Merri Creek Management Committee

Chapter 2.1 Biodiversity and habitat networks

Bioregions

Map 8 - Bioregions of the Merri catchment

Almost all of the Merri catchment falls within the Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion (see Map 8). The ridge to the north and west of the catchment is in the Central Victorian Uplands Bioregion, and the ridge to the east, forming the boundary with the Plenty catchment, is in the Highlands Southern Fall Bioregion.

Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion

Eighty-four percent of the Merri catchment falls within the Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion, which is dominated by Newer Volcanic deposits[45]. These form an extensive flat to undulating basaltic plain with stony rises (edges of old lava flows), numerous volcanic cones and old eruption points. The soils of the bioregion are variable ranging from red friable earths in drier areas to the west, to grey cracking clays in the Merri catchment. They support Plains Grassy Woodland, Plains Grassland, Stony Knoll Shrubland, and Plains Grassy Wetland ecosystems. Along the waterways a range of riparian and aquatic ecosystems occur.

Central Victorian Uplands Bioregion

Twelve percent of the Merri catchment falls within the Central Victorian Uplands Bioregion. Within the Merri Catchment the bioregion is characterised by siltstone and sandstone bedrock and supports Grassy Woodland, Valley Grassy Forest, Grassy Dry Forest, Herb-Rich Foothill Forest and Herb-rich Foothill Forest/Shrubby Forest Complex[46]. This bioregion occupies the north-western slopes of the Merri catchment.

Highlands Southern Fall Bioregion

Four percent of the Merri catchment falls within the Highlands Southern Fall Bioregion. Within the Merri Catchment this bioregion is also characterised by siltstone and sandstone bedrock and supports Valley Grassy Forest, Grassy Woodland and Grassy Dry Forest[47]. This bioregion forms the north-eastern slopes of the catchment.


Biodiversity Planning

Victorias Native Vegetation Framework

Native Vegetation Management: A Framework for action (the Framework) was released in 2002. It was developed to implement the objectives of Victorias Biodiversity Strategy and the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australias Biological Diversity.

'The Framework' is the State Government's strategy to protect, enhance and revegetate Victoria's native vegetation. Its main goal is to achieve a reversal, across the entire landscape of the long-term decline in the extent and quality of native vegetation, leading to a net gain.

Net gain is where overall gains in native vegetation are greater than overall losses and where individual losses are avoided where possible.

In applying the policy, there are three key steps for land managers and owners to address when considering vegetation clearing:

1. Avoid adverse impacts, particularly through vegetation clearance;

2. If impacts cannot be avoided, minimise impacts by careful planning, design and management; and

3. If clearing must occur, the clearing must be offset.

The Framework has been incorporated into the State level provisions of planning schemes. A planning permit is required to remove native vegetation. A number of practice notes have been published by DSE to clarify the process[48].

Most concern for native vegetation is focused on clearing, but maintaining good quality native vegetation is just as important for conserving plants and animals and for maintaining our land in good condition. DSE has developed a standard approach for estimating the quality of an area of vegetation. Known as habitat hectares, it measures a site's condition and landscape context.

Regional Catchment Strategy

Port Phillip and Western Port Catchment Management Strategy
Biodiversity Objectives

BO1 Achieve a net gain in the quantity and quality of indigenous vegetation

BO2 Maintain the diversity of indigenous habitats and species in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments

BO3 Achieve sustainable populations of indigenous flora and fauna species

BO4 Improve the connectivity and long-term security of indigenous habitats and species

BO5 Encourage intelligent use of introduced flora and fauna species with minimal impacts on indigenous habitats and species.

Relevant biodiversity targets

BT1 The total extent of indigenous vegetation increased to at least 35% of the region by 2030

BT2 At least 95% of the regions ecological vegetation classes represented to at least 10% of their pre 1750 extent by 2030

BT3 A net gain in the quality and extent of native vegetation in the region with the total habitat hectares increased by 10% by 2030

BT4 All Ecological Vegetation Classes in the region to have at least 15% of their current extent protected by 2030

BT5 Reduce the number of threatened flora species to less than 250 by 2030 and reduce the number of threatened fauna species to less than 100 by 2030, with no further regional extinctions

BT6 Increase the connections between the regions fragments of native vegetation

BT7 Increase the diversity of native species in modified landscapes and aquatic systems

BT9 No human-induced reduction in species diversity for the freshwater, estuarine and marine environments of the region.

The Port Phillip and Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy identifies many objectives and targets which apply to the Merri catchment. They are listed above. The Port Phillip and Western Port Region is quite diverse with some sections almost completely covered in forest, and others, particularly in the Victorian Volcanic Plain and Gippsland Plain Bioregions largely cleared of native vegetation.

A number of plans sit beneath the Regional Catchment Strategy including the Port Phillip and Western Port Native Vegetation Plan(2006).

The plan maps the original and current extent of native vegetation across the region and identifies four strategic directions:

1. Retain the quantity of native vegetation by minimising clearing

2. Protect native vegetation with reservation and management agreements

3. Maintain and improve the quality of native vegetation; and

4. Increase the quantity of native vegetation

The Native Vegetation Plan identifies Vegetation Protection Priority EVCs for retention, reservation, restoration and revegetation. (see Map 9). It also identifies a number of resource condition targets and management action targets which focus the Regional Catchment Strategy targets to the shorter term i.e. 2015.

The resource condition targets are as follows:

RCT1. Achieve a net gain for all permissible clearing.

RCT2. At least 1.5ha of each Vegetation Protection Priority EVC or 15% of its 2004 extent (whichever is the greater) to be permanently protected in reserves or under management agreements on private land by 2015.

RCT3. Improve the quality of the regions very high conservation significance remnants to achieve a total of 10% increase in Habitat Hectares for these remnants by 2015.

RCT4. At least 95% of the regions EVCs represented to at least 5% of their pre-1750 extent by 2015.

Appendix 3 of the plan sets out new offset requirements for the planning scheme when applications to clear native vegetation are approved by planning authorities.

Biodiversity Action Planning -Landscape Plan for Craigieburn Zone

The Department of Sustainability and Environment has commenced landscape zone planning for biodiversity across the state, based on bioregions within CMA areas. In 2003 they published the Landscape Plan for the Craigieburn Zone Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion (Ross et al 2003), which includes all of the Merri Catchment within the Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion that is 84% of the catchment[49]. Landscape plans for the balance of the catchment, have not been released.

The Craigieburn Zone Landscape Plan provides a good regional overview of the planning and management of native biodiversity. The report summarises the remaining biodiversity assets across all land tenures, and identifies priorities for conservation and restoration of biodiversity. Mechanisms for more efficiently conserving the bioregions key biodiversity assets, including threatened vegetation communities, threatened taxa, wetlands and rivers are identified to provide the basis for further biodiversity planning at increasingly finer scales. It identifies priorities, but does not set targets. It puts much more emphasis on the protection and restoration of habitat on private and public land than on revegetation.

The Plan identifies that the focus of biodiversity management should be to:

1. Protect habitat for threatened flora and fauna within reserves and encourage complementary management of habitat on adjoining private land.

2. Protect and enhance large areas of native vegetation on private land through incentives, purchase, covenants or land management agreements.

3. Protect and enhance areas supporting endangered EVCs and threatened species on public and private land.

4. Develop conservation agreements to protect areas supporting threatened EVCs and threatened species on public land.

5. Protect, enhance and restore riverine corridors especially the Jacksons Creek, Maribyrnong River, Merri Creek and Darebin Creek.

6. Implement Recovery Plans and Action Statements for threatened species and communities on public and private land.

7. Develop a Conservation Management Network for the Merri Creek Valley to protect and manage grassland, woodland, riverine and wetland conservation values.

Merriang Local Area Biodiversity Action Plan

As part of the biodiversity action planning process a Local Area Biodiversity Action Plan for the Merriang area has been prepared by Department of Sustainability and Environment together with the Merriang and District Landcare Group. The Merriang area is on the basalt plain north from Donnybrook Road to Beveridge Road and east from the Hume Freeway to Epping-Kilmore Road.

The plan area includes 41 rural properties owned by 22 landholders. It aims to promote a coordinated approach to conserve the systems that maintain biodiversity across 5000 hectares of farmland in the district. The plan identifies on-ground management actions at the specific property level as well as for the local area.

Other parts of the catchment are not covered by local area biodiversity plans.

Council Natural Heritage/Biodiversity Strategies
Darebin City Council

A Biodiversity Strategy is under development as part of Darebin Councils Heritage Study which commenced in 2007. The Strategy will review related policies to identify gaps and develop new actions. The Strategy is based on a review (OMalley and Kern 2004) which discussed biodiversity issues in the municipality and documented sites with biodiversity values.

Hume City Council

Hume City Councils Natural Heritage Strategy (2006) canvasses many of the biodiversity issues raised in the Regional Catchment Strategy and the Australian Natural Heritage Charter, and applies them broadly to the City of Hume. The Strategy addresses four key themes: Geology and Geomorphology, Indigenous vegetation, Native Fauna, and Waterways, Creeks and Valleys.

It includes 150 actions towards conservation and management of natural heritage. Many of the approaches suggested in the Strategy apply to the Merri catchment.

Mitchell Shire

The Mitchell Shires Environment Strategy discusses the strategic context of Environment for the Shire and lists actions under the headings Land, Water, Air and Community. The Strategy has undergone its second review which was adopted in July 2008.

Moreland City Council

Morelands Open Space Strategy identifies the need for a Biodiversity Strategy, although preparation of the strategy has not yet commenced.

Whittlesea City Council

Whittleseas Local Conservation Strategy 2000 includes a section on flora and fauna which needs updating in the light of the Regional Catchment Strategy and the Regional Native Vegetation Plan. A new Local Sustainability Strategy is in preparation which will supersede the Local Conservation Strategy 2000. An extensive consultation process will be undertaken to inform key directions and actions. The strategy will be developed over a 12 month period, with a draft anticipated by August 2009. Biodiversity planning is a recognised gap and will be a key priority in the new strategy.

Council is also in the process of developing a Green Wedge Management Plan in consultation with the local community and stakeholders. A key objective of this plan will be the long term sustainability of the natural values of our rural areas. A draft Green Wedge Management Plan is likely to be release mid to late 2009.

Yarra City Council

The Yarra Environment Strategy 2000 foreshadows the preparation of a natural Heritage Strategy and Action Plan in 3 stages. The first 2 stages are complete, including desktop and field studies reporting on the significance and condition of Yarras flora, fauna, geology and geomorphology. The third stage is the preparation of the Natural Heritage Strategy and Action Plan.

The Strategy is to cover:

· habitat restoration works including the development of wildlife corridors;

· development and implementation of management plans for vegetation on Council owned land;

· management of the threats to Yarras biodiversity and

· the long-term monitoring of different elements of Yarras biodiversity (vegetation, species distribution etc) and program effectiveness.

The City of Yarra commenced preparation of a new Environment Strategy in 2007.


Retaining Indigenous Vegetation

The Merri Catchment, some 39,040 hectares in area, retains only around 3,112 hectares of currently identified native vegetation[50]. This makes up approximately 8% of the catchment. Most of this vegetation is Plains Grassland or Plains Grassy Woodland (see Map 10 below).

If the target BT3 from the Port Phillip and Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy A net gain in the quality and extent of native vegetation in the region with the total habitat hectares increased by 10% by 2030 is applied to the Merri catchment, achievement of the target would require restoration[51] of degraded grasslands (some of which are so degraded they dont count in current statistics) as well as a dramatically lower rate of clearing of native vegetation in the catchment. Significant recent losses include parts of the Barry Road Grassland destroyed by the Craigieburn Bypass, and parts of the Cooper Street grasslands destroyed by the Metrolink industrial development.

The Port Phillip and Western Port Native Vegetation Plan sets an aspirational target to minimise clearing of all classes of native vegetation across the region, and a resource condition target of Achieve a net gain for all permissible clearing. Little can be done about clearing for purposes allowed by exemptions in clause 52.17-6 of planning schemes.

With a significant proportion of the rural parts of the catchment identified for future urban growth, meeting this target will be a challenge. The main mechanism to regulate clearing is the Native Vegetation Retention Controls (NVR) for areas larger than 0.4ha. Responsible authorities, in considering planning scheme amendments for subdivision of land located where remnant vegetation occurs, must take into account the inevitable clearing that will result by requiring a concurrent application for an NVR permit. Where the removal of the native vegetation cannot be avoided, net gain offsets can be required. An offset is an improvement to the status or condition or extent of native vegetation of the same kind elsewhere.

Map 9 - Bioregional Conservation Status of remnant
vegetation in the Merri catchment.

Data courtesy DNRE 2007

Offsets are a significant opportunity to improve native vegetation along Merri catchment waterways and adjacent lands, however this needs to be facilitated and managed, and a coordinated approach in the three rural municipalities in the catchment.

Recent analysis of changes in distribution of grasslands around Melbourne has shown dramatic reductions in grassland extent over the15 years between 1985 and 2000[52]. 23% of the grassland present in 1985 was destroyed by development, and 21% by degradation. Although significant reservations of grasslands in the Merri catchment have been made in this time, development and degradation are still the key threats to grassland conservation in the catchment.

Reservation and Management Agreements

It is notable that all of the Ecological Vegetation Classes[53] (EVCs) listed for the Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion within the Merri Catchment meet the criteria set down in the Native Vegetation Plan for the highest priority protection (see Table 6)

Protection of remnants by permanent State level reserves

Providing adequate management funding is available, the most reliable long term protection for native vegetation is by reservation. Reservation means addition of areas into the system of publicly owned parks and reserves. This is generally interpreted as meaning reserved under the Victorian National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act or the Crown Land Reserves Act, and DSEs statistics are prepared accordingly. Municipal Reserves dedicated to the protection of native vegetation form a less secure (but very important) category of protection, dealt with below.

Gains in reservation in the Merri Catchment in recent decades include the Craigieburn Grassland (Galgi ngarrk), much of the Cooper Street Grasslands (Bababi marning), of Grassy Woodland at Mt Ridley, and at Central Creek Grassland (Ngarri-djarrang).

Table 6 Priority for vegetation protection of EVCs

EVC

No

Priority for vegetation protection

Plains Grassland

132

Highest

Plains Grassy Woodland

55

Highest

Grassy Woodland

175

Highest

Plains Grassy wetland

125

Highest

Creekline Grassy Woodland

68

Highest

Swampy riparian complex

126

Highest

Basalt Escarpment Shrubland

895

Highest

Streambank Shrubland

851

Highest*

Herb-rich foothill Forest

23

Highest*

Valley Grassy Forest

47

Highest*

Floodplain Riparian Woodland

56

Highest

Grassy Dry Forest

22

Highest*

Scoria Cone woodland

984

Highest

Grey Clay Drainage-line Herbland-Sedgeland Complex

124

Highest

Swampy Woodland

937

Highest*

Riparian Scrub

191

Highest

Riparian Scrub complex

17

Highest

Aquatic Herbfield

653

Highest

Riparian Forest

18

Highest*

Creekline Tussock Grassland

654

Highest

Valley Heathy Forest

127

Highest

Stony Knoll Shrubland

649

Highest

Priority of EVCs in Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion in the Merri Catchment for reservation and management agreements (based on criteria in the Native Vegetation Plan, p 19). * indicates EVCs having a lower priority in one or both of the non-volcanic bioregions

 

More recently a significant area was added to the Cooper Street Grassland Reserve as an outcome of the Hume Freeway hearings. These reserves total 522 ha of Plains Grassland and Plains Grassy Woodland reserved in the Merri catchment. Nonetheless Plains Grasslands and Grassy Woodlands of the middle reaches of the Merri Creek are recognised as having highest priority for reservation.

The Native Vegetation Plan target tables[54] indicate that reservation or management agreements on another 262 ha of Plains Grassland and another 671 ha of Plains Grassy Woodland are needed by 2015 to meet the targets for the Western Basalt Plains bioregion within the Port Phillip and Western Port Region of 15% of both the EVCs 2004 extent permanently protected in reserves or by management agreements.


Map of remnant native vegetation

Map 10 - Remnant native vegetation in the Merri catchment, by Ecological Vegetation Class

It is also reasonable to argue that reservation is the appropriate way to protect all remnants of national or state significance.

Parks Victoria has released a draft proposal for a Merri Creek Park in the middle catchment between the Ring Road and Craigieburn East Road (Parks Victoria 2006). This draft concept is for a park of some 840ha, including the existing Craigieburn and Cooper Street Grasslands, Melbourne Waters Galada Tamboore area, a number of Council-owned parks and reserves, and some additions. Many of the additions contain limited remnant vegetation however.

The nearby Craigieburn East Grassland (280 ha), Craigieburn North Grassland/Grassy Woodland (some 295 ha[55]), and the Grassy Woodland remnants (some 200 ha) to the east of Craigieburn Grassland provide major opportunities to achieve the reservation targets for Plains Grasslands and Grassy Woodlands in the bioregion.

 

Friends of Merri Creek have published a proposal for a much larger park, which also includes areas of cooperative management by private landowners.[56]

Other opportunities for reservation include the Bald Hill grasslands, which were subject to discussions with Boral in the late nineties to manage and enhance parts of the grassland in an extractive industry interest area as an offset for destruction of other sections. Areas of grassland and woodland in the Merriang area also provide opportunities for reservation.

Protection of remnant vegetation in Council reserves

Whilst not as secure as permanent reserves under the State Acts, Council reserves zoned PCRZ or covenanted to protect remnant vegetation, or to a lesser extent zoned PPRZ also protect remnant vegetation. Statistics on this have not been collected, however in the Merri Catchment a large number of small reserves are managed to protect remnant vegetation.

Protection of remnants on private land

In rural areas of the catchment native vegetation on private land is commonly lost or deteriorating through degrading pressures such as grazing, ringbarking by stock, hydrological changes, clearing of stones, salinity, fertilisers, soil dumping, insect damage, gathering of firewood, clearing for tracks, sheds etc.

As opportunities to establish new public land reserves are limited by funding, long-term permanent management agreements on private land are identified as important measures for long term protection of native vegetation.

Some properties are well-managed for conservation by private landowners. However the lo0ng-term reliability of this management is questionable what happens when a keen landowner sells their land?

The Native Vegetation Plan identifies long term permanent management agreements as the key way forward for protection of remnant vegetation on private land. Legally binding management agreements include:

· Trust for Nature Conservation Covenants,

· Section 173 Agreements under the Local Government Act 1989, and,

· Section 169 agreements under the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987.

The Native Vegetation Plan seeks a substantial increase in the area of priority EVCs protected under management agreements. It recognises that statistics are not compiled anywhere about the number of properties already involved by these agreements. According to the Trust for Nature in 2008 no properties in the Merri Catchment had conservation covenants on them.[57]

The Plan also seeks the continuation of land conservancy and land stewardship programs like the Bush Tender Scheme run by DSE. Councils could have a role in this through their rate rebate schemes.

Native vegetation clearing offsets could be managed as an incentive for protection of native vegetation on some rural properties. MCMC could be a clearinghouse for information about landowners willing to receive offsets and developers trying to find places to spend their offsetting money.

Planning scheme protection of native vegetation using Vegetation Protection Overlays (VPOs) has been somewhat superseded by the introduction of the native vegetation clearance controls. Nonetheless overlays such as Whittleseas River Red Gum Grassy Woodland Vegetation Protection Overlay draw developers attention to the presence of these features. Grasslands havent unfortunately been recognised in this way, but the introduction of a native grasslands VPO would highlight this issue.

Soil dumping seems to be escalating as a problem. Dumped soil smothers vegetation and spreads weeds which can be extremely damaging to native vegetation. Whittlesea will be initiating an education, awareness and compliance campaign in the municipality; however a concerted and consistent effort is required across the catchment to address this problem. MCMC, Hume, Mitchell and Whittlesea need to work together on this issue.

Vegetation quality remnant vegetation management

Of the areas in the Merri Catchment that are recorded as having remnant vegetation, much of the vegetation is degraded, but represents some of the rare remaining examples of the vegetation of the basalt plains. Vegetation quality of remnant vegetation in the catchment is rarely high. Native grasslands were grazed from early on in settlement, and those areas that remain have suffered from their grazing and management history.

Unfortunately vegetation quality has not been mapped across the catchment, although for some small areas such mapping has been undertaken. In this context the regional target BT3 of a net gain in the quality and extent of native vegetation in the region with the total habitat hectares increased by 10% by 2030 should be achievable at the catchment level.

The Native Vegetation Plan identifies high priorities for maintaining and improving the vegetation quality of a remnant where the vegetation has a combination of high EVC conservation status and high vegetation quality. Western Basalt Plains (River Red Gum) Grassy Woodland extending from Whittlesea to Epping and West to Craigieburn and Plains Grassland are given as examples of very high priorities.

Native vegetation that is managed inappropriately will degrade and ultimately disappear. It can be invaded by weeds, can act as harbour for vermin, can become a fire hazard and can lead to erosion. Appropriate management of vegetation on public land not only contributes to biodiversity conservation but also ensures benefits to surrounding properties by reducing off-site impacts.

Managing vegetation on public land

The Merri catchment includes a number of publicly owned reserves where conservation is the primary purpose of the reservation (Craigieburn (Galgi ngarrk), Cooper St (Bababi marning), and Mt Ridley Grasslands managed by Parks Victoria, and Central Creek Grasslands (Ngarri-djarrang) managed by Darebin City Council). The status of some reserves whilst ostensibly for conservation is unclear. These include the Jukes Road Grasslands (Bababi djinanang), Malcolm Creek Grasslands, Maygar Grasslands and the Grey Box Woodland Reserve. Many other areas of public land include areas of remnant vegetation, but conservation is not formally recognised as their primary purpose. These include Council parks and gardens, crown land, drainage and sewerage reserves, electricity easements, road reserves, railway lines, and cemeteries.

The Native Vegetation Plan sets targets for benchmarking the quality of existing vegetation, developing and applying an asset-risk assessment methodology and developing action plans. Local governments are identified as important partners in these programs.

Managers of public land need to recognise their responsibility for retaining and managing remnant vegetation, and to set aside resources for the purpose.

Managing vegetation on private land

Improving the management of native vegetation on private land is necessary to achieve the targets of the Regional Catchment Strategy and the Native Vegetation Plan.

DSE is identified in the Native Vegetation Plan as having the lead role of coordinating, supporting and expanding schemes that assist landholders to protect and improve the quality of priority native vegetation patches on private land.[58] Local Government, the PPWCMA, and community groups are identified as key partners. The Cities of Whittlesea and the Mitchell Shire have effective rate rebate schemes, which aim to improve land management including remnant vegetation retention. These schemes have traditionally been Council initiated, funded, and managed. They are not directed by DSE, other than Council ensuring that the scheme objectives are consistent with state relevant policy and strategy. The participation rates in the schemes could be improved.

Hume is developing a Sustainable Land Management Incentive Scheme which will probably include a component on biodiversity protection and enhancement.[59] Hume currently runs a Rural Areas Plant Donation Scheme by which Council encourages participation by landowners in biodiversity enhancement.

Whittleseas Sustainable Land Management Rebate Scheme is voluntary and has 190 properties participating, representing approximately 40% of the eligible properties. The scheme only applies to properties larger than 10 ha outside the urban growth boundary and provides a rate rebate of 20 or 30 per cent depending on property size. The scheme has as one of its criteria protection and/or enhancement of native vegetation.

The Mitchell Shires Land Management Policy 2006 establishes a Land Management Rebate which has as one of its objectives the preservation and enhancement of native flora and fauna. The scheme applies to properties larger than 4 Ha and has approximately 3300 eligible properties. Mitchell Shire also has a conservation covenant annual grant program for privately owned properties.

The Cities of Moreland, Darebin and Yarra, being wholly urban, dont have environmental rate rebate schemes.

Each of the Councils in the upper catchment employs specialist land management officers to provide advice to rural landowners. A good proportion of this advice relates to vegetation management and weed control.

Grant programs for private landowners include Melbourne Waters Stream Frontage Management Program, Melbourne Waters and PPWCMAs combined community grants programs, Landcare grants and Landcare Australia sponsorship programs. Councils also provide grants to landholders for environmental works. For example, Whittlesea has offered the Environmental Works Grants for Private Landholders offered annually since 2002.

Councils also have the opportunity to influence the protection and management of native vegetation on private land via the rural planning application process. For example, for a number of years Whittlesea Council has required the preparation of a land management plan to support rural town planning applications. These plans are based on the principles of whole farm planning and set out a schedule of works for the property, including actions to manage native vegetation. In most cases, council requires the endorsed plan to form a section 173 agreement which carries with the land.

Revegetation

Target BT1 for the Port Phillip and Western Port Region as a whole is to increase the extent of native vegetation to 35% of the region (from 32% existing, i.e. by 3% of the region as a whole). Given the areas set aside for future urban growth, opportunities for increasing the cover of indigenous vegetation in the Merri catchment are limited, however revegetating an additional 3% of the catchment may be possible. This would be an additional 1,171ha by 2030, or 51ha per year.

Target BT2 for the Port Phillip and Western Port region is to have at least 95% of the regions Ecological Vegetation Classes represented to at least 10% of their pre 1750 extent by 2030. The Native Vegetation Plan sets an interim target of at least 95% of the regions EVCs represented to at least 5% of their pre-1750 extent by 2015, which would require revegetation of 480ha per year on the Victorian Volcanic Plain bioregion within the Port Phillip and Western Port region. The Native Vegetation Plan gives detailed targets for each EVC within the region.

The Merri catchment holds 13% of the Victorian Volcanic Plain bioregion within the Port Phillip and Western Port region, so an equal share of the revegetation would see 62 ha revegetated per year in the Merri catchment (totalled across the various EVCs). This is over and above protection of existing remnant vegetation and offsetting plantings.

In the Merri Catchment some increase in native vegetation might result from revegetation of areas set aside for parkland. In other areas private owners might on their own initiative, or with encouragement, revegetate areas. But 62 (or even 50) hectares per year would require a major change in land management strategy. The most effective places to start might be areas which dont currently count as remnant vegetation (under the native vegetation clearance controls) because the native vegetation component is too sparse. Careful management of the grazing regime may lead to these areas partly revegetating themselves. One key opportunity might be in the Hernes Swamp area south of Wallan.

At a municipal level, open space strategies and a range of other documents already provide some guidance on revegetation strategies. These include:

· Vegetation Management Plan for the Merri Creek Tributaries in the City of Darebin (Ecology Australia et al 1999),

· Hume Natural Heritage Strategy (Hume City Council 2006)

· Mitchell Shire Environment Strategy (2008)

· Whittlesea has the following publications available to residents which are relevant to rural landholders within the catchment: Sustainable Gardening in Whittlesea (booklet), Pest Plant Handbook (booklet), Weed Fact Sheets (A4 weed ID sheets based on the 8 weeds listed in the Citys local law), Weed Control Seasonal Guide (A4 fold-out brochure) and City of Whittlesea Indigenous Plant List.

None of these reports map areas to be revegetated however, or set targets.

The Native Vegetation Plan encourages local government, private landowners and public land managers to work together and take a strategic approach to revegetation and the creation of habitat corridors. DSE is given the role of facilitating the development of revegetation plans for all local government areas. These would establish municipal targets for revegetation, map areas for revegetation, and identify strategies for reaching the targets.

Analysis is also needed at the Merri catchment level to identify best areas for revegetation of each EVC and to document the gains that could most easily be made, and to design planting targets to help achieve the regional targets.

A number of Councils have prepared information for urban households and businesses regarding the protection and planting of native species and the control of environmental weeds. The City of Moreland has produced a booklet[60] on gardening with indigenous plants.

The City of Darebin has produced a fold-out list of indigenous plants[61] and a booklet on sustainable gardening[62] which advocates the use of indigenous plants, and has a section of its website devoted to indigenous plants and another to environmental weeds.

The City of Whittlesea funded the production of a booklet for rural and urban fringe landowners on indigenous plants[63]

The City of Yarra has produced two guidebooks relating to revegetation Gardening with Native Plants in Yarra which describes indigenous plants suitable for revegetation in the municipality, and Removing Weeds in Yarra and Planting Indigenous Alternatives[64]

MCMCs book Plants of the Merri Merri[65], which was targeted at urban landowners, has long been out of print.

There is little in the way of demonstration gardens or on-site information in urban areas of the catchment regarding the values of native vegetation. Morelands Jones Park Masterplan provided space for demonstration home garden plantings but this has not been implemented. Some interpretive signage along the Merri Creek includes these messages, however much more could be done in this area.

In order that revegetated areas have some protection, and are themselves not cleared willy-nilly, it is important that the native vegetation clearance controls apply unambiguously to areas revegetated, and that offsets be required if these areas are cleared.

Species conservation

A threatened flora list for the Craigieburn Landscape Zone is included in the Craigieburn Zone Landscape Plan[66]. The majority of plant species of the basalt plain are ground layer plants, and so have been greatly affected by grazing and soil disturbance, and this is reflected in the threatened flora list.

A threatened fauna list is also included in the Landscape Plan[67].

Not all of the threatened flora and fauna on these lists are priorities for management in the Merri catchment some may never have occurred in the Merri catchment. A threatened species list for the catchment should be developed, and the conservation status of each species within the catchment analysed. The catchment status together with the bioregional, state and national statuses should be used to determine priorities for species management. In the interim, the lists from the Craigieburn Landscape Zone could be used for decision-making. Species Conservation Action Plans (where these have been developed) should be used in designing works priorities.

To prioritize sites for management for threatened species, the conservation significance of the native vegetation present should be used as a guide, along with details of the distribution of the species. Appendix 3.3 of the Native Vegetation Plan identifies criteria for assessing the conservation significance of native vegetation.

The nationally endangered Growling Grass Frog is a species which has been intensively studied in the past few years initially as part of the freeway investigations, but subsequently for other projects also[68]. The species distribution in the catchment is definitely retracting north and is primarily affected by road density, the distribution of occupied wetlands in the landscape (denser clusters of wetlands are better), the presence of floating macrophytes and submerged Potamogeton, and the permanence of the wetlands.

The Golden Sun Moth, nationally endangered, and until recently thought to be extinct in the catchment was rediscovered in 2003 by an MCMC staff member. Subsequent surveys have revealed that the Merri catchment is a stronghold for the species. It is not a very mobile species and seems to depend on Wallaby Grass grasslands for its survival[69]. Knowledge of the species in the catchment is patchy, and it may be found at other sites if/when they are suitably surveyed.

Habitat connectivity

In fragmented landscapes the size and position of remnants plays an important role in their suitability as habitat. Whilst larger blocks can support a greater array and larger numbers of species, the connectivity of blocks is also very important. The connections between blocks of habitat are variously called habitat corridors, habitat links, wildlife corridors, biolinks, or just links. In this strategy the terminology of Bennett (1999) is adopted, that is habitat corridor is defined as:
a linear strip of vegetation that provides a continuous (or near-continuous) pathway between two habitats,
and landscape linkage is defined as
a general term for a linkage that increases connectivity at a landscape of regional scale (over distances of kilometres to tens of kilometres); typically such linkages comprise broad tracts of natural vegetation.

The following terms are also useful:

Stepping stone linkages which discrete habitat patches close enough together to form a movement pathway for relatively mobile species of birds and bats that arent able to get all their needs met within the surrounding landscape.

Barriersto wildlife movement include roads, railways, powerline easements, culverts, fences.

Passage structures are structures (i.e. not vegetation) designed to facilitate wildlife movement past a barrier; they include wildlife tunnels, underpasses and overpasses.

Habitat nodes are broader habitat areas which are or are potentially linked by habitat corridors.

Habitat corridors do not replace the need for retaining habitat nodes. By allowing for movement between nodes, adequate habitat corridors avoid problems with:

· species becoming locally extinct because of habitat fragmentation

· species overpopulating a habitat node, being unable to move away from the node, and creating damage to the node from excess grazing pressure etc (e.g. Eastern Grey Kangaroos).

Habitat corridors should be as wide as possible. Minimum widths only make sense in a specific context in relation to a specific plant or animal species, and where the species requirements for movement are known.

Clause 15.01 of the state section of planning schemes requires that planning and responsible authorities where possible should encourage The retention of natural drainage corridors with vegetated buffer zones at least 30m wide along waterways to maintain the natural drainage function, stream habitat and wildlife corridors and landscape values, to minimise erosion of stream banks and verges and to reduce polluted surface runoff from adjacent land uses. Applying a habitat corridor along a waterway may require a greater width than this clause requires for drainage purposes, depending on what species or combination of species it is designed for.

Clause 15.10 requires that planning and responsible authorities should ensure that open space networks Incorporate, where possible, links between major parks and activity areas, along waterways and natural drainage corridors, connecting places of natural and cultural interest, as well as maintaining public accessibility on public land immediately adjoining waterways and coasts

The NEROC study[70] identified Strategic and District Corridors from Merri Creek eastwards based on its analysis of the habitat values. Since 1997 when the report was published, some of the proposed corridors have been effectively severed for non-flying animals by the construction of the Craigieburn Bypass, and are being destroyed by housing developments such as Aurora.

Webster and Schulz identified a number of habitat links and potential habitat links, as well as sites of biological significance. The links they identified included Merri and Malcolm Creeks and Old Sydney Road, and potential links along Donnybrook Rd west of Mt Ridley, from Donnybrook Rd to Deep Creek and from Mickleham Rd to Deep Creek roughly along Bardwell Drive.

Various Council open space strategies identify the location of existing and potential habitat corridors.

The Darebin Open Space Strategy 2007-2017 proposes Edgars and Central Creeks as green corridors leading to Whittlesea, as well as an eastern link from Edgars Creek towards Donath Reserve[71].

The Whittlesea Open Space Strategy shows Edgars Creek as a green corridor from Darebin to Craigieburn East Road, as well as an east-west link from Merri Creek to Darebin Creek along OHerns Road[72].

The Moreland Open Space Strategy includes an action to assess the feasibility of establishment of several east-west fauna habitat links across Moreland between the Moonee Ponds and Merri Creeks[73], and seeks to establish a minimum 30m wide public open space corridor along Merri and Edgars Creeks[74].

The Hume Open Space Strategy includes a strategy to create ecologically functional green links along waterways and within other areas of open space. It specifically mentions Merlynston Creek from Seabrook Reserve to Laura Douglas Reserve, a link between Broadmeadows Valley Park to Craigieburn and from the Maribyrnong River to Greenvale Reserve and Merri Creek[75]. It also shows Aitken and Malcolm Creeks as linear or regional parks[76]. The Hume Natural Heritage Strategy states[77] that the waterways of Hume provide one of the best opportunities for creating habitat links across the landscape. It states that vegetation should extend at least 100m on either side of a waterway.

The draft Yarra Open Space Strategy identifies primary links along the Yarra and Merri, a secondary link along the inner Circle Railway Line to Royal Park and the Moonee Ponds Creek, and a number of minor links[78].

Mitchell Shires Recreation and Open Space Strategy doesnt identify habitat corridors, although habitat values along Mitchells waterways are to be enhanced[79].

Mitchells Environment Strategy doesnt specifically nominate or map habitat corridors either, however Wallan Creek is mentioned as a revegetation priority, and landowners are to be encouraged to fence off waterways and revegetate them for habitat for local fauna[80].

The Hume Growth Areas Study[81] identifies biolinks along Merri, Aitken, Malcolm, and Kalkallo Creeks, and one coming from Deep Creek through the Mickleham Woodlands to the Mount Ridley Grassland Reserve.

Habitat Corridor Network

Map 11below shows a proposed habitat corridor network across the catchment, linked into habitat corridors in adjacent catchments and the regional network. The network is based on existing and proposed habitat corridors in the range of strategies mentioned above plus a number of additional corridors. The map shows centrelines rather than representing a fixed width as width needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Habitat nodes must be retained for the corridors to link. In many cases the habitat values of links and nodes will need to be improved through restoration and revegetation. The wider the links, and the higher the quality of the habitat within the link, and the closer and larger the habitat nodes, the more successful the corridor will be. This map shouldnt be interpreted to mean that a linear corridor link is acceptable as a replacement where there is an existing landscape linkage in place.

Corridor width

Clause 15.01 of the State Section of Planning Schemes indicates a preferred vegetated buffer of at least 60m wide (at least 30m buffer from each side) along waterways, and waterways are defined under the Water Act to include rivers, creeks, streams and watercourses, and in some cases channels (see p 216). The Hume Natural Heritage Strategy identifies the waterways as the best opportunities for creating habitat links across the landscape and specifies a vegetated area 100m wide on both sides of waterways[82].

The wider the habitat corridor the more effective it is likely to be. Bennett (1999) says
Maximising width is one of the most effective options that land managers can exercise to increase the effectiveness of linkages for wildlife conservation. He goes on to say:

a linkage is wide enough when it effectively maintains connectivity for the species or assemblage of animals for which it is intended. Thus the optimum width depends upon the purpose and function of the linkage, the behavioural ecology and movements of the key species and the nature of the surrounding land use. Long-term changes in the integrity of the habitat and the intensity of edge effects on fauna must also be considered. There is no single uniform answer.

Clear identification of the purpose/s of a particular link is an essential basis for its design and management. Bennett (1999, p126) lists six commonly recognised biological purposes, including:

· to assist movement of wide-ranging or migrating animals through developed landscapes;

· to facilitate dispersal of individual animals between otherwise-isolated habitats or populations (where populations of many species tend to decline towards local extinction); and

· to promote effective continuity and gene flow between populations in two areas by supporting a resident population within the linkage

In addition to their ecological purposes, it is likely that most corridors in urbanised or fringe urban areas of the Merri catchment will be expected to fulfil recreational functions. They may also have drainage and flood retention functions, filter out pollutants before they enter streams, and be utilised for sewers and other utilities. Within a corridor, there will be multiple demands on space, for example for recreational trails, maintenance vehicle tracks (on both sides of a waterway), screen plantings, a slashed or sealed firebreak/buffer beside adjoining development, sewer and other utilities easements. These requirements not only reduce the space available for habitat, they also have ecological impacts due to noise, disturbance, pollutants and weed invasion. For example, dogs being walked along trails disturb many species of wildlife, which perceive them as potential predators (see Banks & Bryant 2007). The width of a habitat corridor with multiple functions must therefore be adequate to cater for these competing/conflicting demands.

Factors affecting corridor width requirements

There is no single uniform answer to the question, How wide should a link be? For a given corridor this depends on many factors, including:

· the species that are being catered for;

· adjoining land uses;

· vegetation type;

· scale and purpose/s of the corridor;

· space needs within the corridor (above);

· the extent of edge effects that affect the ecological function of the corridor.

A few comments can be made about each of these factors in relation to the Merri habitat corridor network.

The species to be catered for in a Merri habitat corridor network include large, wide-ranging species such as the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, migratory birds that move through the area twice yearly, and species of conservation significance such as the Growling Grass Frog and Golden Sun Moth. Nomadic species that move around in response to food or water availability could also use the network, particularly when moving south or into the metropolitan region as a drought refuge. Some species, such as the Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Great Striped Skink, have disappeared from suburban areas due to isolation or urban pressures, but could be maintained in future urban areas with an adequate habitat node-link network. The identification of focus species for the design of corridors will simplify the design process.

The behavioural ecology and movements of key species are important factors affecting the space required in links. For example, the Growling Grass Frog is known to travel at least 100m from permanent water as it hunts invertebrates and spiders[83].

 

 

Map of proposed habitat corridors in the Merri Creek Catchment

Map 11 - Proposed habitat corridor network for Merri catchment.
Based on the NEROC report, Webster & Schulz (1991), Council Open Space Strategies, other reports, and new proposals.

 

 

 


If the land uses adjoining the corridor are inhospitable to wildlife (built-up urban areas, busy roads), then the corridor needs to be wide enough to cater for all the needs of wildlife that is resident or passing through. On the other hand, adjoining areas of native vegetation and rural land uses can provide some shelter, feeding and nesting sites and so the reserved corridor could be narrower, especially if there is security of the private land e.g. by covenant.

Edge effects are the physical and biological changes that occur towards the edge of fragmented habitats. Linear linkages are particularly vulnerable to these effects. Edge effects of particular concern for the Merri habitat corridor network include:

· hunting by domestic cats

· wildlife disturbance by dogs being walked

· disturbance by path users

· disturbance by trail bikes and other illegal vehicle use

· light pollution from street lights and effect on nocturnal invertebrates

· noise from roadways

· rubbish dumping

· slashing of grasses as part of fire prevention works

· nutrient-enriched stormwater runoff, which aids the growth and spread of invasive weeds

The width of a habitat link needs to be more than twice that over which edge disturbances influence sensitive species and ecological processes, to ensure that some portion is relatively free of disturbance. Several of the above effects are particularly severe in open grassland and woodland (as found in the Merri catchment), and the effects can extend further into the habitat than they do in forest habitats on which most corridor literature is based.

Studies from three continents show that ecological changes associated with tropical forest edges have marked effects within at least the first 50m and have implications for ecological processes over distances of at least 200m or more (Bennett 1999, p138). Tropical forest linkages therefore need to be at least 400-600m in width in order to retain a core of relatively undisturbed vegetation.

Further work is needed on the proposed network to clarify the roles of the corridors, refine locations, to identify barriers and to prioritise actions to improve the corridors.

Until further analysis proves otherwise, the 200m minimum total width for Regional habitat corridors (similar to Humes 100m wide on both sides of a waterway) is adopted as a target for this strategy. It is recognised that this will not be achievable in areas which are already fully developed. Where adjacent lands have environmental values or open space values these lands should also be included in the habitat and park network.

The main stem of Merri Creek, being the spine of the habitat corridor network would provide the main north-south link through the catchment, between Kinglake National Park and the continental-scale biolink along the Great Divide, and the major regional-scale link along the Yarra Valley. Given this same spine will also include many of the competing uses noted above a minimum width of 400m is adopted for the main stem of Merri Creek north of the existing urban area.

District Corridors should be at least 100m wide. Municipal corridors are mostly along waterways, and therefore the 30m vegetated buffer on each side required in clause 15.01 of the planning scheme should apply, but this strategy applies a 60m minimum width to all Municipal corridors.

Climate Change

The local impacts of climate change on the biodiversity of the catchment are unclear. At this stage the best management appears to be to maintain as much flexibility in the natural environment as possible. This means that as much habitat as possible should be conserved, and as much scope for movement of populations of indigenous plants and animals through the landscape as it is possible to provide should be provided. These actions are already priorities in the catchment.

As understanding of the likely impact of climate change becomes clearer, a better refined strategy should be developed.

Key References

Anderson, A. & Jenkins, N. (2006) Applying natures design: corridors as a strategy for biodiversity conservation. Columbia University Press, New York.

Bainbridge, B., Davern, A. and Crawford, D. (2006) Vegetation description in Golden Sun Moth habitat in Epping/Wollert and Campbellfield, Merri Creek Management Committee July 2006

Bainbridge, B., North, B. (2007) Results and Review from three Synemon plana survey activities for volunteers at Craigieburn Grassland Reserve Epping/Wollert. Merri Creek Management Committee March 2007.

Beardsell, C. (1997). Sites of Faunal and Habitat Significance in the North East Melbourne, A report prepared for the North-East Region of Councils (NEROC) by Dunmoochin Biological Surveys, Melbourne.

Bennett, A. F. (1999) Linkages in the Landscape The Role of Corridors and Connectivity in Wildlife Conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

City of Darebin (no date) Guide to the Indigenous plants of the City of Darebin.

City of Yarra (2006?) Removing Weeds in Yarra and Planting Indigenous Alternatives, City of Yarra.

Department of Natural Resources and Environment (2002e) Victorias Native Vegetation Management A Framework for Action

Department of Sustainability and Environment (2005) Biosites Maps and Reports for Land & Water Management Agencies Port Phillip Region January 2005 CD.

Ecology Australia Pty Ltd, Context Pty Ltd & the Management Plan Steering Committee (1999), Vegetation Management Plan for the Merri Creek & Tributaries in the City of Darebin, report for Darebin Parks January 1999.

Endersby, I. and Koehler, S. (2006) Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana: discovery of new populations around Melbourne, The Victorian Naturalist 123(6)362:365.

GHD Pty Ltd (2005) Yarra Valley Water Donnybrook Creek Kalkallo PEA Flora and Fauna Assessment, Report for Yarra Valley Water.

Heard, G., Robertson, P., and Scroggie, M.(2004) The ecology and conservation status of the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) within the Merri Creek Corridor second report: additional field surveys and site monitoring, report for DSE Flora and Fauna Branch by Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd. and Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, March 2004.

Heard, G.W., Robertson, P., and Scroggie, M.P. (2008) Microhabitat preferences of the endangered Growling Grass Frog (Littoria raniformis) in southern Victoria, Australia. Proceedings of the Biology and Conservation of Bell Frogs Conference, Australian Zoologist 34, 414-425.

Hill, A.J. & Kimber, S. (2001) Stage 2 of the Natural Heritage Study of the City of Yarra, Victoria, report by Biosis Research for the City of Yarra.

Hood, P. (2001) Gardening with Native Plants in Yarra, City of Yarra.

Hume City Council (2006) Biodiversity Strategy

Hume Committee for Smart Growth (2005) Hume Growth Area: Towards Melbourne 2030, Final Report, Department of Sustainability and Environment, July 2005

Merri Creek Management Committee and Merriang District Landcare Group (2004) Merriang Plants for Landcare.

Mitchell Shire Council (2008) Mitchell Shire Environment Strategy.

Mitchell Shire Council (2005), Mitchell Shire Recreation and Open Space Strategy.

Moreland City Council (2005) Gardening with Indigenous Plants in Moreland

OMalley, A.J. and Kern, L. (2004) City of Darebin Biodiversity Review Parts 1 and 2 Final Report, report by Practical Ecology Pty Ltd for the City of Darebin.

Parks Victoria (2006) The Proposed New Merri Creek Park Draft Concept Plan February 2006

Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority (2004) Port Phillip and Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy.

Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority (2006) Port Phillip and Western Port Native Vegetation Plan.

Renowned, C., Condole, L.E., Heard, G.W. and Robertson, P., Sub-regional Conservation Strategy for the Growling Grass Frog Epping/Somerton, Victoria, Report for Department of Primary Industries prepared by Ecology Australia, Fairfield Victoria, October 2006.

Robertson, P., Heard, G. and Scroggie, M. (2002) The ecology and conservation status of the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) within the Merri Creek corridor interim report: distribution, abundance and habitat requirements, report for DSE Flora and Fauna Branch by Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd. and Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research.

Ross, J., Lowe, K., Boyle, C. and Mores, A. (2003) Biodiversity Action Planning Landscape Plan for the Craigieburn Zone in the Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion Draft 12 May 2003 Department of Sustainability and Environment Melbourne.

Whittlesea City Council (2000) City of Whittlesea Local Conservation Strategy Summary 2000, Bundoora.

Williams, N.S.G., McDonnell, M.J. & Seager, E.J. (2005) Factors influencing the loss of an endangered ecosystem in an urbanising landscape: a case study of native grasslands from Melbourne, Australia, Landscape and Urban Planning 71(2005) 35-49.

 

Issues

1. The original vegetation of the catchment has been severely reduced in extent, and this decline is continuing.

2. Much of the rural parts of the catchment will be subject to urban growth in the future.

3. All remaining native vegetation in the catchment has not yet been identified, particularly west of the Hume Freeway north of Beveridge Road.

4. Ecological Vegetation Classes occurring in the catchment on the Victorian Volcanic Plain bioregion are all of high priority for protection and revegetation.

5. Many of the remnants in the catchment are of an EVC which is of high priority for reservation.

6. Revegetation strategies do not exist at a catchment scale and would be highly beneficial to inform and prioritise revegetation.

7. Revegetation or restoration of very degraded remnants totalling around 50 ha per year in the catchment is required to meet regional targets.

8. Improving the management of native vegetation on private land is needed to meet vegetation targets.

9. Many threatened species occur in the catchment, and require special management.

10. Fragmentation of habitat is a major problem in the catchment. Re-establishing connectivity is a priority, but agreement between Councils, the community and state government authorities on the location and functions of corridors is needed for a connectivity strategy to work.

11. Risk management needs to take into account the significance of features rather than simply risks.

12. Native vegetation offsets are an opportunity to improve native vegetation along and adjacent to the Merri Catchments waterways, but this needs to be facilitated and coordinated between the three rural municipalities in the catchment.

13. The likely impact of climate change on biodiversity in the catchment is poorly understood.

 

Objectives

1. Achieve a net gain in the quantity and quality of indigenous vegetation (Regional Catchment Strategy objective BO1).

2. Maintain the diversity of indigenous habitats and species in terrestrial and aquatic environments (adapted from Regional Catchment Strategy objective BO2).

3. Achieve sustainable populations of indigenous flora and fauna species (Regional Catchment Strategy objective BO3).

4. Improve the connectivity and long-term security of indigenous habitats and species (Regional Catchment Strategy objective BO4).

5. Encourage intelligent use of introduced flora and fauna species with minimal impacts on indigenous habitats and species (Regional Catchment Strategy objective BO1).

Targets

1. Increase the extent of indigenous vegetation by 3% of the catchment by 2030 (see regional target B1)

2. There is no further preventable decline in the viability of any rare species or of any rare ecological community (from Victorias Biodiversity: Directions in Management p3)

3. A net gain in the quality and extent of native vegetation in the catchment with the total habitat hectares increased by 10% by 2030 (see regional target B3)

4. At least 95% of the catchments ecological vegetation classes represented to at least 10% of their pre 1750 extent by 2030 (see regional target BT2)

5. All Ecological vegetation classes in the catchment to have at least 15% of their current extent protected in conservation reserves by 2030 (see regional target BT4)

6. Full and consistent application of the native vegetation clearance controls achieved and reported upon by all Councils in the catchment by 2009 (See Native Vegetation Plan Management Action Target MAT2)

7. Educate local communities about clearing controls and enforce the controls (See Native Vegetation Plan Management Action Target MAT3)

8. Appropriate planning provision tools applied by all councils in the catchment to protect threatened native vegetation and achieve net gain (See Native Vegetation Plan Management Action Target MAT4)

9. Conflicts in planning scheme overlays reconciled, including those between wildfire management overlays and environmental/ vegetation overlays. (See Native Vegetation Plan Management Action Target MAT6)

10. A Merri catchment-wide biodiversity strategy is prepared by 2010 incorporating a revegetation strategy for the catchment which achieves regional and catchment targets, refining the habitat corridor network and investigating use of the planning scheme to protect/enhance corridors.

11. All Councils to complete biodiversity strategies incorporating revegetation plans outlining how they will contribute to regional and catchment targets by 2012 (Native Veg. Plan Management Action Target MAT19).

12. Establish policy or strategy which identifies a preference for the use of appropriate local native species in landscape plantings on private and public land so as to encourage the use of appropriate local native species in landscape plantings (from Native Vegetation Plan Management Action Target MAT20).

13. Provide information to urban households and businesses regarding the protection and planting of native species and the control of environmental weeds (see Native Veg. Plan Management Action Target MAT21).

14. Provide demonstrations and on-site information in urban areas regarding the values of native vegetation (see Native Veg. Plan Management Action Target MAT22).

15. Catchment-wide management plans for the most important species in the catchment are prepared to guide strategic planning and site development. These should include the Growling Grass Frog and Golden Sun Moth.

16. The habitat corridor along the main stem of the Merri Creek north of existing urban areas is maintained at 400m width or more.

17. Regional scale corridors identified on Map 11 on page 67are maintained at 200m width or more.

18. District scale corridors identified on Map 11 page 67 are maintained at 100m width or more

19. Municipal scale corridors identified on Map 11 are maintained at a preferred minimum width of 60m.

20. Vegetated buffers of at least 30m wide are maintained on both sides of all other waterways (i.e. total width at least 60m).

21. Revegetation work is based on EVCs and designated habitat corridors and areas are revegetated to EVCs with locally indigenous species of local provenance.

22. Any revegetated areas destroyed are offset with at least the same area.

23. Offsets for vegetation cleared in the Merri catchment are to be carried out within the catchment.

24. At least 75%(of the 2004 distribution) of heavily depleted EVCs (<10% remaining of original distribution) and EVCs with only a small amount remaining (<10ha) are protected in conservation reserves or by conservation agreement

Actions

See Section E page 187.

 


[45] From the Cainozoic era

[46] From 1750 EVC mapping on the web

[47] From 1750 EVC mapping on the web

[48] Available on DSE website www.dse.vic.gov.au/planning

[49] The Craigieburn Zone also includes considerable areas beyond the Merri Catchment.

[50] Based on DSE data (DSE 2005), but with some additional areas identified by MCMC staff. It is known that more areas remain to be mapped..

[51] The Australian Natural Heritage Charter defines Restoration as meaning returning existing habitats to a known past state or to an approximation of the natural condition by repairing degradation, by removing introduced species or by reinstatement.

[52] Williams et al. (2005)

[53] DSEs website defines Ecological Vegetation Class as meaning a vegetation classification unit defined by a combination of floristics, lifeform, position in the landscape, and an inferred fidelity to particular environments. Each EVC includes a collection of floristic communities (i.e. groups based on co-occurring plant species) that occur across a biogeographic range, and although differing in species, have similar habitat and ecological processes operating. Approximately 300 EVCs have been described for Victoria.

[54] Victorian Volcanic Plains.xls on the CD forming part of PPWCMA (2006)

[55] The Craigieburn North Grassland/Grassy Woodland is mapped on page 122 of Hume Committee for Smart Growth (2005)

[56] http://www.vicnet.net.au/~fomc see under News

[57] Pers comm from Linda Bester, Trust for Nature, 12/8/08

[58] Management Action Target 14

[59] Hume City Council 2006 p 3

[60] Moreland City Council (2005) Gardening with Indigenous Plants in Moreland.

[61] City of Darebin (no date) Guide to the Indigenous plants of the City of Darebin.

[62] City of Darebin (2004) Sustainable Gardening in Darebin, booklet

[63] Merri Creek Management Committee and Merriang District Landcare Group (2004) Merriang Plants for Landcare.

[64] Hood (2001), and City of Yarra (2006?)

[65] Wigney (1994)

[66] Table 12

[67] Table 13

[68] Key reports include The ecology and Conservation status of the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) within the Merri Creek Corridor (Heard et al 2004) and Sub-Regional Conservation Strategy for the Growling Grass Frog Epping/Somerton Victoria, (Renowden et al. 2006)

[69] Endersby & Kaehler 2006, Bainbridge et al 2006 and Bainbridge & North (2007)

[70] Sites of Faunal and Habitat Significance in North-east Melbourne (Beardsell 1997) NEROC is the North East Region of Councils

[71] Darebin Open Space Strategy 2007-2017 Map p 80.

[72] Whittlesea Open Space Strategy August 1997 Masterplan Map.

[73] Moreland Open Space Strategy 2004 Action 10.10.

[74] MOSS action 10.16

[75] Hume Open Space Strategy 1999 Action 5.1.1

[76] HOSS map 4a

[77] Hume Natural Heritage Strategy October 2006 p56

[78] Draft V6 Yarra Open Space Strategy Nov 2005 drawing YOSS 03.

[79] Mitchell Shire Recreation and Open Space Strategy page 37

[80] Mitchell Shire Environment Strategy April 2005 actions 2.13 and 2.15

[81] Hume Committee for Smart Growth 2005 Figure 15

[82] Hume City Council (2006) p56.

[83] Heard et.al. 2008

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