Page 44 - VEWH Seasonal Watering Plan 2020-21
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 2.1 Gippsland region overview
The NSW Government is responsible for planning environmental flows in the Snowy River in consultation with the Victorian Government. The Snowy Advisory Committee was formed in 2018 and provides community and expert advice about the pattern of environmental flows to the Snowy River. The committee’s participants represent Aboriginal, local community and environmental interests, alongside NSW and Victorian government agencies.
East Gippsland CMA is a member of the Snowy Advisory Committee, and the VEWH is an observer.
How have Traditional Owners’ values and uses of waterways been considered?
The waterways of the Gippsland region are important resources for the Gunaikurnai people, with thousands of years of connection to Country evident through numerous registered Gunaikurnai cultural heritage sites. Today, water is no less important to the Gunaikurnai: access to water and being empowered to make decisions and manage natural resources including waterways and water bodies are integral to customary practices, to protecting cultural values and uses and to healing Country.
GLaWAC is the Registered Aboriginal Party for waterways managed with environmental flows in the Gippsland region, and it holds Native Title and a Recognition and Settlement Agreement over this area. GLaWAC representatives
are working closely with the West Gippsland CMA to understand and find alignment between environmental watering objectives and cultural watering objectives.
GLaWAC has been represented on the environmental flows study review panels for the Thomson and Latrobe rivers. GLaWAC together with Gunaikurnai community members are undertaking Aboriginal Waterway Assessments in the Latrobe River system, and as part of this are assessing how to document, protect and further the cultural values and uses of waterways in the Gippsland region including the Thomson, Latrobe and Macalister rivers and Lower Latrobe wetlands which receive water for the environment.
GLaWAC and the West Gippsland CMA have a strong working relationship and a collaborative plan to nominate priority sites and determine flows that support Gunaikurnai cultural and environmental values during 2020–21. The teams share the CMA’s Traralgon office. This proximity increases opportunities for knowledge exchange and an appreciation of the broader objectives of each organisation.
For the Thomson and Latrobe rivers, GLaWAC identified species of high cultural value that depend on water and water management that mimics nature. GLaWAC also expressed the importance of Sale Common and Dowd Morass and the need to protect the freshwater status as much as possible, and to manage invasive species that threaten native plants and animals.
 Community benefits from environmental watering
Healthy rivers and wetlands support vibrant and healthy communities. By improving the health of rivers, wetlands and floodplains, environmental flows also provide benefits to communities.
The VEWH and its program partners consider Aboriginal cultural values and uses and social and recreational values and uses of waterways when planning for environmental watering activities. Through engagement with community representatives, waterway managers aim to determine how community benefits from environmental flows can be optimised with environmental priorities for the year ahead.
Healthy waterways provide community benefits (such as providing nice places to walk or picnic and opportunities for recreational fishing). Community benefits can sometimes be enhanced by modifying environmental flows (such as timing a flow to support a community water skiing or fishing event), provided the environmental objective is not compromised.
Collaboration with Traditional Owner partners enables the VEWH and its partners to measure healthy waterways through a different lens: for instance for the Gunaikurnai, Country is connected, so achieving healthy Country means encouraging decision-making to benefit the whole system. For the Latrobe River system, that means from the source to the Gippsland Lakes, and not only what is in-stream but also the plants and animals on streamside land.
The VEWH and its partners seek to deliver these benefits throughout the water year, though opportunities can depend on the weather, climate or environmental conditions, water availability and the way the system is being operated to deliver water for other purposes.
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