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Gunbower–Koondrook–Perricoota Forest

Gunbower Forest - watering events 2016–17

Environmental water was delivered to Gunbower Forest in 2016-17 for the third consecutive year. Approximately 3.1 GL of environmental water was delivered to the forest using water from the Living Murray (TLM) (2.9 GL) and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (0.2 GL). The watering sought to inundate permanent and semi permanent wetland vegetation, improve connectivity for native fish, and maintain suitable feeding, breeding and refuge habitat for waterbirds. This followed on from the forest being watered from unregulated flows.

Site managers are continuing to monitor the outcomes of this watering event. Information will be made published when it becomes available.

Aquatic plants flourish during flooding in the Gunbower Forest.

Ecological objectives

There are 5 high-level ecological objectives for the Gunbower Forest:

  • increase area of healthy permanent and semi-permanent wetlands
  • ensure maintenance of healthy river red gum communities
  • maintain black box and grey box communities
  • provide suitable feeding, breeding and refuge habitat for waterbirds, including colonial nesting species
  • maintain healthy populations of native fish in wetlands and increase opportunities for riverine fish to access floodplain resources
  • increase the diversity and abundance of native frog species within the forest.

Environmental works

Construction of The Living Murray (TLM) environmental works at Gunbower Forest were completed in 2014. The works allow water to be directed from Gunbower Creek (part of the Torrumbarry irrigation system) into the forest allowing water managers to simulate a more natural flooding regime. Under full operation, the works will allow wide-scale watering of up to 4,800 ha of forest.

Barapa Water for Country Project, Gunbower

The Barapa Water for Country Project has identified, mapped and recorded the cultural values of the Gunbower Forest. This information can be used by North Central Catchment Management Authority and Barapa Barapa to ensure the rich cultural and spiritual values of the Forest can be represented in environmental watering plans.

The Barapa Culture Team was formed to undertake field work to gain and share knowledge on culturally important plants, and cultural heritage such as earth mounds, scar trees and shell middens. A major success of the project has been the sharing of knowledge on Country between cultures and generations.

Through their work, the Team created films and pamphlets to showcase their achievements, Barapa Barapa cultural heritage, and culturally significant plants on Country.

The project participants have also educated Aboriginal children who attend a cultural immersion program ‘The Meeting Place’. The children were invited to a field work day where the team shared the protocols around Welcome to Country, demonstrated a smoking ceremony and taught the children how to cook with bush tucker.

Elder Uncle Neville Whyman says the project will help to look after both environmental and cultural values of the Gunbower Forest. “Water is important to make our connection to Country,” he said. “The project will learn from the historical evidence — and we need to bring our young ones along with us. If we don’t, we’ve got no generation behind us that’s got the knowledge. We can only do that by bringing them out on Country — and there’s got to be something here (for them to see)” — Barapa Cultural Heritage Mapping of Lower Gunbower Forest Project, Australian Government Indigenous Heritage Grant

The team has given cultural insight to the Catchment Authority staff and contractors that undertake work in Gunbower Forest, as well as to the local community. Through the program, they have been able to share their aspirations and raise cultural awareness about the impacts of management on the health of their traditional lands and waters. The project is co-funded through the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

For more information, visit the North Central Catchment Management Authority website.

Past watering events

Water Year Volume (GL)* Outcomes
2015-16 28.7 Native vegetation growth, seed bank replenishment, fish passage
2014–15 37.4 Fish breeding, habitat and passage
2013–14 10.2 Commissioning (testing) of Hipwell Rd regulator
2012–13 Nil No environmental water delivered, but some natural flooding occurred
2011–12 0.6 Bird breeding, fish habitat and passage

Koondrook­–Perricoota Forest - watering events 2016–17

Environmental water was also delivered to support a colonial waterbird breeding event at The Pollack wetland. The waterbird breeding was triggered by the natural flooding in the Edward-Wakool system. Around 1,000 breeding pairs were observed and included white-necked herons, nankeen night herons, great and intermediate egrets, and cormorants. The environmental water was delivered using water from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (approximately 1.5 GL).

Site managers are continuing to monitor the outcomes of this watering event. Information will be made published when it becomes available.

Flooding in the Gunbower–Koondrook–Perricoota Forest.

Ecological objectives

The overarching objective for the Koondrook–Perricoota icon site is to maintain and restore a mosaic of healthy floodplain communities as indicated by:

  • 80% of permanent and semipermanent wetlands in healthy condition
  • 30% of river red gum forest in healthy condition
  • successful breeding of thousands of colonial waterbirds at least 3 years in 10
  • healthy populations of resident native fish in wetlands.

Environmental works

Environmental water management structures at Koondrook–Perricoota include regulators and levee banks. These allow water managers to direct water into the forest, hold it there and then release it back to the River Murray via the Wakool River. Under full operating capacity, the works enable up to 16,000 ha of forest to be watered.

Past watering events

Water Year Volume (GL)* Outcomes
2015-16 1.5  Five frog species heard calling, good wetland vegetation growth, 12 bird species
2014–15 26.4 Wetland vegetation, reduction of weeds, refuges for small bodied native fish refuges, testing water management structures
2013–14 Nil Not watered — preparing for 2014–15 watering
2012–13 Nil Not watered because of construction of water management structures (some natural flooding occurred)
2011–12 Nil Not watered because of construction of water management structures (some natural flooding occurred)

*All environmental water holders