Western District Lakes

This Draft of the Corangamite Regional Catchment Strategy is currently awaiting Ministerial approval and may be subject to change

Overview

Overall Area241,456 hectares
Population7,197
Climate781 mm per annum at Camperdown
608 mm per annum at Beeac
Main TownsCamperdown
Cressy
Beeac
Land Use
Main IndustriesAgriculture
Main Natural FeaturesWestern District Ramsar site
Lakes and Wetlands
Stony Rises
Woady Yaloak River
Pirron Yallock Creek
Map of the Western District Lakes Landscape System including link to NRM Portal
Click on map to access Natural Resource Management Portal interactive mapping

Landscape

The Western District Lakes area is situated on the central western side of the Corangamite region. The major towns are Camperdown in the southwest and Cressy at the north. It borders the Basalt Plains to the north and east, and the Barwon Plains and Heytesbury to the south and southwest, respectively. The landscape is characterised by a large number of lakes and wetlands. The major municipalities are Corangamite and Colac Otway Shires, with a small portion of the Surf Coast municipality.

This landscape system is generally bounded by the Hamilton Highway to the north and the Princes Highway in the south.  Its eastern boundary runs basically north from the Princes Highway near Birregurra to the Hamilton Highway between Cressy and Inverleigh (Wingeel).  It contains the towns of Camperdown and Cressy within parts of the Colac-Otway and Corangamite Shires.  The Traditional Owners are the Eastern Maar.

Within this landscape, lakes and wetlands have formed in volcanic craters, depressions due to lava collapse, and where drainage patterns have been interrupted by lava flows. Drainage is mostly internal to lakes or to groundwater. Seasonal variation in hydrology, the type of basalt substrate, and the great variety of catchment-to-surface area ratios and through-flows, combine to produce lakes and wetlands with an unusually wide range of salinities.

The area’s numerous lakes include nine listed under the Ramsar convention, the largest being Lake Corangamite. Lake Corangamite is the largest permanent saline lake in Australia, the largest natural lake in Victoria, a Ramsar listed wetland and a haven for migratory and non-migratory birds. The area also contains many other important Western District Ramsar site wetlands. The lakes are large, relatively shallow and dominated by open water. All of the lakes are saline except Lake Terangpom.

Undulating landscape of volcanic flows characterise the Stony Rises area, which represents the most recent volcanic activity in Australia. It is dotted with small wetlands, many of which form part of the seasonal herbaceous wetlands (freshwater) of the temperate lowland plains, which are listed as threatened under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999.

The landscape system has a number of creeks and streams that terminate at Lake Corangamite. The Woady Yaloak River and Pirron Yallock Creek flow into Lake Corangamite. Lake Colac, is also a dominant lake in this landscape, is fed from streams to the south including the Barongarook and Deans creeks. 

Livelihood

Relative soil productivity on private agricultural land across the Western District Lakes is highly varied. Most of the region is private agricultural land (the rest being bodies of water), and ranges from moderate to high relative productivity in the south west, to low to moderate around the central north and eastern boundaries.

Taken from DELWP’s Victorian Land Cover Time Series (1985-2019), the most prevalent land cover classes in the Western District Lakes (excluding water) are non-native pastures, seasonal wetlands and, more recently, dryland cropping. Exotic woody vegetation, native grass herb, native trees and native scattered trees also each constitute a moderate proportion of land cover in the landscape system (each between 2-4% of the entire Western District Lakes). 

Since 1985, non-native pasture has decreased in cover, dropping from 63% of the area to 53%. Dryland cropping, which occupied around 3% of the total landscape system in the 1985-90 epoch, has increased considerably, now comprising 13% of the total area.

Lifestyle

The Western District Lakes has a population of just under 7,200, and forms around 1.8% of the Corangamite region. This landscape system is the second least populated area of the region. 

The smaller townships in this landscape provide it with a distinctively rural lifestyle, with Camperdown being the major population centre.  Smaller townships such as Beeac, Cressy and Derrinallum support the local farming communities.  The Western District Ramsar site is of significance to the community within this system with the myriad of wetlands defining the landscape.  The stony rises are also a feature of this landscape and play a major role in defining the land use and lifestyle of the area.

Landcare groups in this Landscape are the Weerite, Leslie Manor, Cundare Duverney, Weering Eurack, Stony Rises, Leigh District, Irrewarra and Birregurra Landcare Groups.