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Of some 2,000 natural wetlands in the Goulburn Broken area, only three in the Goulburn catchment (Reedy Swamp, Gaynor Swamp and Doctors Swamp) have been able to receive environmental water, through infrastructure connections to the river. Recent works to connect Loch Garry to the irrigation system will mean that it will also be possible to deliver water for the environment to Loch Garry from 2018–19, subject to the agreement of landowners. Loch Garry is a paleo channel (a remnant course) of the Goulburn River and the only wetland in the catchment that can receive water for the environment that has objectives for fish.

The Goulburn wetlands have been, and continue to be, places of significance for Traditional Owners and their Nations. The Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) in the region is the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

Environmental watering objectives in the Goulburn wetlands

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Maintain and improve the range of native plant life including river red gum and grassy wetland species
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Provide feeding and breeding habitat for waterbirds including migratory and colonial nesting waterbirds
Provide habitat for frog breeding

Environmental values

Many natural wetlands across the Goulburn catchment including Reedy Swamp, Loch Garry, Gaynor Swamp and Doctors Swamp are formally recognised for their conservation significance. The Goulburn wetlands support a variety of plant communities ranging from swamps dominated by river red gums to cane grass wetlands.

Reedy Swamp contains a mosaic of vegetation types including tall marsh, floodway pond herbland and rushy riverine swamp. It is an important drought refuge and nesting site for colonial waterbirds and an important stopover feeding site for migratory birds (such as sharptailed and marsh sandpipers).

Doctors Swamp is considered one of the most-intact red gum swamps in Victoria, supporting over 80 wetland plants.

Gaynor Swamp is a cane grass wetland situated on paleosaline soils, and it can sometimes receive saline water from Lake Cooper during times of flood. When wet, Gaynor Swamp supports thousands of waterbirds including brolga and intermediate egrets. As Gaynor Swamp has a higher salt concentration than other wetlands in the region, it attracts a different suite of feeding waterbirds as it draws down. One of the most-significant species that feed on exposed mudflats at Gaynor Swamp is the red-necked avocet.

Loch Garry supports large areas of deep, open water fringed by giant rush and dominated by tall marsh. It is an important site for waterbird feeding and roosting, and it is a drought refuge for eastern great egrets, musk ducks, nankeen night herons and royal spoonbills. Monitoring in 2012 recorded these four threatened waterbird species at Loch Garry.

Social and economic values

Visitor activities enjoyed at the Goulburn wetlands include birdwatching, picnicking, camping and walking. Duck hunting is allowed at Doctors Swamp and Gaynor Swamp, which are state game reserves, and at Loch Garry, which is a wildlife reserve.

Conditions 2018

Natural inflows from high rainfall in the Goulburn catchment during December 2017 inundated all Goulburn wetlands, triggering the germination and reproduction of some wetland plants and providing habitat for waterbirds. Wetlands to the west of the Goulburn Broken catchment including Doctors Swamp and Gaynor Swamp received the highest rainfall, and Doctors Swamp filled.

Sloanes froglet, musk duck, hardheads and plumed whistling duck were recorded at Doctors Swamp following the natural filling. Fringed marshwort was prolific in the wetland, and billy-buttons grew around the fringes.

Gaynor Swamp was the only wetland to receive water for the environment in 2017–18. It received water for the environment in autumn 2018 for the first time, after drying from the heavy summer rainfall. The remaining wetlands have been inundated several times in the last few years and were therefore left to draw down naturally after the December event.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the Goulburn wetlands

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Doctors Swamp (fill in spring)

Maintain the diversity of wetland vegetation including cane grass Provide waterbird breeding and feeding habitat

Gaynor Swamp (fill in winter/spring)

Maintain the diversity of wetland vegetation including cane grass Provide waterbird breeding and feeding habitat

Loch Garry (fill in spring)

Increase the diversity of native wetland vegetation
Maintain habitat for waterbird breeding
Provide refuge pools for native fish
Reedy Swamp (fill in spring)

Increase the diversity of native wetland vegetation 

Maintain habitat for water breeding (particularly royal spoonbills and ibis)

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, Goulburn Broken CMA considered and assessed the risks of environmental watering and identified mitigation strategies. Program partners continually reassess risks and mitigation actions throughout the water year

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisations that Goulburn Broken CMA engaged when preparing the Goulburn River and Goulburn wetlands seasonal watering proposal.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental flow studies, water management plans and other studies. These incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longerterm integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy and Goulburn Broken Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Goulburn system seasonal watering proposal

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office 
  • Goulburn Environmental Water Advisory Group (includes recreational users, local environment groups and landholders) 
  • Goulburn-Murray Water 
  • Parks Victoria 
  • Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation 
  • Victorian Environmental Water Holder 
  • Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation