Land

Draft for Consultation

Have Your Say

The ‘land theme’ of this Regional Catchment Strategy includes all the terrestrial (land based) environments of East Gippsland. Our land provides for a vast array of natural values and supports important productive enterprises and industry that rely on these values, including agricultural, recreation and tourism.

Our landscape values… a snapshot

The terrestrial environments of East Gippsland support our biodiversity, provide a productive landscape, and offer places to explore and enjoy. 

The East Gippsland region covers around 2.2 million hectares and represents around 10% of Victoria. The region is bounded by the Great Dividing Range to the north, where mountain peaks rise to 1870 metres and extends south to the coast. 

Large areas of public land cover East Gippsland, including state forests, national and coastal parks. Private land covers less than 20% of the region. Grazing occupies the largest area of this private land, with significant productive areas of irrigated horticulture and dairying on the floodplains of the Snowy and Mitchell Rivers.

Soil types across the region vary from east to west and across freehold land, supporting broad scale grazing of sheep and cattle. Intensive horticulture and cropping are limited to the more fertile soils found in the river valleys and on the Redgum Plains. 

The climate of East Gippsland is cool temperate and influenced by altitude and distance to the coast.

Tambo Upper farming landscape
Tambo Upper farming landscape

The landforms of East Gippsland vary considerably from the mountain peaks to the coastal flats with large areas of land in public ownership, mainly as state forests, national and coastal parks. 

Areas of broad ridges and plateaus of the alpine area above 1200m in elevation support typically rich loamy or stony shallow soils. At lower elevation flatter areas in the landscape have been cleared by agriculture. Steeper landscapes occur at a range of elevations but are characterised by steep slopes and incised gorges. These areas retain much of the native vegetation. 

Snowy River at Mackillops Bridge
Snowy River at Mackillops Bridge
Grazing on the Redgum Plains
Grazing on the Redgum Plains

At the lowest elevations across East Gippsland most of the landforms are terraces and fans, which are characterised by older soils, dunes and terraces. The riverine plains comprise floodplains and morasses and occur in the southwest of the region. Much of this area is freehold land and has been cleared for agriculture. 

In the eastern parts of East Gippsland region soils are well structured and fertile with high organic matter content. In the west of the region, soils are generally low in organic matter content, are lightly textured and prone to erosion. The lowlands are characterised by soils of uniform texture contrast. 

The climate of East Gippsland is cool temperate and influenced by altitude and distance to the coast. Close to the coast, weather is mild year-round, with rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year. Average rainfall at Cann River is approximately 1,000 mm per year. By contrast, the ranges cause significant rain shadow effects in the Mitchell basin, with average rainfall in the mid valley at Tabberabbera of 660 mm.

While the vast majority of the land in East Gippsland retains native vegetation, over half of the region is State Forest that can be used for timber harvesting. Natural vegetation comprises over 660,000 hectares representing around one third of the region. Grazing and mixed cropping is the next largest land use by area comprising around 14% of the region. By contrast, residential areas represent just 1% of the region and all other land uses individually account for < 1% of East Gippsland (Figure 1).

Table 1: Land use in East Gippsland
Source: Australia’s Environment (ANU-WALD)

Land CoverHectares
Production native forests10934.0
Natural environments6670.3
Grazing on modified pasture3076.9
Residential195.1
Natural water and wetlands79.1
Plantation forestry71.2
Infrastructure64.3
Dryland horticulture27.0
Dryland cropping20.0
Transport and communication9.2
Grazing on native pasture9.1
Industrial3.0
Artificial water bodies2.8
Land in transition2.4
Intensive animal husbandry1.9
Mining0.9

Figure 1: Land use in East Gippsland

Chart - Land use in East Gippsland
click figure to view full size

A hotter and drier climate with reduced water availability will put significant pressure on the agricultural sector. As conditions change, historical farming practices and products may no longer be viable in some areas.  Livestock are vulnerable to changes in temperature and water availability and an increase in the number of hot days. Dairy cattle are particularly affected by heatwaves with a reduction in milk productions and an increase in illness and even death. Increased drought and bushfire risk will also affect forestry in East Gippsland with reduced growing rates and prolonged recovery periods.

Over the 2019/20 Black summer bushfires over 1 million hectares (53%) of the East Gippsland region was burnt. Over 900 buildings including homes and sheds were destroyed and over 6,000km of fencing needing replacement. Across East Gippsland the economic impact on farms through loss of assets and production has been significant.

After the bushfires
After the bushfires in the Snowy River catchment

For some businesses, the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) comes in addition to the impact of bushfires and drought, particularly in East and Central Gippsland. 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on Victorian agriculture. Our export markets have been challenged by contracting demand and disrupted supply chains. Reduced domestic demand from the hospitality sector has also affected our farmers. Production restrictions – necessary to contain and manage the spread of the virus in Victoria – have also had an impact. 

Percent exposed soil

The percentage of exposed soils in East Gippsland is relatively low and generally leads than 4% of the total land area (Figure 2). There was an increase in 2020 following the bushfires, but the total exposed soil was still less than 5%. In general, intensive land uses such as cropping, horticulture and residential land have a higher proportion of exposed soil (Figure 3). These land uses, however, cover only a small part of the East Gippsland region.

Figure 2: Percentage exposed soil in the East Gippsland region.
Source: Australia’s Environment (ANU-WALD).

Percentage exposed soil in the East Gippsland region
click figure to view full size

Figure 3: Percentage exposed soil (2020) in the East Gippsland region by land use category.
Source: Australia’s Environment (ANU-WALD).

Percentage exposed soil by land use category
click figure to view full size

Extent of land uses

There has been little change in the land uses in East Gippsland as represented by the Victorian Land cover data (Figure 4). There have been very small increases in intensive land uses such as urban areas and irrigated agriculture, but these represent a small fraction of the East Gippsland region. 

Figure 4: Change in extent of land uses (hectares) in the East Gippsland Region.
Source: Victorian Land Cover Time Series (DELWP).

Change in extent of land use
click figure to view full size

Agricultural productivity

Total agricultural production in East Gippsland increased from around $150 million in 2010-11 to $240 million in 2015-16 (Figure 5). The greatest value was from the vegetable and livestock sectors. This analysis does not account for the value of the timber industry was estimated at $310 million in 2018-19.

Figure 5: Value of agriculture production (excluding the timber industry) in the East Gippsland region.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Value of agriculture production
click figure to view full size
Theme - Landscapes

Land – reducing erosion following bushfires

Current State
(2021)

The 2019/20 bushfires impacted a large proportion of the Alpine Peaks local area. While much of the land affected was public and supported natural values, there were impacts to productive agricultural lands as well.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Best practice soil management, including maintaining appropriate ground cover is implemented at 60 % of priority sites across the agricultural landscape.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

Targeted improvement of the productive values and stability of the Dargo Mountain Basin and Tambo Valley agricultural land and soils.

Theme - Landscapes

Land – protecting agricultural land, productivity and soil health

Current State
(2021)

Emerging focus on sustainable practices, particularly relating to soil and groundcover management. The focus is shifting from recovery following drought to increasing resilience to climate change and other stressors.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Continue to work with landholders to improve farm management practices.

Effective management of groundcover to conserve soils for the benefit of both agriculture and the natural environment.

Landholders will use systems and techniques to deliver long term outcomes for both farming and the environment, making the whole system more resilient to on-going threats (e.g. invasive weeds, pest animals) and to climate change.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

Targeted improvement of the productive values and stability of the Dargo Mountain Basin and Tambo Valley agricultural land and soils.

Theme - Landscapes

Land – reducing erosion following bushfires

Current State
(2021)

The 2019/20 bushfires impacted a large proportion of the Protect the Best local area. While much of the land affected was public and supported natural values, there were impacts to productive agricultural lands as well particularly in the Snowy and Buchan Valleys.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Best practice soil management, including maintaining appropriate ground cover is implemented at 60 % of priority sites across the agricultural landscape.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

By 2040 Targeted improvement of the productive values and stability of the Snowy Mountain Basin and Buchan Valley agricultural land and soils.

Theme - Landscapes

Land – protecting agricultural land and soil health

Current State
(2021)

Emerging focus on sustainable practices, particularly relating to soil and groundcover management. The focus is shifting from recovery following drought to increasing resilience to climate change and other stressors.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Continue to work with landholders to improve farm management practices

Effective management of groundcover to conserve soils for the benefit of both agriculture and the natural environment.

Landholders will use systems and techniques to deliver long term outcomes for both farming and the environment, making the whole system more resilient to on-going threats (e.g. invasive weeds, pest animals) and to climate change.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

Over 750 properties with active sustainable land management practices in place relating to soil and groundcover management.