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Doctors Swamp, Gaynor Swamp, Kanyapella Basin, Loch Garry and Reedy Swamp can receive water for the environment through irrigation supply infrastructure. The volume of water that can be delivered to each wetland depends on the physical capacity of the infrastructure and the seasonal allocation. Water for the environment can be delivered from the Goulburn River to Horseshoe Lagoon via a temporary pump.

Traditional Owners
Storage manager
Environmental water holder

Environmental watering objectives in the Goulburn wetlands

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Maintain or increase the diversity and abundance of frog species
Maintain turtle populations
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Increase the diversity and cover of native wetland plant species consistent with ecological vegetation class1 benchmarks

Reduce the cover and diversity of exotic plants

Maintain populations of rigid water milfoil, slender water milfoil and river swamp wallaby-grass
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Provide breeding habitat for waterbirds

Provide feeding and roosting habitat for waterbirds

Environmental values

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

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

Gaynor Swamp is a cane grass wetland situated on paleosaline soils: soils formed from historic oceans. The wetland supports thousands of waterbirds including brolga and intermediate egrets when wet. Gaynor Swamp has a higher salt concentration than other wetlands in the region and 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.

Horseshoe Lagoon is a paleochannel of the Goulburn River that has tall marsh, floodway pond herbland and floodplain streamside woodland vegetation communities. The lagoon supports numerous waterbird species and is home to three species of turtle including the Broad-shelled Turtle.

Kanyapella Basin is a shallow, freshwater marsh that provides habitat for numerous plant and animal species including the threatened intermediate egret. Historically, it has been a popular breeding site for ibis, heron and cormorants.

Loch Garry is a paleochannel of the Goulburn River that provides deep, open-water habitat. The channel is surrounded by shallow, vegetated wetland depressions, red gum forest and sand ridges. 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.

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

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

Goulburn Broken CMA sought input from the Taungurung Land and Waters Council and Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation during the development of plans for water for the environment for the Goulburn wetlands. Both groups indicated they support the watering action priorities planned for the year ahead and will continue to work with the CMA to implement these actions while exploring further opportunities to support their cultural values.

Increasing the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water planning and management, and ultimately providing opportunities to progress towards self-determination within and beyond the environmental watering program, is a core commitment of the VEWH and its agency partners. This is reinforced by a range of legislation and policy commitments (for example the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, Water for Victoria (2016)) and, in some cases, agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. Where Traditional Owners are more deeply involved in the planning and/or delivery of environmental flows for a particular site, their contribution is acknowledged in Table 5.4.3 with an icon. The use of this icon is not intended to indicate that these activities are meeting all the needs of Traditional Owners but is incorporated in the spirit of valuing that contribution, and indicating progress towards this objective.

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Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support Aboriginal cultural values and uses

The Taungurung Land and Waters Council has been involved in planning for water for the environment at Gaynor Swamp and Horseshoe Lagoon. Healing Country and Healing Knowledge are key values outlined in the Cultural and Natural Resource Management Strategy, and they align closely with outcomes achieved with the delivery of water for the environment.

The first delivery of water for the environment to Horseshoe Lagoon in winter 2019 was celebrated by Taungurung women: the lagoon is a significant site and this was an excellent example of working together to protect cultural values and heal Country. The Taungurung water knowledge group Baan Ganalina (Guardians of Water) has worked closely with Goulburn Broken CMA, the VEWH and other partners to bring water back to the lagoon, to restore habitats and see birds and other animals return to the site. The Taungurung Land and Waters Council also participated in the development of the environmental water management plan for the site in 2019. In addition to this, the Taungurung Land and Waters Council has identified that water for the environment assists in:

  • supporting the health of cultural values at the site by protecting intangible cultural heritage and valued species, traditional food and medicine plants
  • exploring opportunities to reintroduce culturally informed management tools and practices
  • supporting and securing access for Taungurung contemporary cultural practices and uses, teaching places, reconnection to Country and camping sites
  • actively fulfilling Caring for Country responsibilities through restoring a more natural watering regime to degraded significant sites and rehabilitation of habitat for native species
  • supporting contemporary Living Biocultural Knowledge exchange and integration through involvement in natural resource management decisions
  • increasing Taungurung water literacy and understanding of conservation and water management within their Country
  • increasing Taungurung internal capacity and confidence in water management following self-determination principles via engagement and joint management arrangements with Goulburn Broken CMA and Parks Victoria.

Taungurung has a special interest in the rehabilitation of floodplain wetlands associated with the Goulburn River (Waring), but which are now largely disconnected from the main river channel due to the impacts of river flow regulation. Taungurung Land and Waters Council is currently working on assessing habitat conditions at six of the disconnected wetlands. This process and their findings will inform future seasonal watering proposals and planning for water for the environment. Currently, Taungurung is working to enhance habitat conditions for native species in the area, and healthy Country assessments will provide important information about cultural objectives and indicators.

The Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation has been involved in planning for environmental flows at Doctors Swamp, Kanyapella Basin, Loch Garry and Reedy Swamp including by participating in the development of environmental water management plans for the sites.

  • Yorta Yorta identified key cultural values at Doctors Swamp. Water for the environment supports Nardoo(a food source), native grasses, Old Man Weed (which has medicinal uses) and weaving (using sedges/rushes). Watering also supports a wide range of bird and animal species that provide a variety of cultural values.
  • Kanyapella Basin plays an important role in Yorta Yorta’s cultural and spiritual connections. It supports the health of cultural values in the landscape (such as Creation Story and traditional food and medicine plants). Before a delivery of environmental flows in winter 2020, Yorta Yorta Peoples conducted a cultural burn at the site, helping to enable direct delivery of the water and help the growth of Old Man Weed.
  • Environmental flows delivered to Loch Garry in April 2020 initiated a resurgence of culturally important food, fibre and medicinal plants. Giant rush thrived, providing nesting opportunities for important bird species. The site is rich in cultural values identified by Yorta Yorta, with stone scatters, marked trees and significant sand hills in the higher elevations.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential watering actions in Table 5.4.3, Goulburn Broken CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:

  • water-based recreation (such as canoeing)
  • riverside recreation and amenity (such as birdwatching, camping, cycling, hiking, photography and walking)
  • community events and tourism (such as community birdwatching events, the Nature Scripts Initiative and outdoor classroom learning).

Recent conditions

The Goulburn catchment received above-average rainfall in late winter and early spring 2020 but mostly below- average rainfall over the remainder of 2020-21. Monthly temperatures remained close to the long-term average throughout the year.

Large rain events between autumn and spring 2020 naturally filled or partially filled Doctors Swamp, Horseshoe Lagoon, Loch Garry and Reedy Swamp. Water for the environment was used to water Gaynor Swamp and Kanyapella Basin and to top up Horseshoe Lagoon as required during 2020-21.

Doctors Swamp filled naturally in autumn 2020 and received an additional top-up of water for the environment in May 2020. Water persisted in the deeper areas of the wetland until February 2021. Magpie geese and Sloane’s froglet were recorded while it held water.

Gaynor Swamp received water for the environment in 2018 and was allowed to dry out during 2019-20. Water for the environment was used to re-fill the wetland in spring 2020, and subsequent monitoring indicated the watering event triggered flowering of the vulnerable-listed spiny lignum and cane grass and provided foraging habitat for brolga. Lewin’s rail was also heard calling at the swamp, which was the first record of the species at this site.

Horseshoe Lagoon filled naturally in autumn 2020. A small volume of water for the environment was used to top up the wetland in September 2020, to protect the nests of eastern long-neck turtles, but unfortunately the nests were then raided by foxes. Additional protections will accompany future watering actions at the lagoon.

Kanyapella Basin was inundated with unregulated flows in 2011-12 and 2016-17, and it received its first delivery of water for the environment in winter 2020. The wetland held water for three months, supporting frogs and aquatic vegetation. Monitoring detected the rigid water-milfoil, which is listed under the Environment Protection

and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and was last recorded at the site in 1982.

Loch Garry and Reedy Swamp filled naturally in April 2020, and water levels were maintained by further rain in late winter and early spring. These natural events meant that environmental watering actions planned for autumn 2021 were not required.

Environmental watering in the Goulburn wetlands in 2020-21 was undertaken in line with an average climate scenario, and all required planned watering actions were achieved.

Scope of environmental planning

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

Potential environmental watering action

Expected watering effects

Environmental objectives

Doctors Swamp (partial fill in autumn 2022)

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  • Inundate the deeper and fringing margins of the swamp to wet and promote the condition and growth of the vegetation
  • Provide refuge habitat and breeding conditions for frogs
  • Support plant species used for Yorta Yorta traditional medicines and weaving at a significant cultural site
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Gaynor Swamp (fill in autumn 2022)

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  • Inundate to less than 1 m depth to promote conditions for vegetation growth and flowering, particularly of southern cane grass and spiny lignum and planted river red gum saplings
  • Provide nesting, breeding and feeding habitat for waterbirds, in particular for brolga
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Horseshoe Lagoon (partial fill or top-up as required in winter 2021)

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    • Inundate to the wetland margins to provide soil moisture to maintain wetland vegetation communities by supporting their growth and recruitment
    • Promote the growth of river swamp wallaby grass
    • Suppress the growth of weeds
    • Provide feeding and breeding habitat for turtle populations
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Kanyapella Basin (partial fill in winter 2021)

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  • Promote diverse vegetation communities to establish
  • Support the growth of rigid water-milfoil and river swamp wallaby grass populations
  • Support plant species used for Yorta Yorta traditional medicines and weaving at a significant cultural site
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Loch Garry (partial fill in spring 2021)

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  • Inundate deeper and fringing wetlands areas to promote and improve the growth of native wetland vegetation communities including threatened flora
  • Provide feeding and breeding habitat for frogs, turtles and waterbirds
  • Support plant species used for Yorta Yorta traditional medicines and weaving at a significant cultural site
Frog iconTurtle iconPlant iconBird icon

Reedy Swamp (fill in autumn 2022)

    • Inundate to less than 1 m to promote the growth of and maintain native wetland vegetation
    • Provide refuge and feeding and breeding habitat for frogs
    • Support plant species used for Yorta Yorta traditional medicines and weaving at a significant cultural site
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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
  • BirdLife Australia – Murray Goulburn
  • Goulburn Murray Landcare Network
  • Kinnairds Wetland Advisory Committee
  • Turtles Australia
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (Land Manger, Environmental Water)
  • Goulburn-Murray Water (River Operations Planning, Diversions)
  • Greater Shepparton City Council
  • Moira Shire Council
  • Parks Victoria
  • Landholders
  • Trellys Fishing and Hunting
  • Field and Game
  • Goulburn Broken Wetlands Technical Reference Group (Waters Edge Consulting, Rakali Consulting, staff of Arthur Rylah Institute, from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning)
  • Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation
  • Taungurung Land & Waters Council

Page last updated: 22/01/21