Curdies River Consultative Committee meeting
The Consultative Committee at Peterborough Hall
The first Consultative Committee meeting was held on Wednesday 10th August at Peterborough Hall. The meeting was Chaired by the Corangamite CMA and involved representatives from Agriculture Victoria, West Vic Dairy, Wannon Water, Parks Victoria, Corangamite Shire. Moyne Shire, Environment Protection Authority, Heytesbury District Landcare Network, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Deakin University, as well as 5 community representatives.
A key function of the consultative committee is to be a transparent and effective platform for knowledge sharing, consultation and collaboration. An extension to this is a commitment to keeping the community updated via this e-newsletter and other media platforms.
To set the context, Corangamite CMA provided a presentation on past and current research and management in the Curdies River catchment. Key points included:
A 2005 Ecological Risk Assessment found that the key issue causing blue green algae blooms was the diffuse phosphorus load in the catchment. This means that there is no single source of nutrients entering the river, but instead that it is coming from many areas across the catchment. The extremely high level of phosphorus in the river creates long-term challenges in improving the river’s health.
A range of monitoring and management activities have been undertaken since 2005 by different agencies. These include:
Continued long-term water quality monitoring via permanent monitoring gauges. Information from these gauges is publicly available at: Water Measurement Information System - see Gauges 235203 and 235268.
Long- and short-term water quality monitoring undertaken by dedicated volunteers, with support from CCMA, as part of the Waterwatch (since 2001) and EstuaryWatch (since 2013) programs. This information is publicly available at EstuaryWatch Portal and Waterwatch Portal (click on the interactive maps to find Curdies data).
- Heytesbury Soil and Dairy Action Program from 2005-2008, run by DPI (predecessor to Agriculture Victoria) and Heytesbury District Landcare Network, involving landholder incentives, education and soil testing activities.
- Sustainable Dairies program, which has run since 2016 as a partnership between Corangamite CMA, Agriculture Victoria, WestVic Dairy and Landcare and focuses on supporting farmers to improve effluence management and fertiliser use. Recent follow up visits have found that participating farmers continue to implement good effluent management practices, as well as other positive on-farm actions.
- Recent EPA compliance activities, which involved an audit of 25 dairy farms and found that most farmers have good effluent management practices in place. Two of the 25 sites inspected were given formal compliance advice due to overflowing or seeping discharge from effluent ponds.
Scott’s Creek stability project, which included a full geomorphic assessment of Scott’s Creek and the use of grade control structures, weed control, revegetation and stock exclusion fencing to reduce bed and bank erosion and the movement of sediment.
Fishways installed to enable fish passage, and timber (fish hotels) installed in the estuary to improve habitat. If you’re visiting the Fat Cow Café in Timboon, take a look at the beautiful painting of the Timboon trestle bridge rock ramp fishway hanging on the way as you enter. This fishway was installed by the Corangamite CMA in 2012.
Corangamite CMA Waterways Protection Program that provides Incentives to land managers to undertake pest plant and animal control, fencing and revegetation along riverbanks. Since 2002, approximately 30% (or 100km) of named waterways in the Curdies catchment have been fenced and revegetated. There are many more unnamed waterways across the catchment, ranging from rivers to natural depressions, of which the fencing status is unknown.
In 2017, an Estuary Management Plan was developed in collaboration with relevant agencies and key community members, providing a whole-of-catchment focus to the estuary. A recent progress report shows 21/32 actions within this plan are in progress. See 2022 Review of Actions.
During group discussion, it was acknowledged that there have been significant changes made across the catchment over the past 20 years, including improvements in farm practices to reduce nutrient runoff. In addition, given historic nutrient loads in the river, it will take long-term, catchment management to effectively reduce blue green algae blooms. We heard from the Statewide Blue Green Algae coordinator that there are currently no known options within natural waterways to effectively reduce the impacts of toxic algal blooms in the short-term. While this was acknowledged, there was a clear community desire for the group to explore more immediate options to respond to algal blooms.
Deakin University presented their proposed methodology for the Curdies River nutrient enrichment study. They responded to questions regarding how blue green algae blooms occur and how they can or cannot be managed. They invited members to provide any data or qualitative insights they had that could contribute to their study and said that they would consider the feasibility of both short and long-term options to reduce the blooms.
Agencies shared any additional activities being undertaken in the catchment, and community representatives had the opportunity to raise concerns and ask questions of the Committee.
The next steps will be for Deakin University to undertake their study and present initial findings at a community forum on 8th October in Peterborough. The Consultative Committee will meet again in November to review the Deakin work and discuss the next steps.
Further information on the community forum will be promoted soon.