New wetlands on the lower Latrobe

A large wetland on the lower Latrobe River has filled and dried for the first time since restoration works were completed in June 2017.

The wetland, covering more than 450 acres, filled when the natural hydrology was restored by blocking drains to the river.

West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority’s (WGCMA) Project Office Latrobe, Dan Cook, said the old drains meant the wetland was only ever half filling and then draining.

“This doesn’t make a very effective wetland,” said Dan. “It also meant that it was difficult to farm. It wasn’t a great wetland, but neither was it great farming land.

“The wetland now fills in flood and the water stays there for a longer period so it can be used by fish and birds. Wetland plants also have a chance to establish.”

The wetland borders an important forest area, featuring high quality swamp paperbark and red gum woodlands.

“Restoring the hydrology to the wetland is a win/win, both for the environment and for better grazing and farming regimes,” explained Dan.

“By allowing controlled grazing when the wetland is dry, we can better manage pasture grasses such as Reed Canary Grass. This is an introduced grass brought in to turn wetlands into grazing land. By allowing controlled grazing we can stop the spread of these introduced grasses – giving the wetland plants space to flourish.”

The new wetland covers four properties and adjoins restored meanders and billabongs on the Latrobe. It also complements years of willow control on the Latrobe River.

“This is a really exciting project,” says Dan. “Restoring waterways and wetlands can be slow work. This wetland is linking up work that we’ve done in the past and now that its filled for the first time we will really start to see some benefits.”

Linking wetlands and billabongs is important as some of the frogs and other animals that use them cannot move long distances easily.

Providing wetlands that link to rivers and other wetlands means native animals can move safely between them.

This partnership project has been completed with the participation of four landowners, West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Greening Australia, the Arthur Rylah Institute and the Department of Agriculture.

Hydrology of the wetland has been fixed by blocking drains
Wetland on the lower Latrobe River
Wetland on the lower Latrobe River