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Of some 2,000 natural wetlands in the Goulburn Broken area, only four in the Goulburn catchment (Reedy Swamp, Gaynor Swamp, Stockyard Plain and Doctors Swamp) can currently receive environmental water.

All the Goulburn wetlands can receive environmental water via irrigation supply infrastructure in the Shepparton and Central Goulburn irrigation districts. The volume delivered at any one time depends on the available capacity in the irrigation supply network and may also be negotiated with adjacent landholders. 

Reedy Swamp is naturally inundated when flow in the Goulburn River exceeds about 20,000 ML/day. Doctors Swamp can only receive environmental water if the Cattanach Canal is running at 2,500 ML/day and there is available capacity after irrigation demand and operational requirements are met. The opportunity to deliver environmental water to Reedy Swamp is greater in autumn and winter. 

Environmental water has not been delivered to Gaynor Swamp or Stockyard Plain. Infrastructure to allow environmental water to be delivered to Gaynor Swamp is due to be completed by autumn 2018, whereas the delivery of environmental water to Stockyard Plain is subject to an agreement with private landholders.

Environmental watering objectives in the Goulburn wetlands

Plant icon
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

There are a large number of natural wetlands across the Goulburn catchment including Reedy Swamp and Doctors Swamp, which have formally recognised 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 paleo-saline soils and can sometime receive saline water from nearby saline wetlands during times of flood. When wet, Gaynor Swamp supports thousands of waterbirds including brolga and intermediate egrets. Because Gaynor Swamp has a higher salt concentration than other wetlands in the region, it attracts a different type of feeding waterbird as it draws down. One of the most significant species that feed on exposed mudflats at Gaynor Swamp is the red-necked avocet. 

Stockyard Plain is a bioregionally significant wetland that spans private and public land and is valued for its waterbird habitat. The wetland provides breeding habitat for threatened brolga and has the nationally threatened ridged water milfoil.

Social, cultural and economic values

Visitor activities enjoyed at the Goulburn wetlands include birdwatching, picnicking, camping and walking. Doctors Swamp and Gaynor Swamp are state game reserves. 

The Goulburn wetlands are identified as culturally sensitive areas under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. The Goulburn wetlands have been and continue to be places of significance for Traditional Owners of the Yorta Yorta Nation. The area traditionally supported a rich and diverse supply of plant and animal resources for food, medicines, shelter, clothing and tools.

Conditions mid-2017

Natural inflows from regional flooding and high rainfall in the Goulburn catchment filled all Goulburn wetlands in late winter and early spring 2016–17. The inflows triggered plant growth and germination and supported large numbers of waterbirds and frogs. For the first time, Sloane's froglet was recorded at Doctors Swamp along with large numbers of breeding Australasian shelducks and a brown tree creeper that nested in the middle of the swamp. The floods also caused a large field of billy buttons to grow on the fringe of Doctors Swamp. 

Summer rainfall topped up the wetlands and some remained wet into autumn 2017. No environmental water was delivered to the Goulburn wetlands in 2016–17. 

Reedy Swamp and Doctors Swamp have started to draw down, whereas Gaynor Swamp and Stockyard Plain completely dried over summer 2016–17. All wetlands reached their maximum inundation phase in 2016–17 and require a drying phase to promote vegetation growth and support recently germinated wetland plants.

Scope of environmental watering

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

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Wetland watering

Gaynor Swamp (fill in autumn/winter)

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

Stockyard Plain (fill in autumn/winter)

Maintain the diversity of wetland vegetation including cane grass

Provide waterbird breeding and feeding habitat

Doctors Swamp (partial fill in autumn/winter)

  • Maintain the diversity of wetland vegetation including river red gum
  • Provide waterbird breeding and feeding habitat

Wetland drying

Reedy Swamp will not be actively watered in 2017–18

The drying will help maintain habitats to support a wide range of wetland-dependent birds and animals and to promote the growth and establishment of vegetation in and around the wetland

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


Waterway managers meet communities on environmental watering regionally, although other program partners also play a role.

In each region of Victoria, community engagement on environmental watering happens when environmental watering objectives and priorities are scoped (long term and annually), when delivering environmental water, and when reporting on environmental watering results.

In the Goulburn Broken region communities are involved in decisions about the Goulburn River and wetlands, Broken River and wetlands and the Murray River and wetlands. This happens through formal advisory groups: Environmental Water Advisory Groups focusing on rivers, a wetland advisory group and the Barmah Millewa Operations Advisory Group.

Who is engaged and how

Recreational users

Through formal advisory groups, recreational users provide local advice and raise opportunities for 'shared benefits' including whether the timing of environmental watering may align with key recreational events such as cod and duck opening. Recreational users are informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering.

Goulburn-Murray Water directly engages with recreational user groups that use Goulburn-Murray Water water storages for recreation through planned consultations and meetings to discuss storage levels and potential impacts of environmental water releases from storages.

Environment groups

Through formal advisory groups, environment groups provide local knowledge, land management advice and advocate for the environment. They are also informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the
outcomes of environmental watering.


Through formal advisory groups, farmers and landholders (who often own land with river frontages) provide local knowledge and land management advice. They are also informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering.

Traditional Owners

Through the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority Indigenous Facilitator, the Yorta Yorta Nation (responsible for managing some land and reserves in the region) is given the opportunity to provide input to seasonal watering proposals through annual briefings with the Catchment Management Authority.

There are Yorta Yorta representatives from the Goulburn Broken region who are members of the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations. The Victorian Environmental Water Holder, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray Darling Basin Authority engage Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations on strategic (often longer term) issues related to environmental watering.


Through the wetland advisory group (due to their role as land managers for some wetlands), Councils provide local advice.
They also support local advertising during water delivery and share data for reporting.

Goulburn-Murray Water consults with the Greater Shepparton City Council and the Moira Shire Council regularly on water management, including on environmental water management.

General public

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority communicates through their website, media releases, advertisements in local papers, a column in Country News, in the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority bi-monthly newsletter, social media, radio, community forums and partnered research.