|672 mm per annum at Ballarat
|Main Natural Features
Woowookarung Regional Park
Ballarat is the second largest urban centre within the region and has a population of around 110,000 and is forecast to grow to be approximately 150,000 by the early 2030s. The Traditional Owners are the Wadawurrung.
An important asset to Ballarat is Lake Wendouree, a man-made lake covering 200 hectares, located a couple of kilometres west of the town centre. Lake Wendouree is on the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia, is also a significant recreational lake for locals and visitors alike, having hosted international level rowing, fishing and yachting events.
An important waterway within the Ballarat landscape system is the Yarrowee River, a key tributary to the Leigh River, which feeds into the Barwon. Part of the Yarrowee River flows through Ballarat’s central business district and was directed underground through a bluestone-lined channel.
The Ballarat City landscape system covers the urban centre of Ballarat, the largest inland city within Victoria and the second largest city within the Coragamite CMA region. Surrounded entirely by the Northern Uplands to the west, south and east, its northern border is the edge of the CCMA boundary. Ownership is mostly private urban land, but there are a number of small public land parcels within the urban area – many of which are public reserves for recreation. Main parks and reserves are the Mullawallah Wetlands Nature Conservation Reserve to the north west, the Woowookarung Regional Park to the southeast and Lake Wendouree in central Ballarat.
Like Geelong, Ballarat is principally an area for manufacturing, education, service provision, retail, tourism and residential activities. There is also limited agriculture, viticulture and horticulture occurring in the peri-urban areas around the city.
As this landscape system is contained entirely within the Ballarat local government area, the majority of the community is urban based. Ballarat is the most densely populated, and smallest landscape system by area in the region. The portion of population of the urban Ballarat City area within the Corangamite region is over 71,000 (other portions occur in the Glenelg Hopkins and North Central regions).
There is extensive peri-urban settlement surrounding the City of Ballarat.
Assessment of current condition and trends
The Ballarat City region’s waterways fall within the Barwon River Basin. The Yarrowee River, beginning near Ballarat’s urban centre and stretching through the south of the Ballarat city region, is the only major waterway in the area. Its condition was assessed as very poor in Victoria’s third Index of Stream Condition (ISC) in 2010, reflecting the regional trend of poor waterway health in proximity to urban areas.
The Yarrowee River was assessed as having highly modified hydrology, scoring amongst the worst in the Barwon River Basin. The very poor health of this waterway is attributed to its hydrology being affected by nearby treated effluent disposal and mine dewatering.
Corangamite Waterwatch , a citizen science volunteer program, regularly monitors water quality parameters at many sites across the catchment, including at Lake Wendouree. Lake Wendouree is an urban constructed lake that receives stormwater runoff from Ballarat. On most occasions the water quality was reasonably healthy displaying low salinity, turbidity and phosphorus. Oxygen levels within the lake often varied between sites and sampling events, but was mostly healthy. At some sites variable oxygen levels were observed, likely associated with aquatic vegetation. Oxygen levels in waterways with an abundance of aquatic vegetation often display diurnal fluctuations as a result of photosynthesis, therefore results are likely influenced by the time of day when monitoring occurred. At the times of monitoring (biannual – spring and autumn) high pH levels (>9 pH units) were observed at several sites. The high pH is likely due to excessive aquatic plant or algal growth decreasing the CO2 levels during photosynthesis. Increases in pH in water increases ammonia toxicity and can be toxic to aquatic life if an abundance of nitrogen is present. Low dissolved oxygen levels were also observed and are likely due to the consumption of oxygen by oxygen dependant organisms and microbial decay of organic matter.
Being a major city, the landscape system’s biodiversity values have been highly impacted firstly through the effects of the gold rush and also associated urban development since then. As a result of this, most remnant vegetation is found on the less fertile sedimentary soils in the hills, and along creek corridors and gullies. Species such as the Yarra Gum are rare or threatened. The Brush-tailed Phascogale is under threat and is heavily dependent on Eucalyptus trees for foraging opportunities and tree hollows. Growling grass frogs which are listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act occur in permanently or temporarily inundated water bodies, with emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation. Its range has been severely reduced due to land clearing, agriculture, degraded water quality and altered hydrological regimes.
The Yarrowee and Leigh river system supports significant ecological values including the endangered Growling grass frog and iconic Platypus. Macroinvertebrates provide a food source for these species, along with resident freshwater and migratory fish, including Dwarf galaxias, Yarra & Southern Pygmy perch, Tupong, Short-finned eel, Australian smelt, and common jollytail. These rivers have relatively few major fish barriers, with only two posing the threats to fish passage. Greater flow variability in the reach will allow native fish populations to build, and could potentially reduce exotic fish populations such as gambusia and carp, which thrive in regulated flow regimes.
This landscape also supports a range of common flora and fauna species that are highly valued by the community, as they make a significant contribution to the amenity of the area. Koalas, Echidnas, Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Black Wallabies, Brushtail and Ringtail Possums can be found. Birds such as the Crimson Rosella, Kookaburra, Tawny Frogmouth and Southern Boobook Owl are common. Various Eucalypts, Acacias, and native tussock grasses also provide valuable habitat.
Lake Wendouree, a man-made lake, has many native species including: aquatic Water-milfoil (Miriophyllum salsugineum) commonly called ‘Lakeweed’; Water Ribbon (Triglochin procera), which provides food for Black Swans; and the Tall Spike-rush (Elocharis sphacelata). Other common plants include the Spiny Rush, Common Reed, Duckweed, and Sedges, which are generally found on the periphery of the lake. There are known to be approximately 170 bird species frequenting the lake. Common water bird species include Cormorants, Ibis, Moorhens, Coots, and Ducks. Common land birds include Magpies, Eastern Rosellas, Blackbirds, Swallows, Cockatoos, Magpie-larks, Ravens, Wattlebirds, Swamp Harriers, Fantails, Sparrows and Starlings. The lake is stocked with trout, as a popular recreational fishery. The main fish species in the lake are Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Mosquito Fish and Carp. The Rakali (Hydromys chrysogaster) or water rat, is a native rodent that can be found in and around the lake at night.
Relative soil productivity on private agricultural land in the Ballarat City area is the second poorest in the Corangamite region. It ranges from low around the central urban area to moderate further out from the city centre, with the highest relative productivity located on the western boundary.
DELWP’s Victorian Land Cover Time Series provide a snapshot of the changes in land cover types in seven five-year increments between 1985-2019.
The two cities in the Region, the Geelong and Ballarat city landscape systems, are dominated by urban land cover, followed by non-native pasture as the second most prevalent land cover. Across both landscape systems, urban areas have increased from around 26% to almost 34% over the time period, whilst non-native pasture decreased from around 31% to 22% today. Dryland cropping, and native grass herb also each constitute 12% and 8% respectively, Dryland cropping has increased in land area by >50% since the 1985- 1990 epoch, overtaking native grass herb in total area covered (which has remained constant). Both seasonal and perennial wetland types dropped by nearly 25% each, although seasonal wetlands occupy ten times the area of perennial wetlands.
As this landscape system is contained entirely within the Ballarat local government area, the majority of the community is urban based. The Ross Creek Landcare Group cover part of this area, supported by the Leigh Catchment Group.
Ballarat is the most densely populated, and smallest landscape system by area in the region. The portion of population of the urban Ballarat City area within the Corangamite region is over 71,000.
Ballarat Environment Network was formed in 1993 as an initiative arising from the 1991 Ballarat Region Conservation Strategy.
The Friends of the Yarrowee River is a community group that aims to work actively to restore and protect the Yarrowee River, its environs and tributaries.
Other environmental groups:
- Australian Plants Society – Ballarat District
- Ballarat Sebastopol Cycling Club
- Birdlife Australia – Ballarat
- Field Naturalists’ Club Ballarat
- Fishcare Victoria Inc – Central Highlands
- Friends of Canadian Corridor
- Friends of Yarrowee River
- Sparrow Ground Friends Group
Major threats and drivers of change
Population growth is likely to add significant pressure to local water resources in an already flow stressed. Most of the water for Ballarat’s water supply is extracted from the Yarrowee/Leigh River system and the Upper Moorabool River system. With a population of the greater Ballarat region predicted to increase to approximately 144,000 by 2036, increased extraction for urban water supply combined with decreased flows due to climate change is likely to result in reduced environmental flows. Furthermore, water quality issues including nutrient loads from urban stormwater and wastewater discharges will limit the ecological condition of the Yarrowee River.
The Corangamite Waterway Strategy 2014-2022 outlines priority management activities to address water quality threats in the Yarrowee-Leigh landscape. These include:
- Establish native indigenous vegetation
- Install riparian fencing
- Establish stewardship/management agreement
- Undertake woody weed control
- Implement best management practice on grazing properties (Yarrowee River)
- Maintain the function of an urban wetland (Lake Wendouree)
- Maintain the discharge into the Yarrowee Leigh from South Ballarat Treatment Plant as a beneficial environmental use – as per the Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy, and examine opportunities to better replicate natural flow regimes (Yarrowee-Leigh rivers)
- Adopt whole of water cycle management principles to reduce the impact of stormwater run-off on the health of Yarrowee Leigh and downstream waterways (Yarrowee River)
- Enhance the upstream reach in line with the Breathing Life back into the Yarrowee Project (Yarrowee River)
- Comply with bulk entitlements, monitor and maintain waterway condition and implement risk management plans as appropriate (White Swan Reservoir, Gong Gong Reservoir)
- Maintain Waterwatch groups collecting baseline data on waterway condition.
Ongoing residential development in the area, including subdivision and housing developments, will reduce the extent of native vegetation and tree cover. This may lead to a reduction in the value of the area for wildlife habitat and movement.
Threats to native fish include limited flow variability that comes with a regulated flow regime. Regulated flows allow exotic fish populations like gambusia and carp to thrive. Targeted management of exotic fish species will assist in system recovery and allow native species to flourish.
Exotic weeds such as willows, blackberry, and reed sweet grass can influence flow and channel form, reducing suitable habitat for fish, platypus, and other fauna. Managed removal of exotic species and the revegetation of the riparian zone with native species will support the values of the system and the attainment of the objectives sought through the provision of environmental water.
Cinnamon Fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi) is a soil borne pathogen (a water mould) that can infect the root systems of a range of susceptible plant species. One of the key susceptible indicator species within the Ballarat landscape is Austral Grass-tree (Xanthorrhoea australis), which is a highly valued feature of the local bushland. Cinnamon Fungus can also infect many other understorey species.
Water quality and flows are vulnerable to future change from climate change and from increased urbanisation. Erosion is also a potential issue, particularly in cleared areas, or where waterways pass through sites disturbed by past gold mining. The degradation of riparian corridors can be attributed to past clearing and ongoing inappropriate grazing pressure.
The major threat to land use in this system is the ongoing residential development in the area, including subdivision and housing developments. Ballarat is another area where people are wanting to live in peri-urban areas where they can have a rural property in close proximity to a major centre. This has led to a landscape change from what was previously agricultural land to semi-residential.
Changing to more intensive land use can have impacts on the land itself and other assets off site with issues such as soil compaction, erosion and acidification being more likely on these smaller holdings. Increased run-off through more hard surfaces is also an issue, especially where nutrients end up in waterways.
Another issue is the community’s desire for more active recreation within reasonable proximity to Ballarat City. The need for more land to be dedicated to this also has a direct impact due to changed land use and other indirect impacts such as weed spread and introduced pests if appropriate management regimes are not implemented. This is particularly the case when developers manage parkland initially before handing it over to Council.
The ability to engage urban communities in caring for their landscape is an emerging issue, especially in a predominantly residential area. Having an informed community is a key to ensuring appropriate consideration is given to the way they access and use the natural assets within their immediate area and within the broader environment overall.
Peri-urban land owners often need appropriate guidance on how to manage their little patch of paradise with a need for a variety of sources of information for this segment of the community becoming more apparent.
Ballarat City 6 Year Outcomes
By 2027, compared to 2022 baselines:
The efficiency of consumptive water use in the Ballarat City Landscape System will be improved through the use of cost effective alternate water sources and demand management strategies that results in less take from source water. BalWO1
Increase the extent of riparian management in priority reaches of the Yarrowee River. BalWO2
The implementation of the Gippsland and Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy will have provided for sustainable use of the Yarrowee River for urban supply and agricultural use in a drying climate. BalWO3
Improve waterway amenity through the implementation of the Yarrowee River and Tributaries River Corridor Master Plan. BalWO4
The impact of urban development on riparian buffers, water quality and flow in the Yarrowee River, tributaries and wetlands will have been reduced. BalWO5
Understand and enhance the Wadawurrung values of the Yarrowee River and tributaries and ensure the Wadawurrung People have a strong voice in their management. BalWO6
By 2027, compared to 2022 baselines:
Achieve a net gain in the overall extent, connectivity and condition of Ballarat habitats across land and waterway environments. BalBO1
Achieve a net gain in suitable Ballarat habitat expected over six years from sustained improved public and private land management for threatened and culturally significant species. BalBO2
Achieve a net gain where possible in all species with positive % change in suitable Ballarat habitat expected over six years from sustained improved public and private land management and community involvement. BalBO3
Increase effectiveness of interagency collaboration in their ability to respond to climate change and development pressures on biodiversity. BalBO4
Increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity values of the Ballarat Landscape System. BalBO5
By 2027, compared to 2022 baselines, land within the Ballarat landscape system is managed and developed appropriately for a variety of purposes within its capability and suitability. Such management and development will retain and enhance land’s natural capital, provide social, cultural and health benefits and prevent both on and off-site impacts. BalLO1
By 2027, compared to 2022 baselines:
Communities (local, new and visitor) are encouraged, educated and enabled to further connect with and responsibly care for the natural environment. BalCO1
Communities (local, new and visitor) have an increased awareness and understanding of the connection between human activities and impacts on the environment. BalCO2
The increased capacity of the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners enables their increased involvement in decision making that effects their Country. BalCO3
Ballarat City 6 Year Priority Directions
Six year regionally applicable priority directions have been developed for each of the Themes and are applicable to this landscape System, these can be accessed via the following links
Six year priority directions for Ballarat City are provided in the following table. Where these priority directions apply to a theme this is indicated by the relevant shading. To access definitions of terms and acronyms click on the following link.
|Ballarat City landscape partners and the community collaborate to deliver a coordinated approach to natural resource management to build resilience and successfully respond to changing circumstances with clear roles and responsibilities communicated.
|CHW, DELWP, BCC
|Develop enduring partnerships with the Wadawurrung people to:
1) acknowledge and enhance cultural heritage values of natural assets;
2) ensure the Wadawurrung people have a strong say in management of natural assets;
3) identify and implement appropriate mechanisms for sharing Wadawurrung stories and history; and,
4) identify and implement opportunities for the Wadawurrung people to own and manage water on their country
|WTOAC, DELWP, CHW, BCC
|Best land management practices are implemented across peri-urban land managers, agencies, and the catchment community
|AgVic, Landcare, BCC, PV, CHW, DELWP
|Enhance riparian management within priority waterways of the Ballarat system as defined in the Corangamite Waterway Strategy.
|Ensure development planning considers, minimises and where possible avoids adversely impacting floodplains, biodiversity, land and water assets including encouraging water sensitive urban design and use of integrated water management principles and requiring developers to:
1) protect and enhance native vegetation and habitat
2) protect and enhance floodplain function
3) protect cultural heritage
|CCMA, CHW, DELWP
|Implement actions in the City of Ballarat’s Masterplan for the Yarrowee River and Tributaries to achieve the desired waterway amenity values including improving facilities and/or environmental condition.
|DELWP, CCMA, Tourism Authorities
|Ensure the assessment of applications for new or transfers of groundwater entitlements within the Cardigan and Bungaree Groundwater Management Areas takes into account the impact of extraction on connected waterways and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs)
|Explore and implement cost effective water efficiency measures including demand reduction initiatives and alternative water sources by implementing the following plans and strategies:
1) Barwon Water Urban Water Strategy
2) priority projects identified by the Barwon and Great South Coast Integrated Water Management Forums; and,
3) relevant actions from the 2021 Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy
|Ensure community education and engagement activities are grounded in the most recent and relevant social research available and target local demographics.
|DELWP, BCC, CHW
|Identify public land parcels in urban and peri-urban areas and identify how they can be better used for conservation, recreation, social, health and cultural benefits.
|Target urban areas adjoining sites with high biodiversity values/potential for action including information, education, and awareness to prevent impact on these areas.
|Encourage and enable community participation (volunteering)
1) in on-ground environmental works to restore and protect environmental assets
2) citizen science programs
|Engage with the community on the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change and its’ impacts.
|DELWP, Landcare, BCC
|Design and deliver a comprehensive education program to engage new urban and peri-urban communities in the growth corridors to connect them with their local environment and empower them to participate in NRM activities.
|Action Plans are developed that leads to a 25% increase of non-government investment into the region to address high priority biodiversity actions
|DELWP, BCC, Landcare
|Develop best practice management actions to achieve an overall net gain of ‘Suitable Habitat’ for priority species by 2027
|Engage with Wadawurrung people to develop a method based on traditional knowledge that enables improved and sustained management of problem herbivores in priority locations.
|Implement additional areas of sustained predator, herbivore and weed control in priority locations, reflecting Biodiversity Response Planning outputs, Strategic Management Prospects and other regional plans