2017 Catchment Condition and Management Report
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Significant policy reform has taken place since the last report in 2012. Victoria has a statewide integrated catchment management strategy, Our Catchments Our Communities, in addition to new water policy in Water for Victoria, a statewide biodiversity plan Protecting Victoria's Environment – Biodiversity 2037, and a long-term plan for addressing climate change in the Climate Change Framework . How these new policies fit into integrated catchment management, and the problems they seek to address, are detailed in Chapter 2.
For the first time, VCMC looks beyond just statewide condition reporting, presented in Chapter 3, to regional reporting, in Chapter 4, done in collaboration with CMAs, Melbourne Water, and their regional partners. A consistent set of five themes form the basis of this reporting: land, water, biodiversity, coasts and community. As with past Catchment Condition and Management Reports, this report has been limited by a lack of data and inaction on previous recommendations around developing robust processes for reporting. VCMC has identified a need for an independent investigation of the consolidation of catchment condition and management reporting, which forms the basis of Recommendation 1: Improve the quality of reporting.
Likewise, monitoring of condition is inconsistent and often ad-hoc or project-based, and does not enable CMAs to demonstrate outcomes against the priorities in Regional Catchment Strategies. VCMC would like to see greater consistency of monitoring to inform catchment condition and management reporting, focused on Regional Catchment Strategy goals and SMART targets, as proposed in Recommendation 2: Implement mandatory monitoring.
Community involvement and co-investment is key to the success of integrated catchment management, but information on these and on what is important or concerning to communities is inconsistent or lacking. Community participation numbers only tell part of the story, and are not always consistently collected across the CMAs. Better information on the views of community and the quality of community involvement is needed to enable better decision making and policy development. This is reflected in Recommendation 3: Involve catchment communities.
VCMC's 20-year assessment is that condition is declining or stable across the five themes, but that management of catchments has improved and has a largely positive outlook. To make progress towards improving catchment condition, secure funding for catchment management programs is required to maintain management effort over the long term, as proposed in Recommendation 4: Provide a five-year funding cycle. VCMC makes these recommendations, derived from the information in this report, from the combined expertise and experience of the members and the project team, and from many other sources. The recommendations align with VCMC's vision:
|1||Improve the quality of reporting Consolidate statewide reporting for catchment condition and management to improve the quality of reporting.||Independent agency*,
oversight by DELWP
|2018 - 2019|
|2||Implement mandatory monitoring Undertake consistent reporting of condition and management across the state using SMART targets to prioritise the Regional Catchment Strategies.||DELWP and CMAs||2018; for inclusion in CMA Annual Reports 2018-19|
|3||Involve catchment communities Adopt an on-going, measurable engagement process with all catchment communities to enable improved decision making and policy development.||DELWP and CMAs||2018; and annually from then on|
|4||Provide a five-year funding cycle Support cost-effective investment by government in the CMAs in achieving community-led priorities through the Regional Catchment Strategy framework.||DELWP||2018|
VCMC has assessed the condition of the catchments across the state, using the five themes from Our Catchments Our Communities. This assessment is more qualitative than quantitative as it draws on the information available to this report from the last five years, combined with the CMAs' 2015-16 annual report assessments of catchment condition and management. Note that a 'Coasts' theme is used since marine information is not available to include in 2017. Assessment of condition is rated on a three-point scale as 'good', 'moderate', or 'poor', and applies to the last five years, 2012-16.
Condition across the state follows the general east-west trajectory of previous assessments, with the better conditions in East and West Gippsland, Corangamite and the North East CMA regions. This report demonstrates these regional differences in more detail in Chapter 4.
Victoria's land resources underpin the state's economic activity through primary production, provide essential ecosystem services through conservation, and enable housing and services for a growing population. The Victorian Catchment Management Council (VCMC) recognises that reporting on this complex theme is challenging, especially since there is no overall statewide strategy, and few goals or targets in place. VCMC finds that the condition of land used for dryland cropping and grazing has declined from 2011 to 2016. This finding was indicated by an increase in area of bare soils, consistent with a reduction in groundcover, as determined by satellite measurements. The assessment was made at the Autumn break, which is the time of greatest risk of wind erosion. VCMC acknowledges that satellite monitoring of ground cover can help track change, but that understanding changing land management practices requires extensive on-ground monitoring.
Water is important to Victorians, both as a resource to be utilised and as a key part of our natural environment. Water resources underpin a range of uses, including recreation, the supply of water to cities and towns, agricultural use for irrigation and stock watering, and water for the environment. Victoria's waterways and catchments have been impacted by past land use and river management practices, including clearing of riparian vegetation, regulation of rivers and extraction of water, the introduction of invasive species, nutrient pollution and sedimentation. VCMC finds that the condition of Victoria's waterways are stable or declining, as indicated by benchmarking through the Index of Stream Condition. Our waterways face increasing pressure from climate change and reduced availability of water resources. Management efforts in this theme have been highly positive over the last 20 years. VCMC commends the 2016 release of the Water Plan: Water for Victoria.
Victoria's biodiversity has been adversely impacted by past land management practices, including clearing of native vegetation, and the introduction of pest plants and animals. While management efforts have made significant progress in protecting what remains, there are ongoing challenges from legacy impacts and from climate change. VCMC concludes that the generalised condition of biodiversity at the statewide level continues to decline. VCMC recognises the challenges of measuring biodiversity condition and trends at a statewide scale, and recommends strategic investment in this area. There are successes at the local level and these can be accelerated through more information and targeted research, increased collaboration in management, and investment that is commensurate with community expectations and the magnitude of the issues being addressed. VCMC commends the 2017 release of the biodiversity plan Protecting Victoria's Environment – Biodiversity 2037.
The monitoring of condition of Victoria's coasts is currently very fragmented, focused mainly on specific issues or in particular locations, such as marine national parks. The Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability's State of the Bays 2016 made progress in reporting on this theme for Port Phillip and Western Port Bays. VCMC is unable to make any sound assessment of the condition of the coasts and marine areas statewide, due to lack of information. At the same time, Victorians have a great awareness of the coasts and are active participants in its management and protection. There are positive changes occurring in the management of coasts and marine areas which will require relevant information and research, good governance and increased collaboration across agencies and communities.
Victoria's communities play a vital role in Integrated Catchment Management. VCMC recognises the substantial value of local and regional organisations in contributing to protecting and improving natural assets and other integrated catchment management outcomes. VCMC perceives a lack in information about communities' concerns regarding catchment condition and management, what services they expect and what they are prepared to do or give towards optimising these services. Better measures of community involvement in catchment management are needed, that reflect changes in attitude, knowledge, skills, co-investments, and participation.
VCMC acknowledges the significant importance of Victoria's regional delivery model in managing this state's land, water and biodiversity assets, with CMAs collaborating with many partners in planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting, and community engagement. This report uses available regional information to draw a picture of what is happening at the regional level regarding selected aspects of catchment condition and management. However, VCMC concludes that there continues to be a lack of reportable information on condition, trends and outcomes in a comparable form across the CMAs, despite significant efforts regarding management actions, outputs and some simple catchment indicators.
To see the report card and cases study for each CMA region, please click on the relevant region on the map below.