officer

Women on Farms workshops increase the confidence of rural women

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If you look around at agricultural field days, you’ll be most likely met by a sea of men and very few women. This is despite the fact that 50 per cent of the population is female and women often play a significant role on the farm.

Feedback from Landcare events has shown that a lack of confidence is a key barrier to women’s involvement in agriculture. The feedback has also demonstrated that women are very willing to learn and that they often have greater knowledge than they give themselves credit for. With increased confidence women can provide another perspective on farm business planning and efficiencies and help to test important decisions.

Southern Farming Systems, together with the Corangamite CMA’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Program, has developed a pilot program called Women on Farms to support rural women in the catchment. The aim is to give women a safe space to ask questions and to have their understandings affirmed by someone from off the farm.

The pilot program involved four technical workshops delivered to women in the Woady Yaloak Catchment area and the Geelong Landcare Network area over 12 months. Workshop participants had an opportunity to connect with other women on farms and industry experts.

Each workshop had a theory and practical component, with an emphasis on group discussion and answering questions. The workshops aimed to provide a technical starting point for women to brush up on knowledge they already possess and to learn new information about mixed production systems. Topics have included soils, climate change, pastures, crops and livestock production.

The program has been very successful. Many of the participants were not previously members of Southern Farming Systems or of Landcare groups. Women between 31 to 40 years of age were best represented and 86 per cent of participants identified as commercial farmers predominantly from mixed enterprise cropping and grazing businesses.

The program has been designed so it can be repeated in other areas and has already been delivered in the Glenelg Hopkins CMA region.

 

Article by Zoe Creelman and Karen O’Keefe. Zoe Creelman is a former Research and Extension Officer with Southern Farming Systems and Karen O’Keefe is the Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator with Corangamite CMA.

For more information email Karen at karen.okeefe@ccma.vic.gov.au

This article was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Victorian Landcare magazine, and has been reproduced with kind permission.

Corangamite CMA moves to solar power

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The solar panels have been installed on a tilt frame orientated 10° north to maximise solar production throughout all months of the year.

The Corangamite CMA recently installed a 30kW Solar PV system with 100 panels on the roof of its Colac office. This initiative is a key step towards the organisation’s vision of carbon neutrality as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2018 – 2023. 

The new system is expected to provide 35% of the office energy needs and will save 52.13 tonnes of carbon emissions per year – this is equivalent to planting 782 trees or taking 12 average cars off the road.

Based on the organisation’s current energy usage it is expected the system will pay for itself in less than 2 and a half years.

Shirley Widdows – Business Support Officer