Skip to content

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

Maintain turtle populations
Plant icon
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
bird icon
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 greater 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 feeds 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 the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation on planning for water for the environment for the Goulburn wetlands. Both groups indicated they support the watering 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 the planning and management of environmental flows and ultimately providing opportunities to progress towards self-determination within the environmental watering program is a core commitment of the VEWH and its agency partners. This is reinforced by a range of legislative and policy commitments, including the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, the 2016 Water for Victoria 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 their contribution and indicating progress towards deeper involvement.

Billabong icons

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 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 environmental flow 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 Land and Waters Council also participated in the development of the environmental water management plan for the site in 2019. 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. In 2021, Taungurung Land and Waters Council staff and Baan Ganalina members coordinated the delivery of environmental flows to the site by managing the pumping and delivery. Following the delivery, Parks Victoria and the Taungurung Land and Waters Council have begun reintroducing aquatic plant species that are either missing or in low numbers to boost the diversity and abundance of aquatic plants.

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 by restoring a more natural watering regime to degraded significant sites and rehabilitating 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. The Taungurung Land and Waters Council is currently monitoring biocultural values and habitat conditions at six of the disconnected wetlands as part of an ongoing Reading Country program. This process and its findings will inform future seasonal watering proposals and planning for water for the environment. Currently, Taungurung is working with partners 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 these 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 and rushes). Watering also supports a wide range of bird and animal species that provide a variety of cultural values. Yorta Yorta are supportive of planned drying at Doctors Swamp in 2022-23.

Kanyapella Basin plays an important role in the Yorta Yorta People’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 the delivery of environmental flows in winter 2020, Yorta Yorta People 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 the Yorta Yorta People, with stone scatters, marked trees and significant sand hills in the higher elevations. Yorta Yorta support planned drying at Loch Garry in 2022-23.

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 experienced rainfall and temperature conditions close to the long-term averages throughout 2021- 22, with particularly high rainfall in winter 2021 and summer 2022. Catchment storages also had above-average inflows, and allocations against high-reliability water shares across the Goulburn, Broken and Murray systems reached 100 percent by mid-October 2021.

Deliveries of water for the environment for the Goulburn wetlands were managed in line with an average climate scenario during 2021-22, and five out of the six planned watering actions were achieved through a combination of managed deliveriese and natural inflows.

Horseshoe Lagoon filled naturally in autumn 2021, and water for the environment was used to water deeper sections of the wetland in winter 2021. The watering triggered the growth of new vegetation, and numerous broad-shelled, common long neck and Murray River turtles were observed at the wetland.

Kanyapella Basin and Loch Garry were both filled with water for the environment in spring 2021. Monitoring detected positive responses by aquatic vegetation, native frogs and waterbirds. These wetlands have only been actively watered a few times, and the monitoring results will be used to help refine future environmental watering actions.

Doctors Swamp and Gaynor Swamp were both filled with water for the environment in autumn 2022. At the time of writing, monitoring results were not yet available, and delivery was still in progress at Gaynor Swamp. Delivery at Doctors Swamp had temporarily ceased due to capacity constraints within the Cattanach Canal, which needs to be near-full capacity for delivery to recommence.

The only planned watering action that was not delivered in 2021-22 was an autumn fill of Reedy Swamp. Reedy Swamp is a temporary freshwater wetland that benefits from periodic dry phases. It last filled in April 2020, and it was expected to dry out before the end of 2021. However, frequent rain events during 2021-22 have prevented complete drying, so a decision was made to defer the planned fill until spring 2023 to allow dry-phase plant species to grow and complete their life cycles.

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

Gaynor Swamp (fill in spring 2022 and top up as required)

Billabong icon

  • Provide nesting, breeding and feeding habitat for waterbirds, in particular for brolga
  • 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
Plant iconBird icon

Horseshoe Lagoon (partial fill or top-up as required in winter 2022)

Billabong icon

  • Inundate the deeper section and wetland margins to maintain wetland vegetation communities by supporting their growth and recruitment
  • Suppress the growth of weeds
  • Provide feeding and breeding habitat for turtle populations
Turtle iconPlant icon

Kanyapella Basin (partial fill in autumn 2023)

Billabong icon

  • Inundate deeper parts of the wetland to maintain soil moisture and promote vegetation communities to grow and flower
  • Support the growth of rigid water-milfoil and river swamp wallaby grass populations
Plant icon

Scenario planning

Table 5.4.4 outlines potential environmental watering and expected water use under a range of planning scenarios.

A partial fill of Gaynor Swamp and Horseshoe Lagoon are high priorities across all climate scenarios in 2022-23. These watering actions are required to support an optimum watering regime and to support and build on ecological outcomes achieved in 2021-22. Gaynor Swamp was filled in autumn 2022 to support the growth of various wetland plants and improve nesting and feeding resources for potential waterbird breeding events later in the year. If breeding is triggered over winter, watering in spring 2022 to maintain water levels and vegetation materials will be of high importance. Horseshoe Lagoon naturally filled in autumn 2021, had a top-up in winter 2021 and dried in March 2022. A partial fill in winter 2022 will promote the growth of threatened plant species in the lower parts of the wetland that will have met their recommended dry period interval. It will also support dry-phase ecosystem processes in more elevated parts of the wetland complex.

A partial fill of Kanyapella Basin is a high priority in autumn 2023 under dry to wet climate scenarios to further establish aquatic vegetation (such as rigid water-milfoil and river swamp wallaby grass) that have benefitted from deliveries of water for the environment in 2020 and 2021. This site would not naturally receive water as often as some of the other Goulburn wetlands, so watering is not a priority under a drought scenario. Water for the environment will likely need to be actively delivered to Kanyapella Basin to achieve the planned watering action under dry and average climate scenarios, but it is likely to be filled to retard downstream floods under a wet scenario.

Doctors Swamp, Loch Garry and Reedy Swamp will not be deliberately watered in 2022-23 to allow them to draw down or remain dry to support dry-phase ecosystem processes. However, if natural inundation triggers a significant waterbird breeding event at either site, water for the environment may be delivered to help the chicks successfully fledge.

Planning scenario table

Table 5.4.4 Potential environmental watering for the Goulburn wetlands under a range of planning scenarios

Planning scenario





Expected river conditions

  • Catchment run-off and natural flow into the wetlands are highly unlikely
  • Catchment run-off and natural flow into the wetlands are unlikely
  • Some catchment run-off and natural flow into some of the wetlands are likely, particularly in winter/spring
  • Catchment run-off and natural flow into the wetlands are likely to fill or partially fill the wetlands, particularly in winter/spring

Potential environmental watering – tier 1 (high priorities)

  • Gaynor Swamp
  • Horseshoe Lagoon
  • Gaynor Swamp
  • Horseshoe Lagoon
  • Kanyapella Basin
  • Gaynor Swamp
  • Horseshoe Lagoon
  • Kanyapella Basin
  • Gaynor Swamp
  • Horseshoe Lagoon
  • Kanyapella Basin

Potential environmental watering – tier 2 (additional priorities)

  • N/A

Possible volume of water for the environment required to achieve objectives

  • 1,120 ML (tier 1)
  • 2,120 ML (tier 1)
  • 2,120 ML (tier 1)
  • 560 ML (tier 1)


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: 01/12/22