Another great example of our communities getting stuff done!
“The river is back to where it was when I was a child. I can’t remember it looking as healthy as it is at the moment since I was a young bloke.”
So says Daryl Cameron, a cattle farmer from Noorinbee who grew up on the farm that he and his brother Greg now run.
Back when Daryl was a kid he remembers the river being filled with fallen branches, lots of trees on the banks and plenty of little islands in the middle of the river. “You could get across in your boots without getting your feet wet” he says. Suffice to say that Daryl’s seen a lot of changes on the floodplain over the years.
The Cann River valley is well known for its floods. The area has always been prone to flooding but these days locals tend to refer to just three – ’71, ’78 and ’98, with 1971 being the biggest in living memory.
The ‘71 flood stunned the local farmers, with barely a fence left standing in the valley once the waters had subsided. “The 1971 flood tore the guts out of it” explained Daryl. “I woke up to discover our paddocks were four foot under water and I thought, gee I’ve blown my farming apprenticeship here! I remember there was a pressure wave 15-20 foot high throwing out huge trees over the wave, the force was just unbelievable.”
“Historically, authorities thought they were doing the right thing by deepening and widening the river, straightening it up.” concurs Greg, “but the consequences they weren’t able to predict when that ‘71 flood came was that it just moved so much of the alluvial plain into the river. That’s been the big battle since then.”
The Camerons have been working in partnership with the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority and its predecessor, the Cann River Improvement Trust, to minimise the impacts of future flood events and improve the health of the river. An important key has been fencing to keep stock off the river and giving native vegetation the chance to regenerate along the river’s banks.
“Getting the river choked up again and trying to slow it down is pretty important to stabilise the riverbed. It’s a simple principle but hard to do and we wouldn’t have had a hope in hell on our own” says Greg.
Revegetating the banks has encouraged reed beds to form and over time longer and deeper pools of water have begun to re-establish. “It’s more systemic of what it would have been like before all of the land clearing so I’d say that it’s very positive. You certainly see the little Galaxia fish in the deeper pools, they were always there when we were kids but they all disappeared after ‘71 of course.”
The whole community is celebrating the return of a platypus on a neighbor’s property upstream explains Daryl, “I haven’t heard of a platypus in the valley for pretty much my whole adult life. It’s very encouraging to know they’re recolonising.”
Both brothers agree on the importance of a healthy river. “It’s the life blood of the valley” says Daryl. “There’ll always be things to manage but it’s the reason we’re all here; we farm and live on a floodplain and so it’s important to have that river as pristine as it can be.”
The Cann River is one of ten flagship waterway projects currently underway across the state as part of a commitment by the Victorian Government under the Water Plan for Victoria.
The East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority has been working with a number of its partners to control weeds along the Timbarra River.
Sections of the Timbarra, north west of Buchan, were recently burnt during a bushfire and large areas along the rivers edge are now seeing weeds such as willows and blackberries emerging.
Forest Fire Management Victoria and the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) NRM crew are working to remove weeds, particularly within the popular camping sites in the vicinity.
Further downstream, GLaWAC have also partnered with the Lake Tyers Beach Angling Club in controlling weeds to improve access to popular fishing spots.
These works aim to reduce the extent of weeds along the river, encouraging the regeneration of native vegetation, and to improve access for the local community and visitors alike to enjoy.
“We enjoy a close working relationship with all of our partners.” said the EGCMA CEO, Graeme Dear. “Projects like these are about people working together to improve the health of our waterways for all of the community to enjoy.”
The works are part of the Labor Government’s $222 million investment in improving the health of waterways and catchments, outlined in the Water for Victoria plan.
Members of the Friends of Picnic Point Reserve (FOPPR) Landcare Group recently celebrated their achievements with a community gathering held at the Picnic Point Reserve.
The group started as a collection of locals concerned with the degradation of the local wetland and a shared vision to restore the natural surrounds. A plan was devised and the group started a concerted effort to restore the 10 acre site.
Picnic Point Reserve is particularly unique containing unusually diverse vegetation including rainforest, grassy woodlands, shrubland and wetland in a relatively small area.
What was initially a neglected public reserve lacking native plants, with slopes covered in ivy and blackberries and erosion problems, has been gradually transformed.
“We started as a group of friends concerned about the degradation of the area.” explained Mary Baldwin, President of the FOPPR. “We just wanted to get rid of the weeds and replant native species to make it a nice public amenity for everyone to use”.
With the assistance of a number of Victorian Landcare Grants over the years, the group has focussed on several key projects throughout the reserve. “The early days were spent removing exotic trees and weeds and developing the wetland area along Yeates Drive. This helps to filter the stormwater from West Bairnsdale that flows into the Mitchell River and out to the lakes.”
Upgraded paths ensure that the area is accessible and a boardwalk over the wetlands provides an alternate route for the public to enjoy. “The reserve is a popular spot for our community, used for picnics, parties and even weddings. The addition of some native flowering plant beds, picnic tables and a picnic shelter on the top of the hill have added to the appeal of the area.”
“The grants have opened up the possibilities of what can be achieved” explains Mary. “Landcare is more important than it’s ever been; it enables people to make a difference to the environment in their community. This is a beautiful patch of land at the doorstep to the Mitchell River and group members had a vision of restoring it to something like its original state. We are all delighted and very proud of how it is developing. However, we would like to emphasise that it will always be a work in progress; there is a need for ongoing weeding and maintenance, new plantings in some areas plus further possible development in the future. New members are always welcome!”
The Victorian Landcare Grants support the implementation of Protecting Victoriaʼs Environment – Biodiversity 2037, the state governmentʼs long-term plan to protect the environment.
“The Gippsland Lakes, and particularly the rivers that feed them, are an important place for the Gunaikurnai, they’re the lifeline for our people when they’re travelling through country.” -Grattan Mullett Snr, GLaWAC