Rainbow Creek Thomson River public meeting outcome

Plans to manage the Rainbow Creek and Thomson River near Cowwarr have been received positively by members of the community at a recent public meeting. 

The Thomson River Rainbow Creek Management Plan had been developed over more than 12 months and included a number of public and stakeholder meetings as well as more informal catchups with landholders along the stretch of river. 

More than 30 stakeholders attended the public meeting in late February at the Cowwarr Public Hall to hear about the plan and discuss its implications. 

“After a year or so of talking with a range of local people and drawing on their knowledge and experience we’re delighted that there has been pretty much acceptance of what we’re proposing,” said CEO of the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Mr Martin Fuller. 

“What our models show and what local people also know, is that flooding in the Thomson has a major impact on people’s lives. The proposed works won’t stop floods but aim to minimise the largest economic, environment and social impact.  

We think we have achieved a good level of consensus as a result of the community process. To tap into such a wealth of local knowledge has really produced a solid plan,” added Martin. 

“A range of measures are identified that will improve the health of the two waterways and, importantly, lower the risk of a major flood causing another ‘breakaway’ water course as occurred in the 1950s when the Rainbow Creek developed after a flood.” 

Proposed works in the Plan include: 

  • the removal of around 52 hectares of willows and the planting of native vegetation in its place  
  • 35 kilometres of riparian (riverside) fencing 
  • 30 off-stream water toughs for livestock 
  • treatment of high-risk in-stream blockages as required 
  • river-bank treatment such as rock armouring at five avulsion hotspots 

Project Officer, Mr David Stork, says while it’s not possible to avoid floods, the outcome of the proposed works will produce a more resilient waterway. 

“There’s no doubt that sooner or later we’ll see another major flood on the Thomson, but what this suite of works will do is reduce the risks associated with the Thomson changing course or avulsing as it did in the 50s. 

“By removing willows, fencing off river-banks and reducing the risk of the river ‘breaking away’ or avulsing, we’d expect to see a more natural and stable river. One that maximises local natural values, benefits the community, agriculture, and water supplies, and reduces the risk of large sediment loads to the Gippsland Lakes.” 

The initial cost of implementing the Management Plan is approximately $4 million with additional ongoing costs of around $70,000 per year for maintenance. 

WGCMA is currently seeking funding opportunities to implement the Management Plan 

Published Friday February 28th 2020

Aerial shot of Rainbow Creek