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 email@example.com
Terms of Reference
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THE MOSAIC OF MOTHER NATURE
Perched in a spectacular nest high above the Little Reedy Wetland Complex on the Gunbower floodplain, a pair of threatened white-bellied sea eagles have worked together to successfully breed for the past three years.
The pair has relied on the health of the semi-permanent wetlands below to rear their chicks, and survive and thrive themselves.
However, it’s not only Australia’s second-largest raptor that relies on the health of the Little Reedy wetlands.
The complex is made up of three separate wetlands, and they are all very busy places.
They provide a mosaic of different types of habitat for a range of animals that all want different food, different resting areas and hiding places, different nesting materials and different places to sun themselves or hide from the elements.
“Water is central to providing all that,” North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Acting Program Delivery Executive Manager Rohan Hogan said.
“Whether it’s helping to grow the flowers and seeds, rushes or reeds or small fish and waterbugs, the right amount of water at the right times means life for all different kinds of animals.
“The last thing any waterway needs is to become a monoculture.”
Little Reedy Wetland Complex is home to a whole raft of fish, water birds, rakali, mammals, frogs, turtles and wetland plants, and the current dry conditions have been tough on them all.
Victorian Environmental Water Holder co-Chief Executive Officer Beth Ashworth said dry conditions have affected farmers, communities and the environment across the Murray-Darling Basin.
“We can’t water everything in a dry year and have to make careful choices about which parts of the environment we can look after,” she said.
“So we are focusing on our highly productive wetland habitats such as the Little Reedy Wetland Complex that support a large range of different ecological values.”
To help these animals, and build resilience if the current dry conditions continue, up to six gigalitres of water for the environment will top-up the wetland complex from mid July.
“With moderate rainfall over winter so far and carryover available for both irrigators and the environment, the top-up will provide an important drink for native plants and animals, especially the birds and small-bodied native fish,” Mr Hogan said.
“The timing of this top-up flow also coincides well with the spring pulse in the Murray River, which aims to refresh and protect habitat for native fish, waterbirds and other animals down the length of the river.”
Access to a handful of tracks around the Little Reedy Wetland Complex may be temporarily restricted over late winter and early spring due to water across access tracks.
However, the popular camping and fishing spots along Gunbower Creek and the Murray River will still be accessible, with the main 2WD tracks remaining open.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DELWPLoddonMallee/) will provide regular track closure updates.
The Gunbower water for the environment 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.