Gunbower Forest spans 20,000 hectares along the Murray River floodplain near Cohuna, downstream from Echuca.
As an internationally important wetland it includes one of the most significant remaining areas of river red gum forest in Australia. It is also Australia’s largest inland island, bounded by the Murray to the north and Gunbower Creek to the south.
The forest is home to many endangered plants and animals, such as the giant banjo frog and the intermediate egret. It contains numerous sites of Aboriginal and post-settlement cultural heritage. These sites indicate peoples ‘strong connection to the forest, both historically and today.
Recreational activities, such as camping, kayaking, fishing, riding and bushwalking are very popular throughout the forest.
The North Central Catchment Management Authority's mission for Gunbower Island is to maintain and improve Gunbower Island by enabling native plants and animals to flourish, restoring the floodplain's health for future generations.
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Watering of the forest
The Flooding for Life project aims to restore regular flooding to Gunbower Forest.
Without the ability to deliver large volumes of environmental water, many of the rare plants and animals of Gunbower Forest will disappear.
The Flooding for Life project incorporates a combination of environmental watering, engineering works, monitoring, indigenous partnership programs and community engagement.
The pattern of the Murray River's flow is no longer natural. It is highly controlled through the placement of dams and weirs along its length.
Regulation of the Murray River has meant that fewer floods occur and, when they do, less water breaks the river's banks and reaches Gunbower Forest. This has impacted on the diverse plant and animal life throughout the forest.
Since 2003, managed floods, using environmental water, have been delivered to Gunbower Forest stimulating many of the environmental benefits of natural floods.
The water provides a refuge for waterbirds and fish in an otherwise parched landscape. It enables wetland plants to complete their lifecycle and replenish their seed banks, improving their resilience.
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Interested community members in north central Victoria have been invited to turn their knowledge and passion for one of the area’s most significant natural gems into action.
Gunbower Island is an internationally important wetland and includes one of the most significant remaining areas of river red gum forest in Australia.
The forest is home to many endangered plants and animals, such as the giant banjo frog and the intermediate egret, and contains numerous sites of Aboriginal and post-occupation cultural heritage.
The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) manages projects in the Gunbower Island region, including The Living Murray and the Gunbower and Lower Loddon Native Fish Recovery Plan.
Both these projects benefit the Gunbower Forest and Gunbower Creek and have significant tourist and economic benefits for the region, and there are a range of other projects we are working on, or will soon be, in the area.\
We want the community to be involved, to have their say and to have an input into how all these projects are managed.”
The North Central CMA is inviting community members to be part of the Gunbower Island Community Reference Group.
The CRG enables you to work closely with us, find out as much as possible about these projects and act as a conduit to, and with, the wider community.
We know the importance of local input and local knowledge, and that’s why we want community members to come on board, have their say and contribute.
To find out more, click on the resources below. Locals can also email Ms Piscitelli at firstname.lastname@example.org
Terms of Reference
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PROTECTING OUR MAGIC LAGOON
Reedy Lagoon is an oasis for more than just the endangered plants and animals that rely on it to survive.
It’s a place loved by the local community and popular with tourists. It’s important to Traditional Owners and, on any given day, really is spectacular.
“Reedy is one of our magic little spots in the forest that’s valued by locals and visitors,” local dairy farmer and Gunbower Island Community Reference Group member Jodie Hay said.
And in dry times, it becomes even more important.
“Reedy Lagoon is in really good condition because of the work done over the previous decades,” Victorian Environmental Water Holder Chairperson Denis Flett said.
“It is one of the very few permanent wetlands in the mid Murray region that is still in good condition.
“It was one of the only wetlands to receive water during the Millennium Drought and it has been managed with water for the environment for the past 15 years. That’s how important it is.”
This year, more animals and plants are relying on it staying healthy.
“Reedy Lagoon is important locally because it is critical habitat for endangered species and provides a seed source for the Murray River,” North Central Catchment Management Authority Program Delivery Executive Manager Tim Shanahan said.
“There aren’t too many permanent wetlands in the region, especially with the drought in NSW. And those that are permanent are likely to be irrigation or recreation storages, which generally offer poorer quality habitat for waterbirds.
“A lot of waterbirds bred in the forest and in Reedy Lagoon last year, and the area is also a hotspot for waterbirds coming south escaping the dry.”
This year, the wetland has drawn down quickly on the back of one of the hottest summers on record, and it is time for a drink.
“The wetland will be topped up, so it can continue to be an important refuge for the region,” Mr Shanahan said.
“At least 600 megalitres will be needed to ensure it stays healthy.
“The water will start to flow in late May, outside of irrigation season. The regulator is fitted with a carp screen, which stops adult carp entering the wetland in an effort to reduce impacts from carp on the aquatic plants.
“Importantly, this is not the forest. It is a permanent lagoon. Many floodplains have permanent lagoons that sustain native birds and animals such as emus, kangaroos, snakes and all kinds of bugs and small mammals and animals, and Reedy Lagoon is no exception.”
“Delivering water for the environment to Reedy Lagoon will ensure the habitat is maintained for species that inhabit the wetland and provide refuge for other animals that live in the forest,” Mrs Hay said.
VEWH Chair Denis Flett said the lagoon was an important local, state and national wetland, and its future needed to be protected.
“Environmental water can’t be used for any other purpose – it is water legally set aside for the environment to help cover the gap between natural flows and current flows under a regulated system,” he said.
The VEWH is currently reviewing plans for 2019-20 to give a much-needed drink to two other semi-permanent wetlands in Gunbower Forest to ensure that, if dry conditions continue, enough high-quality habitat is available to support waterbirds and other wetland-dependent animals.
The Gunbower Forest Flooding for Life project is delivered by the North Central CMA in partnership with Goulburn–Murray Water, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, DELWP and Parks Victoria.
It is part of The Living Murray program, a joint initiative of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the MDBA.
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Environmental works enable more efficient use of environmental water and include engineering works like flow control regulators, pipes and pumps.
Engineered approaches of this kind can allow us to deliver water to wetlands and floodplains, even in the worst droughts.
These works can achieve similar environmental benefits to a natural flood, using much less water.