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

21 November 2003

Visionary Environment Plan Approved for Victoria's Goulburn Broken Catchment

The Howard and Victorian Governments have approved a visionary plan for the State's Goulburn Broken catchment region that will improve agricultural sustainability and environmental outcomes.

Accreditation of the strategy plan - known as the Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy - was announced today by Australian Ministers for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, Victorian Minister for Environment and Water, John Thwaites, and Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Bob Cameron.

Hailed by the ministers as an exciting vision for the Goulburn Broken region, the strategy plan paves the way for improved agricultural and environmental sustainability in a large and diverse catchment that covers more than 2.4 million hectares - or 10% - of Victoria. The catchment produces 11% of the Murray Darling Basin's water, is home to significant flora and fauna, and is a key food producing area.

"Value adding through the food processing industry provides 25% of the State's export earnings. Production in the 1.4 million hectare dryland area generates $1.9 billion each year," Mr Truss said.

"The Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy plan provides the framework to protect the sustainability of agricultural production worth $7.8 billion a year across the region.

"This framework will provide strategic guidance for the development and implementation of specific projects. Funding for these projects will be provided in a subsequent investment plan."

Dr Kemp said the strategy plan set out a comprehensive range of environmental targets.

"This strategy plan commits the region to seriously explore ways of changing the landscape, particularly in the catchment's dryland and upper regions," Dr Kemp said.

"Among the proposals is an initiative to attract private investment into a vegetation bank which will see a modest plantation pilot established in the catchment. While further details are yet to be established, this vegetation bank is expected to deliver both environmental and private benefits.

"The strategy plan will also continue nationally and internationally acclaimed natural resource management programs developed in the catchment. These programs include integrated approaches to salinity, water quality, land management and native fauna and flora conservation."

Mr Thwaites said the strategy plan was developed through a comprehensive community consultation and public engagement process.

"Victoria is leading the nation in establishing regional catchment strategies – this is the third Victorian strategy accredited under the Natural Heritage Trust and National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality," Mr Thwaites said. "This strategy plan is aimed at making farm land more productive while, at the same time, delivering environmental outcomes.

"It 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.

"Notwithstanding the fact that about 70% of the land has been cleared, the catchment contains important features such as the Ramsar convention listed Barmah Forest wetlands and tracts of vegetation that need conservation and consolidation."

Mr Cameron said measures outlined in the accredited strategy plan focus on saving water and increasing environmental flows in catchment streams while delivering sustainable development.

"The strategy plan has identified priority area projects such as the South West Goulburn which is potentially a major salt source for the Goulburn and ultimately the Murray River," he said.

"The catchment management authority will also seek new ways of dealing with dryland salinity and addressing impacts of salinity on the landscape, and seek ways of reducing the agriculture's ecological footprint while increasing productivity."

Mr Cameron said the strategy plan envisaged substantial community involvement in implementation committees (responsible for implementing on-ground works proposed in the strategy), development of a Landcare Support Strategy, and closer relationships with local government.

"The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is also to be commended for its commitment to further involvement of the region's indigenous community," Mr Cameron said.

The Goulburn Broken region's community, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and other proponents have received more than $43 million for local projects from the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality since 1997-98.

The activities funded include maintaining biodiversity by protecting and replanting remnant vegetation, improving water quality through waterway planting, controlling salinity through perennial planting and reducing salinity through improved irrigation infrastructure.

A Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy fact sheet is attached.

Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy Fact Sheet

The Goulburn Broken catchment comprises the Goulburn and Broken River catchments and part of the Murray Valley and covers 2.4 million hectares, or 10.5% of Victoria. It provides 11% of the Murray Darling Basin’s stream flow, although it occupies just 2% of the basin.

It stretches from near the outskirts of Melbourne to the Murray River and includes the municipalities of Moira, Delatite, Mitchell, Murrindindi, Strathbogie and the City of Greater Shepparton

Land uses range from irrigation in the Goulburn and Murray Valleys to dryland grazing and cropping regions and the Victorian High Country, which is valued for recreation and its conservation values.

The major rural towns and cities include Shepparton, Mooroopna, Benalla, Seymour, Kyabram, Cobram, Yarrawonga, Numurkah, Nathalia, Mansfield, and Yea. Its population of 190,000 people includes an employment pool of 77,000.

The region has Victoria’s largest Aboriginal population outside metropolitan Melbourne. The Shepparton Irrigation Region (SIR) is culturally diverse, primarily as a result of Southern European post-war migration and, more recently, arrivals from countries such as Iraq, Iran and India.

Production from irrigation supports a large food processing industry, contributing to 25% of Victoria’s export earnings, with total catchment economic output valued at $7.8 billion per annum.

Much of the upper catchment is made up of State Forest, alpine resorts, and National or State Park. Significant native species include the nationally listed Leadbeaters Possum, Mountain Pygmy-possum, Purple Eyebright, Striped Legless-Lizard and Spot-tail Quoll.

The mid catchment contains scattered large and small blocks of remnant vegetation with forests and woodlands along major rivers. Significant native species include nationally listed Buxton Gum, and Barred Galaxias and state-listed Brush-tailed Phascogale and Euroa Guinea-flower.

The lower catchment contains grassy and shrubby woodlands and box-ironbark forests. The flat, fertile plains adjacent to the major river systems make up the catchment’s most depleted area, with many vegetation types endangered or vulnerable.

Few of the lower catchment vegetation areas and habitats are in conservation reserves. Threatened native species include the nationally listed Regent Honeyeater, Swift and Superb Parrot, Small Scurf-pea and Stiff Groundsel and the State-listed Grey-crowned Babbler, Bush Stone Curlew, Kamarooka Mallee and Yarran Wattle.

Public land makes up 28% of the catchment and contains most of the remaining native vegetation.

Listed Wetlands include the Barmah Millewa Forest, a Ramsar Convention wetland; nationally important wetlands are: Barmah Millewa Forest, Broken Creek, Kanyapella Basin, Lower Broken River, Lower Goulburn River Floodplain, Muckatah Depression, Wallenjoe Wetlands and Central Highlands Peatlands.

For further information:

Commonwealth of Australia