Grazing

Historically large amounts of the public land forming the streamside reserves have been occupied and managed by adjourning landholders either with or without grazing licenses issued by the Department of Environment, land, Water and Planning (DELWP). The presence of livestock, particularly juvenile stock, in waterways creates a risk to humans and stock health. Stock are also a cause of point erosion and degradation of stream banks increasing instability in the channel. Therefore managing stock access to waterways upstream of drinking water off-takes is a priority for riparian management programs in Victoria.

A key action in establishing the Conservation Area is the phasing out of grazing licenses. However in some areas, Riparian Management Licenses can be entered into with adjoining landowners. Some of these licenses in the Conservation Area will allow for grazing to occur in a limited set of circumstances. Information can be found in the Yellingbo Conservation Area Draft 10 Year Plan, Appendix C: Licensing Principles for Fencing and Grazing within Yellingbo Conservation Area.

The investigation made recommendations for appropriate management arrangements to conserve and enhance the biodiversity and ecological values.  A key recommendation was the creation of the Yellingbo Conservation Area.  The new conservation area will support biodiversity values by providing a network of wildlife corridors, improving water quality, protecting waterways and consolidating the fragmented reserves under one land manager. 

Within the YCA area large amounts of the public land forming streamside reserves, have been historically occupied and managed by adjoining landholders either with or without grazing licences issued by DELWP. The VEAC recommendations and government’s response make several references to conservation agreements with adjacent landholders and exclusion of stock grazing. 

The removal of grazing aims to protect natural values and enhance riparian habitat. To protect the environmental values of the area, fencing may be required to ensure stock are excluded from the waterways and sensitive riparian areas. 

This phase out of grazing licenses is taking place in two stages; Sections of the Yarra River, lower Hoddles Creek, & lower Wet Lead Creek.  by July 2016, and all other streamside areas by July 2018. 

While grazing licences will be phased out of riparian public land within the Yellingbo Conservation Area, there is still an opportunity for adjoining landowners within the Yellingbo Conservation Area to enter into licence agreements for conservation purposes with DELWP.  These licences may include managing the land for conservation purposes consistent with the government’s response and to allow activities such as weed and pest animal control, revegetation, recreation and in some cases, the use of grazing as a management tool.   

In August 2017 the Yellingbo Conservation Area Coordinating Committee (YCACC) provided in principle support to DELWP to enter into licence agreements for conservation purposes with adjoining landowners within the Yellingbo Conservation Area; and that these licences may include the use of grazing as a management tool where this is consistent with YCACC’s spatial categorisation process. 

To support the VEAC recommendation for the use of conservation agreements with adjacent landowners, it is planned to formalise the issuing of such agreements in a new Schedule 4A to the National Parks Act 1975. 

Prior to the schedule being created, DELWP will remain the licensing agency and intend to issue riparian management licences for conservation purposes under either the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 or the Land Act 1958, dependent on the status of the land. 

Funding is available through Melbourne Water grant programs to assist with the cost of constructing fences and controlling weeds in riparian areas.  DELWP is working with Melbourne Water to support impacted landowners with the transition and to address their concerns.  

To see the current grants and funding available, please visit the Landholder Grants and Support page.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know you might have some questions. Here are some of the most common questions that we receive.

When will grazing licences be phased out?

Grazing licences are being phased out in two stages.

Stage 1 – 30 June 2016: Sections of the Yarra River, lower Hoddles Creek, & lower Wet Lead Creek.

Stage 2 – 30 June and 30 September 2018: Sections of the Yarra River, Little Yarra River, Woori Yallock, Sheepstation and Cockatoo Creeks.

How have landholders been notified of the changes?

DELWP have directly contacted, by phone and letter, all affected landholders that hold a grazing licence.

Do I have to put up a new fence to keep my stock out? Who will pay for this?

Landowners have a responsibility to ensure livestock and other general farming activities do not take place on the public land without the appropriate licence permit or authority. Fencing is often the most practical way to achieve this. To discuss your individual situation, please contact DELWP on 136 186, or via enviroplan.portphillip@delwp.vic.gov.au

Funding assistance for stock-proof fencing may be available for eligible applicants through Melbourne Water’s Stream Frontage Management Program.

To find out more about the program and to make an application, visit the Melbourne Water website.

Or you can contact Katie Drummond on (03) 9679 7253 or catherine.drummond@melbournewater.com.au

Who will have to maintain fencing?

Landowners are responsible for ongoing maintenance of fences and ensuring livestock are kept within their private property or within areas where a licence has been approved and grazing is a permitted use as per the conditions of the licence.

My family has been managing and grazing the Crown land frontage for years. Why do I have to remove my stock?

Historic vegetation removal, clearing, deep soil cultivation and grazing of hard-hoofed grazing animals on public land frontages has had a significant impact on river health and water quality. Vegetation in riparian areas is important to protect rivers and streams from impacts and to allow native species to move through the landscape along the river corridors.

Direct stock access to waterways can affect river health and water quality by introducing pathogens and nutrients from stock faeces and urine, causing an increased risk of disease. Stock access can also cause erosion and the disturbance of stream banks, and the resulting sediment can harm aquatic life and cause ecosystem damage.

For these reasons, recommendations C1-C8 in the VEAC Final Report include the removal of streamside grazing within the newly established State Emblems Conservation Area to enable rehabilitation of the public land.

Am I entitled to compensation?

No. The public land where grazing is to be removed has always been public land, owned by the State Government. Since the VEAC recommendations have begun to be implemented licence fees have not been charged

Do I need to remove the existing fence if a new one is being constructed on a new alignment?

Fencing alignments will be considered on a case-by-case basis, generally in consultation with officers from DELWP and Melbourne Water on the property.

Can I re-use the materials from my existing fence for the new fence on the Crown land boundary?

Yes. Wherever appropriate, we encourage the re-use of materials if they are in good condition.

Can I get a licence for the Crown land?

The will be the ability to enter into licence agreements for conservation purposes with adjoining landowners within the Yellingbo Conservation Area. These licences may include the use of grazing as a management tool where this is consistent with YCACC’s spatial categorisation process.

The licence agreement for conservation purposes will emphasises that nature conservation is the primary management objective and ongoing effort will be made to reverse habitat fragmentation and improve biodiversity.

Assessment of the possibility of a licence and fencing alignments and grazing opportunities will be required on a case by case basis.

The overall objectives to be met in licensing and when considering grazing are:

a. Established vegetation corridors supporting biodiversity outcomes consistent with the VEAC recommendations.

b. Engaged adjoining landholders helping to deliver shared management (win-win outcomes)

c. Effective pest animal control

d. Effective weed control

e. Stable and healthy waterways

f. Community and recreational access where appropriate

g. Maintain adjoining land production values

h. Maintain historic legal access to water use

i. Maintain community safety in respect to fire risk (no significant increase to fire risk).

I have infrastructure (sheds, pumps, stockpiles) on the Crown land – what will happen to this?

The retention of private assets on Crown Land will only apply to pumping infrastructure to ensure stock watering. All other infrastructure must be removed from public Land.

There may be the opportunity to move a pump out of the reserve onto freehold land or to consolidate and/or upgrade pumps so they can be located on freehold land.

As with a lot of these matters, circumstances will be different for each property, which is why DELWP will generally meet with you on site and discuss your particular circumstances to understand the best way to reach a practical and appropriate solution.

Resources

Grazing

Agriculture Victoria. (2017). A Guide to Native Pasture Management: Native Grasses and Native Pastures [website]. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Retrieved from http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farm-management/native-vegetation/a-guide-to-native-pasture-management.