National NRM update for October 2020.  In recognition of National Water Week (19-25 October) our update for this month is largely focused on aquatic themed projects. This update represents just a handful among the hundreds of NRM projects going on across Australia, which are made possible through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and from respective State governments.

Victoria’s North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is undertaking two fish passage projects on the Ovens River aimed at restoring habitat to support endangered native fish species. Construction of the two fish passage projects will be managed by North East CMA in partnership with Alpine Shire Council and Goulburn Murray Water and aim to provide important fish habitat and refuge for nationally significant native species including Silver Perch, Flat-headed Galaxias, Trout Cod, Macquarie Perch and Murray Cod.

Funding for the projects is part of the Victorian Government’s $2.7 billion Building Works package. Native fish habitat and endangered native fish species will be boosted by $17 million for environmental waterway works across northern Victoria. For more information, visit the North East CMA news page.

Developed in partnership with WA’s Department of Water, Wheatbelt NRM have released a guide to managing the Avon Waterways. With over 55,000 km of waterways in the Avon River Basin, the guide aims to provide a best practice approach for land owners and managers to improve the value of the region’s waterways and wetlands. It includes practical information on the waterways of this region, tools for managing them and an overview of the issues that affect them. Download a pdf of the guide at the link.

Image credit: Neil Bull, Rice Growers Association of Australia

NSW’s Murray Local Land Services has teamed up with SunRice, the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia and Riverina Local Land Services to investigate what defines sustainable rice production, and how industry can verify farmers’ sustainability success through the development of an industry sustainability credentials framework. The project, supported by Murray LLS through funding from the NLP, has engaged a pilot group of 21 Riverina rice farming businesses to help build a framework that will share the unique environmental, economic and community benefits generated from production.

SunRice recently hosted workshops with the pilot growers’ group to gather feedback on the framework design and industry ambition. Growers focused on ensuring they’re caring for their natural resources, embracing the latest innovation to achieve best practice, supplying healthy, high quality rice to consumers and leaving a legacy for future generations.

A new $5 million federally funded project, to be delivered by Queensland’s Terrain NRM, will work to improve the connectivity between freshwater and estuarine environments as well as the condition of upstream habitat,  fish populations and diversity. This will boost populations of iconic fish species including Jungle Perch, Barramundi, Mangrove Jack and Tarpon in the Murray and Lower Herbert Basins. Project activities will include managing weeds and feral pigs, addressing fish barriers, improving management of drains and farm creeks and getting the community involved in activities such as ‘Adopt a Creek’ or ‘Adopt a Wetland’. For more information on the project, visit the Terrain NRM news page.

Image credit: Josh Gunn

Over the last four years, the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA has been working with Mornington Peninsula Shire, Parks Victoria, Trust for Nature and Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation to protect some of Victoria’s most vulnerable species in the most biodiverse areas of the Mornington Peninsula. This year the ‘Protecting and Connecting Species and Communities on the Mornington Peninsula’ project has come to a close, with significant outcomes being achieved on the ground. Key outcomes include 181ha of weed control, 6 ha of significant orchid habitat protected and 216ha of pest animal control to protect Hooded Plovers. Head to the PPWCMA website for a full summary.

The Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board has recently signed a new five-year partnership agreement with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to deliver environmental water to targeted wetlands along the SA River Murray. The river’s natural variable flows have changed due to regulation- initially for navigation and later to support large-scale water diversions – and many wetlands along the river corridor do not receive the regular inundation they need without some deliberate management action. Each year the Board’s Wetlands Team plan and manage watering of dozens of wetland sites to replicate natural wetting and drying patterns and have achieved some fantastic outcomes, supported by environmental water provided by the CEWO. For more information on the partnership, head to the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board news page.

NRM South have secured funding to a combined value of $630k for two fish habitat restoration projects in southern Tasmania. Funding will go towards managing the reflooding of stranded saltmarsh communities in Pitt Water-Orielton Lagoon and installing ecologically friendly mooring systems in North West Bay. The two Tasmanian projects are among 28 projects to be funded across Australia under the Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program. This funding will see Regional Land Partnership providers and recreational fishing groups partner to directly improve fish habitats. For more information,visit the NRM South news page.

The Kangaroo Island Landscape Board was also successful in receiving project funding under the Australian Government’s Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program to build a series of 20 small, native oyster shellfish reefs that will provide important habitat for premium recreational fishing species, such as King George whiting and southern calamari, for threatened species of pipefish and sea dragons, and contribute to the national shellfish reef restoration initiative.

The reefs will support recreational fishers and the local tourism industry by providing recreational fishers with more opportunities to access key recreational species. They will also play an important ecological function, boosting marine biodiversity and improving water quality through hosting filter feeders such as oysters. 

Local farmers and agribusinesses recently attended a ‘WaterCents, Mulch Cover, Plant Sense’ field day at Douglas Daly in the NT, coordinated by Territory NRM. Information was presented on the use of digital strategies to record weather data, measure in-crop stress and monitor soil moisture to improve water management as part of the ‘Smart Farms, Small Grants’ WaterCents project funded under the NLP. The importance of conservation farming practices and mulch management in sowing and crop establishment in the Top End was highlighted, including reducing impacts of heavy rainfall and hot soil surface temperatures, improving soil health and optimising planting time.
The CRC for Developing Northern Australia  and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation also contributed to the field day, recognising the importance of improved water and soil management practices for better environmental, financial and plant production outcomes.

Healthy Land and Water have released of the results of their annual report card for South East Queensland. This is a milestone year, marking 20 years of scientific monitoring at freshwater, estuarine, marine, and event sites across the region. The Report Card provides an annual assessment of the ecosystem health of the region’s waterways via A-F health grades. Given the importance of waterways to the people of South East Queensland, it also incorporates the social and economic benefits that waterways provide to local communities though a 1- 5 star rating. To view a copy of the latest report, click here.

An AgriFutures Australia project is working to improve the long-term profitability of primary producers through the development of novel weed biological control (biocontrol) solutions. Made possible through funding from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Rural R&D for Profit program, the initial project New biocontrol solutions for sustainable management of weed impacts to agricultural profitability was established to promote biocontrol as a cost-effective solution for landscape-scale weed management. Find out more at the link.

The Australian Government has announced its Ag2030 plan to support the farm sector’s ambition of a $100 billion industry by 2030. The Government has identified seven priority key areas of action that will support the industry’s vision; Trade & Exports, Innovation & Research, Human Capital, Fair, Strong and Resilient Supply Chains, Stewardship, Biosecurity and Water & Infrastructure. This plan is ensuring Australian agricultural producers receive maximum returns for their hard work and are supported by vibrant rural and regional communities. To read the Ag2030 Plan, click here.