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We’re working to restore natural waterway conditions in Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, to help preserve the habitat of the critically-endangered Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum.

Both species are state faunal emblems of Victoria and are found nowhere else in the world.

Why this is important

The Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum rely on native floodplain forest vegetation for their habitat, which is dominated by a canopy of Mountain Swamp Gums. Once extensive, now the only intact vegetation remains in Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve – mostly around an area known as Cockatoo Swamp, a natural wetland connected to Cockatoo Creek.

Vegetation in the reserve has been impacted by a history of vegetation clearing and man-made changes to waterways. Levee banks built by farmers in the 1950s caused some areas of Cockatoo Swamp to receive too much water, while other areas did not receive enough. As a result, by the 1990s the floodplain forest vegetation – including Mountain Swamp Gums – began to die. 

This project aims to provide more natural patterns of wetting and drying within Cockatoo Swamp, and help return the area to more natural conditions. This is crucial to prevent the death of the Mountain Swamp Gums and other vegetation, and allow them to naturally recover and regenerate – improve existing habitat for these unique and important animals.

What’s happening and when

Following rehabilitation works in 2017 and 2018, we are now trialling pumping to lower water levels in the swamp and allow vegetation to recover and regenerate. Pumping will occur between January and the end of April each year to avoid disrupting Helmeted Honeyeater breeding cycles.

Over the next four years a team from The University of Melbourne will monitor changes in the area, helping to measure the project’s success before we implement a permanent solution. While the long-term damage to the area will not be reversed overnight, we hope to start seeing positive changes in native vegetation growth by the end of 2020.

The rehabilitation works were undertaken in two stages, and involved:

  1. Permanently removing parts of the historical levee banks in strategic locations, to let more water into important areas of the swamp and its floodplain (November 2017–January 2018).
  2. Installing a temporary 800-metre above-ground pipeline and pumping equipment to lower the water levels in a key area of the swamp, with water released back into Cockatoo Creek further downstream (February–April 2018).

Watch the following time-lapse video to see an overview of the works:

Melbourne Water is undertaking a range of waterway improvement activities in Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, to help preserve the habitat of the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum.

Video: Cockatoo Swamp rehabilitation project - transcript

Impact of works

We carefully designed the project in close consultation with stakeholders to minimise any negative impacts on the reserve’s sensitive ecological and landscape values, particularly the endangered species. Approvals were obtained from federal, state and local government, and project-specific plans are in place to protect all native plants and animals.

We also consulted with relevant stakeholders to ensure people using the conservation reserve were not exposed to any construction-related risks in the project areas.

Project partners

We worked closely with a range of stakeholders to make this project happen, including:

  • Zoos Victoria
  • Parks Victoria
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
  • Greening Australia
  • Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater and Leadbeater’s Possum
  • threatened species biologists
  • technical specialists at Jacobs consultancy, who provided advice and design work.
Last updated:
22 September 2020