Upper Catchment

The Upper Catchment Local Area includes portions of the Northern Grampians and Pyrenees Shires and Ararat Rural City Council. The area comprises the upper catchment of the Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River), the northern section of Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) in the west and the Pyrenees range in the east.

The country between the mountain ranges supports wool and fat lamb production and cropping in the alluvial valley floors. The area is also known for its vineyards, tourism and gold mining. Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) is one of the most significant parks in Victoria. “It is a symbolic Aboriginal cultural landscape, an ecological wonderland and an important visitor attraction for the region owing to beautiful vistas, natural features, remoteness and stunning flora and fauna”.(78) Over one million people visit Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) annually for recreation and tourism.

map of Upper Catchment Area

The Upper Catchment Local Area is a living cultural landscape with deep and continuing connections from Wotjobaluk people and Eastern Maar people. The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 recognises two Registered Aboriginal Parties, Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, as the primary guardians, keepers and knowledge holders of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage for areas of the Upper Catchment. Connections between First Nations people and Country are reflected in many ways including artefacts, rock art, scar trees and creation stories featured around Gariwerd (Grampians National Park), the Pyrenees range, Lake Lonsdale, Lake Fyans and other waterways.

The population of the Upper Catchment Local Area is approximately 9,000 people. The upper catchment has committed Landcare Groups of mostly older members supported by the Project Platypus Landcare Network. Perennial Pasture Systems is a dynamic farmer group,  carrying out research and providing information and support to local graziers and working collaboratively within the Landcare network.

The Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River)’s headwaters are in the Pyrenees Range at Mount Cole. Numerous tributaries arise in the steep hill country around Navarre, the Black Range Scenic Reserve, northern Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) and the western Pyrenees ranges.

Some streams flow into large water storages like Lake Bellfield, Lake Wartook and Lake Lonsdale, providing a regionally important source of water for a vast network of towns and farms distributed via the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline. Several streams also provide water for townships like Elmhurst, Buangor and Moyston. Lake Bellfield and nearby lakes and water storages are also major tourist destinations and recreational assets.

Waterways with particularly high environmental, social and economic value include the Barringgi Gadyin (Wimmera River), Glenlofty Creek, Mount Cole Creek, Concongella Creek, Mount William Creek, Fyans Creek, Millers Creek and the upper MacKenzie River.

The Upper Catchment comprises about 222 wetlands, a relatively small figure compared to the rest of the Wimmera region. More than a third are deeper lakes, while the remainder are shallow seasonal wetlands. Large lakes such as Lake Lonsdale, Lake Wartook, Lake Bellfield and Lake Fyans are hubs for recreation and tourism, particularly fishing. Lake Fyans attracts around 28,000 recreational users every year with expenditure around $2.5 million annually.

Groundwater on the eastern slopes of Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) is generally of better quality then elsewhere in the upper catchment and can discharge at the base of foot slopes.

The upper catchment’s large areas of native habitat are in Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) and other reserves, often on steep hill country. Most remnant native vegetation within agricultural areas is along waterways and road reserves. Much of the remnant native vegetation on private land is fragmented into smaller disconnected areas and is often found on sites with skeletal soils or otherwise low capability for agriculture. Vegetation beside waterways is predominantly River Red Gum overstorey, while Box Ironbark occurs elsewhere until the Grampians with its higher rainfall forests.

Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) supports a range of habitat types from montane habitat to gullies, wetlands, creeks, rocky outcrops, woodlands, heathlands and forests. This range of habitats supports extremely high diversity of habitats and species, including one third of Victoria’s native flora species and approximately 17% of Victoria’s wildlife species. This includes rare or endangered species and many endemic species found only in Gariwerd (Grampians National Park).(78)

The landscape between Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) and the Pyrenees ranges supports a diversity of habitats with six bioregions meeting within its extent. The area contains the western most and southern most extent of vulnerable box ironbark forest that extends across the inland slopes of Victoria and are important beyond the Wimmera catchment.(79) Box Ironbark forests are notable for their species richness. The varied tree species produce abundant nectar and pollen throughout the year, supporting many birds and other animals.

Threatened plants and animals in this Local Area include native orchids, southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus), smoky mouse (Pseudomys fumeus), mountain dragon (Rankinia diemensis), swift parrot (Lathamus discolor), plains rice-flower (Pimelea spinescens subsp. spinescens), button wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrynchoides) and western swamp crayfish (Gramastacus insolitus). Grey box grassy woodlands and derived native grasslands of south-eastern Australia and White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland are nationally threatened ecological communities largely located on private land.