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Joint Media Release
Dr David Kemp MP
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
&
Mr Warren Truss MP
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
&
Mr John Thwaites MP
Victorian Minister for Environment and Water
&
Mr Bob Cameron MP
Victorian Minister for Agriculture

18 December 2003

Community Vision Realised in Corangamite Regional Strategy


A new framework for the management of Victoria's 1.3 million hectare Corangamite catchment was today released by the Howard and Bracks Governments.

Australian Ministers for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, and Victorian Ministers for Environment and Water, John Thwaites, and Agriculture, Bob Cameron, jointly released the Corangamite Regional Catchment Strategy.

The strategy - accredited by both Governments - will drive environmental management and agricultural sustainability activities in the region for the next five years.

Dr Kemp commended the strategy for being based on a comprehensive community consultation and public engagement process.

"The strategy contains the community's vision to promote sustainable economic use of the region's natural resources, while also lessening impact on the land, developing a healthy environment, a planned landscape and enabling the community to participate in environment and sustainability actions," Dr Kemp said.

Mr Truss said activities outlined in the strategy focus on saving water and increasing environmental flows in streams while at the same time enabling sustainable development.

"The catchment management authority will focus on innovative approaches to reducing dryland salinity and seek ways of lowering the impact of agriculture on the land whilst increasing productivity," Mr Truss said.

Mr Thwaites said the strategy has a sound overview of the region's environmental, social and economic resources and identifies the region's major natural resource assets such as rivers and streams, wetlands, native vegetation and threatened ecological communities.

"The Corangamite region is home to a number of significant natural assets. It has 13 wetlands which have been listed under the international Ramsar convention, with the Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site supporting more than 40 species of migratory shorebirds," Mr Thwaites said.

Mr Cameron said the Corangamite Regional Catchment Strategy provides the framework to ensure sustainability of agricultural production worth over $770 million a year across the region.

"Agriculture dominates the Corangamite region with livestock grazing and dryland agriculture contributing around 12% of Victoria's commodity production," Mr Cameron said.

Dr Kemp said the strategy includes substantial community involvement and strong relationships with local government in implementing integrated approaches to salinity, water quality, land management and native fauna and flora conservation.

"The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority is also to be commended for its commitment to further involvement of the region's indigenous community and their appointment of a part time indigenous officer to engage and involve traditional owners in natural resource management," Dr Kemp said.

The Regional Catchment Strategies are the backbone of natural resource management activity in Victoria. They provide the basis of regional investment from the Australian Government's $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust and $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, a joint Australian, State and Territory Government initiative.

The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority has already received $4.8 million in funding under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. This funding targeted water quality issues in the Barwon River and key Ramsar wetlands.

For further information on the Strategy, visit www.ccma.vic.gov.au/rcs. A profile of the Corangamite Regional Catchment is attached.


Corangamite Regional Catchment Profile

December 2003

Corangamite covers 1.3 million hectares of land and stretches from the greater Geelong region (including Portarlington and Queenscliff) around the coastline of Victoria to just past Peterborough. It extends inland to Ballarat and includes the townships of Meredith, Gordon, Linton, Lismore, Camperdown, Port Campbell, Lorne, Apollo Bay and Colac.

Land uses include large areas of livestock grazing and dryland irrigation. In the Otway Coast Basin 22% of the land is used for forestry. The Moorabool and Barwon River Basins support significant built environments whilst the Lake Corangamite and Otway Coast Basins support increasing areas of land dedicated to conservation.

The main population centres are the Greater Geelong and Ballarat areas. Colac and the Surf Coast also support significant populations.

Corangamite was among the first Victorian regions settled by Europeans for early grazing and forestry, followed by growth around the Ballarat region during the gold rush. More recently, the area has become multicultural with a large number of new immigrants arriving initially from European countries and then increasingly from Asia and the Pacific. The region also has an indigenous population, with the Wathaurong language covering most of the area. The language groups of the Gadubanud, Gulidjan/Kirrae wurrung and the Djargurd wurrung are also represented in the region.

It is estimated that only 295,460 hectares of native vegetation remains on private land in the Corangamite region. Icon species that require protection include the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, Striped Legless Lizard, Plains Wanderer, Rufous Bristle bird, Spot-tailed Quoll, Hooded Plover, Orange-bellied Parrot, Corangamite Water Skink and Platypus.

Significant wetlands include the Western District Lakes, Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and the Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar Site.

The Curdies Gellibrand sub region comprises the catchments of the Curdies and Gellibrand Rivers to the west of the region. Both of these areas are recognised for very high social, economic and environmental values. The coastline of the sub region is part of the Port Campbell National Park and contains the international icons - The Twelve Apostles. The native hardwood forests in this region have been extensively cleared on private land, and dairying and cattle grazing are now the principle land uses on the rich flood plains. There is increased pressure on the land from intensification of animal production including feedlots.

The dominant features of the Lakes, Plains and Northern Foothills sub region are the Ramsar listed Western Lakes District of the Lake Corangamite Basin and the Woady Yaloak River. Lake Corangamite is the largest permanent inland lake in Australia. Another key feature of the area is part of the basalt plains of eastern Victoria. Before European settlement the basalt plains were predominantly grassy ecosystems interspersed with naturally saline and freshwater wetlands. This sub region hosts the last remaining chain of ponds that is considered to be geomorphologically significant and unique. These systems are rare across the state and have very high landscape values associated with them.

The Urban Creek system is subjected to high visitation levels from the urban community for passive recreation activities such as fishing, walking and bird watching. There are indigenous cultural heritage sites associated with many of the lake foreshores and many of the wetlands contain rare vegetation communities. Drainage works in the 1950s have resulted in pressure on aquatic biodiversity through alteration of flow regimes. With the exception of a small area of natural forest in the north, the basin is almost entirely cleared for pasture and agriculture. Fine wool and cereal producers occupy the northern slopes and crops such as oats and barley are common. Sheep and beef cattle grazing dominate the basalt plains; dairying and prime lamb grazing are important in the south of the sub-region. Mixed farming occurs east of Lake Corangamite and just north of Colac specialises in growing potatoes. There is also an expansion of raised bed cropping.

The Otway Foothills sub-region covers the upper reaches of the Barwon River system from the Otway ridge to the Volcanic Plain and east to Inverleigh. The Barwon River headwaters are mountainous and forested. Further downstream the Barwon intersects the Tertiary sediments of the Otway Ridges and then the Basalt Plains, both of which are largely cleared for agriculture and small urban centres including Forrest, Barwon Downs, Deans Marsh and Winchelsea. The area has a highly productive grazing industry, both beef and dairy cattle. In the upland areas the picturesque rural landscape is attractive for holiday houses and hobby farms.

The key feature of the Otway Coast sub region is the forests of the Otway Ridges, coastal streams and the coastline along the Great Ocean Road. This area of the region contains the most intact native vegetation and stream systems. The coastal Otway streams are in the best environmental condition in the State. Around 70% of the land in the Otway Coast sub region remains covered by indigenous forests. This sub region supports the highest level of tourism in the region.

Geelong is the major city of the region with a population of around 180,000 people. Its surrounding environs support a number of manufacturing industries and a major port. Industrial inputs have had a significant impact on Corio Bay in the past with very high levels of cadmium and mercury found in sediments and shellfish. The seagrass meadows in Corio Bay and the Outer Harbour are a significant biodiversity asset for the region and a major nursery for recreational and commercial fish species. The Swan Bay catchment at the eastern side of the Bellarine Peninsula is a Ramsar listed wetland. The major challenges for this sub region are the sustainable management of the Barwon River through Geelong and the protection and enhancement of the Ramsar wetland.

For further information:
Catherine Barnes, Communications and Community Education Officer, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority: 03 5232 910; or visit www.ccma.vic.gov.au

Commonwealth of Australia