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.
Both species are state faunal emblems of Victoria and are found nowhere else in the world.
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. This habitat was once extensive; now, the only remaining intact vegetation exists in Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, mostly around an area known as Cockatoo Swamp – a natural wetland connected to the Cockatoo Creek.
Why this project is important
A history of vegetation clearing for farming and the modification of waterways has impacted the health of vegetation in Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.
Man-made changes to waterways and levee banks built by farmers in the 1950s have caused some areas of Cockatoo Swamp to receive too much water, and other areas not enough water.
As a result, by the 1990s, the floodplain forest vegetation including Mountain Swamp Gums began to die.
The project works aim 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 stop the Mountain Swamp Gums and other vegetation from dying, and allow it to recover and regenerate.
What the works involve
The rehabilitation works are being undertaken in two stages:
- Permanently removing parts of the historical levee banks in strategic locations, to enable more water into important areas of the swamp and its floodplain.
- Installing an 800 metre-long temporary above-ground pipeline and pumping equipment, to lower the water levels in a key area of the swamp. Water pumped from this area will be released back into Cockatoo Creek further downstream.
Removing sections of the levees and lowering the water levels via pumping works will allow the vegetation to recover and regenerate naturally, and improve the existing habitat in the area for these unique and important animals.
Works to permanently remove the levee sections commenced in November 2017 and were completed in January 2018.
Installation of the temporary pipeline and pumping equipment commenced in February 2018 and will be completed by early April 2018.
The pumping will be trialled for four years to assess the benefits before implementing a permanent solution.
Pumping will occur between January and the end of April every year to avoid disruption to the Helmeted Honeyeater breeding cycles.
Impacts of works
The project was carefully designed and we have consulted closely with key stakeholders to minimise any negative impacts on the sensitive ecological and landscape values of the conservation reserve, particularly the endangered species.
Approvals were obtained from federal, state and local council levels, and project-specific plans are in place to protect all native plants and animals.
We have consulted with relevant stakeholders to ensure people using the conservation reserve are safe and not exposed to any construction related risks in the project areas.
Working in partnership
Melbourne Water has worked closely with a range of stakeholders to make this project happen. These include Zoos Victoria, Parks Victoria, The University of Melbourne, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Greening Australia, threatened species biologists, both the Helmeted Honeyeater and Leadbeater’s Possum Friends Groups, with advice and design work from technical specialists at Jacobs consultancy.
A team from The University of Melbourne will monitor changes in the project area over the next four years to help measure the success of the works. While the long term damage to the area will not be reversed overnight, it is hoped that positive changes will begin to be seen in the growth of the native vegetation by the end of 2020.
Watch our video "Saving our State animal and bird emblems"