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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 freshwater 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
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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 recognized 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 when water levels are low, and it attracts a different suite of feeding waterbirds as it draws down. One of the most significant species that feed 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, herons, 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

Of the six Goulburn wetlands currently managed with water for the environment, Doctors Swamp, Kanyapella Basin, Loch Garry, and Reedy Swamp are on Yorta Yorta Country. The Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation has been involved in planning for environmental flows at these wetlands for several years, including by participating in the development of environmental water management plans.

Gaynor Swamp and Horseshoe Lagoon are on Taungurung Country. The Taungurung Land and Waters Council has been involved in environmental water planning for both wetlands for several years and in delivering water for the environment at Horseshoe Lagoon since 2021. Taungurung Land and Waters Council has also been working with Parks Victoria to reintroduce aquatic plant species that are either missing or in low numbers at Horseshoe Lagoon to boost their diversity and abundance.

In early 2023, the Goulburn Broken CMA met with the Taungurung Land and Waters Council and the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation to discuss 2023-24 priorities for water for the environment in the Goulburn wetlands. Both groups indicated they support the priorities for the year ahead.

For Yorta Yorta, water for the environment supports many cultural values. At Doctors Swamp, it supports nardoo (a food source), native grasses, old man weed (which has medicinal uses), sedges and rushes (for basket weaving), as well as a wide range of bird and animal species. At Loch Garry, water for the environment supports culturally important food, fibre and medicinal plants. A flow delivered to Loch Garry in April 2020 initiated a resurgence of these plants as well as giant rush, which provided nesting opportunities for important bird species. Loch Garry is rich in cultural values: stone scatters, marked trees, and significant sand hills in the higher elevations.

Kanyapella Basin is important for the Yorta Yorta People’s cultural and spiritual connections. It supports the health of cultural values in the landscape (such as the 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.

The Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWC) has identified that water for the environment supports cultural values by protecting intangible cultural heritage and valued species, traditional food and medicine plants. Participation in environmental water planning by TLaWC and the Taungurung water knowledge group Baan Ganalina (guardians of water) also makes an important contribution to enabling Taungurung Traditional Owners to fulfil their obligations to care for Country. This includes working to restore a more natural watering regime to degraded significant sites and rehabilitating habitat for native species. This, in turn, contributes to reconnecting the Taungurung community to Country through supporting and securing access for Taungurung contemporary cultural practices and uses, teaching places, camping sites, and other places of cultural importance.

The Taungurung people have a special interest in the rehabilitation of floodplain wetlands associated with Waring (Goulburn River reaches 1 to 3), which are now largely disconnected from the main river channel due to the impacts of river flow regulation. The council is currently monitoring biocultural values and habitat conditions at six of the disconnected wetlands as part of the ongoing Reading Country program. This process and its findings will inform future seasonal watering proposals and planning for water for the environment. The council 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.

Increasing the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water management and progressing opportunities towards self-determination in the environmental watering program is a core commitment of the VEWH and its agency partners. This is reinforced by a range of legislation and policy commitments, including the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, the 2016 Water for Victoria, the Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap 2022, 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 that contribution.

Billabong icons

Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support Aboriginal cultural values and uses

Horseshoe Lagoon is of high cultural significance for Taungurung people and, in particular, Taungurung women, as it is central to their Creation Story. In 2017, the Taungurung Land and Waters Council undertook an Aboriginal Waterways Assessment at Horseshoe Lagoon. In 2019, the council participated in the development of the environmental water management plan before the first delivery of water for the environment to Horseshoe Lagoon in winter 2019. In 2021 and 2022, council staff and the Taungurung water knowledge group Baan Ganalina (Guardians of Water) coordinated the delivery of environmental flows to Horseshoe Lagoon by managing the pumping and delivery. This is planned again for autumn 2024.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential environmental watering actions in Table 5.4.3, the 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)

Scope of environmental watering

The term ‘environmental watering’ refers to the active delivery of held environmental water to support particular environmental objectives by altering the flow in a river or the water level in a wetland. While other terms are sometimes used to describe the delivery of environmental water, ‘environmental watering’ is deliberately used here and in seasonal watering statements to ensure consistency in the legal instruments that authorize the use of water for the environment in Victoria.

Table 5.4.3 describes the potential environmental watering actions in 2023-24, their expected watering effect (that is, the intended physical or biological effects of the watering action), and the longer-term environmental objectives they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological effects.

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the Goulburn wetlands

Potential environmental watering action

Expected watering effects

Environmental objectives

Doctors Swamp (partial fill in autumn if the wetland has been dry for at least six months).

  • Inundate 70 percent of the swamp, including deep sections and some shallower margins, to maintain the condition of Red Gum Swamp and Plains Grassy Wetland ecological vegetation classes
  • Provide habitat and suitable breeding conditions for frogs
  • Support plant species used for Yorta Yorta traditional medicines and weaving
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Horseshoe Lagoon (fill in autumn if the wetland has been dry for at least six months).

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  • Inundate the deeper section and wetland margins to maintain naturally occurring wetland vegetation communities and help recently planted vegetation become established
  • Suppress the growth of weeds
  • Provide food and breeding habitat for turtle populations
Turtle iconPlant icon

Page last updated: 01/12/22