Gippsland Lakes and Hinterland


The Gunaikurnai are the Traditional Owners of the Gippsland Lakes and Hinterland local area.

The land around the Gippsland Lakes has been occupied by the Gunaikurnai peoples for thousands of years. The Gunaikurnai have a deep, longstanding connection with the area and have an ongoing role in caring for Country. Fishing, camping, hunting and gathering remain key traditional practices across the landscape, and the area holds significant physical and intangible cultural heritage values across many sites17.

The Gippsland Lakes and Hinterland local area is characterised by the iconic Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site and incorporates part of the Red Gum Plains extending to the 90-Mile beach at the coast. The major rivers (Latrobe, Thomson, Macalister, Avon, and Perry) have extensive floodplains with freshwater and brackish wetland environments that link with Lake Wellington.

Towns in the local area include Heyfield, Sale, Maffra and Stratford to the north and Seaspray and Loch Sport on the coast. The broader Gippsland Lakes and coast are highly valued for tourism and recreational activities and are also critical to the regional economy and are an important source of employment.

The local area is within a largely fragmented agricultural landscape that incorporates the Macalister Irrigation District (MID), the major irrigation hub in the region. Dryland and irrigated agriculture including dairy, horticulture and other forms of livestock production and cropping support the local economy and community. Irrigation in the MID (alone) supports over $650 million in overall economic activity annually1.

Changes in land use have been observed in the local area with a shift from dairy to horticulture within the MID and a trend towards larger-scale operations across irrigated and non-irrigated agriculture2.

Landcare volunteers and groups in the local area are supported by the Latrobe Catchment Landcare Network and Maffra and District Landcare Network. There is a history of collaboration between agencies, landholders, community groups and industry in this local area and across the West and East Gippsland CMA regions. Efforts have been focussed on improving the health of the Lakes, sustainable irrigation, protecting and restoring native vegetation, waterways, and wetlands in the hinterland area.

Surface water is a valuable resource in the local area supporting agriculture, domestic and urban supply, and the environment. There are multiple provisions for environmental water including two environmental entitlements in the Thomson-Macalister system and two in the Latrobe system. The Avon system is unregulated and environmental provisions are provided entirely through above cap flows5. Plans for mine rehabilitation and future development in the Latrobe local area also have the potential to impact water sharing and environmental values associated with the Gippsland Lakes.

Increased temperatures, decreased rainfall and rising sea levels are having a profound effect on the Gippsland Lakes. Increasing salinity, increased inundation of intertidal communities and potential salinisation of freshwater wetlands are all serious risks to the values of the Gippsland Lakes. There is also predictions of increased fire and flood events, which could lead to more frequent inflows of nutrients and sediments to the system, further impacting aquatic communities.

Groundwater resources include the Moe, Denison, Rosedale, and Sale Groundwater Management Areas. The shallow aquifers have high connectivity to surface water systems including the Avon, Thomson and Macalister Rivers and are an important resource for domestic, livestock irrigation and urban water supply4. Groundwater has historically been associated with salinity impacts in and around the MID. Since their peak in the 1990s, water tables have fallen across the MID. This reflects the influence of the Millennium drought and major improvements in irrigation efficiency1.

The local area includes soils of the riverine and coastal plains. The soils of the riverine plain are made up of sediments eroded from the surrounding ranges and are variable5. The coastal plain is characterised by dunefield landscapes along the shoreline, dominated by wind-blown sands with drainage extremes5. Soil and land are highly valued for supporting agricultural production. The soil and land asset supports threatened ecological vegetation classes4.

Collaborative action for Biodiversity

The local area incorporates parts of three landscapes of interest for Biodiversity Response Planning process; Mullungdung Darriman, Red Gum Plans and Gippsland Lakes.

Important vegetation communities include the Gippsland Red Gum Grassy Woodland and associated Native Grassland ecological community, Seasonal Herbaceous Wetlands of the Temperate Lowland Plains, Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Federal)) as well as Plains Grassland (South Gippsland) and Forest Red Gum Grassy Woodland Community (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victorian)). The area also incorporates the unique Perry River Sandy Flood Scrub Ecological Vegetation Class (EVC) and Billabong Flora and Fauna Reserve, a Directory of Important Wetland. Along the coast, the barrier dune system separates the Gippsland Lakes from Bass Strait. In this area Coastal Banksia Woodlands, Heathy Woodlands and Saltmarsh are the dominant native vegetation communities4;14.