Demonstration Reaches were established in partnership with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority Native Fish Strategy program, to support native fish populations around the Murray-Darling Basin. Demonstration Reaches are large scale river reaches where numerous management actions, including habitat protection or rehabilitation, are integrated and focussed at one site. A rigorous monitoring program can then demonstrate the positive benefits to native fish populations from integrate river rehabilitation.
Successful rehabilitation of a reach can enhance community awareness and support, provide compelling models, focus the attention of funding agencies and boost scientific knowledge of rivers and fish. Demonstration Reaches concurrently coordinate actions to address the major environmental and fish issues in an individual reach, such as habitat loss, sedimentation, impacts from introduced species and impediments to fish passage (Barrett & Ansell 2003).
Ten projects were established around the Basin. In Victoria, Demonstration Reaches were established on the Campaspe River, Ovens River and Hollands Creek.
Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach
The Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach focused on protecting and expanding suitable habitat for Macquarie Perch populations which are currently restricted to a few remaining streams in the Goulburn Broken catchment.
The project, which was established in 2007, has implemented a range of on-ground works including fencing, revegetation, pest plant control, habitat creation, and monitoring and community activities.
To determine the project’s success, annual monitoring of stream conditions and fish populations was carried out. Surveys monitored the fish community, macro-invertebrates and water quality at each site.
The project was overseen by a Community Reference Group, which was established at the commencement of the project.
The following Sections provide an overview of the project together with recommendations for future Demonstration or Rehabilitation Reach projects.
Why Hollands Creek?
Hollands Creek is of significant ecological importance as supports a population of the endangered Macquarie perch (Macquaria australasica). The creek is reported to have the ‘most promising population of Macquarie perch in the Broken Catchment’ with successful breeding and recruitment of individuals recorded (Pritchard, 2006).
The Hollands Creek Macquarie perch population is restricted to a small stretch of creek, near the township of Tatong . This section of the creek has patches of excellent habitat for native fish, with habitat characteristics including flowing waters with greater than 30m overhanging riparian vegetation, refuge pools and riffle runs, emergent vegetation, instream logs and branches (snags) and erosion retaining rock groynes (DSE, 2007).
This important habitat abuts with farming land upstream of Tatong. The Demonstration Reach extends from the Swanpool Bridge in Tatong upstream to Spring Creek Road. The patchiness of good riparian vegetation above the bridge in Tatong may account, in part, for the limited range of Macquarie perch. The lack of water flow in the past may also have significantly impacted on the distribution of Macquarie perch within the Demonstration Reach.
Historically, several “river management” works programs were established between agencies and the community in the Tatong district . Community support is critical in implementing such programs. Given the community had already demonstrated its support for river rehabilitation programs, Hollands Creek represented an excellent site to explore the development of a Demonstration Reach in Victoria, to support the Macquarie perch population and a healthy Hollands Creek.
Macquarie perch (Macquaria australasic)
The high priority status and major asset of the Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach is the presence of the endangered (DSE 2007) Macquarie perch (Macquaria australasica). These dark-grey or bluish–grey native freshwater fish have a rounded tail; large, white eyes; and prominent pores on the snout and around the eyes. They are commonly around 1kg but can reach 3.5kg (Lintermans 2007).
Macquarie perch are endemic to the south eastern reaches of the Murray-Darling Basin, but have declined dramatically over the past 50 years.Macquarie perch are currently listed as nationally endangered under the Commonwealth EPBC Act 1999, listed as a threatened species under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and listed as endangered under the DSE Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria (DSE, 2007a). In Victoria, the taking of Macquarie perch from all waters (except the Yarra River, the Upper Coliban River and Lake Dartmouth) is prohibited.
In Victoria, the distribution of these fish has reduced to a mere handful of sites in cool, rocky, fast flowing streams. Threats to Macquarie perch include reduced water quality and flows, sedimentation infilling deep pools and spawning sites, habitat loss, completion or predation by introduced species, disease, instream barriers to fish movement, genetic decline, and illegal take from fishing.
The Hollands Creek drainage system has a catchment area of 540 km2. Hollands Creek is fed by several tributaries including Wild Dog, Bog, Stony, Kangaroo, Ryans, Blind and Spring Creeks. The headwaters of the Holland Creeks originate just south-east of Tolmie, it continues to flow north until Ryans Creek runs into it and then veers north-west; flowing into the Broken River system at Benalla.
The upper catchment is predominantly forested with little intensive land use. Throughout most of the Demonstration Reach (between Tatong and Spring Creek) the riparian zone consists of a discontinuous thin strip, through predominantly cleared agricultural land. Land use in the area is primarily dryland agriculture, mostly grazing.
Chanel Form & Flows
The upper reach of the Hollands Creek, between Wrightley and 2 km upstream of Tatong, has a mainly straight channel. The high flow channel is 30 to 40 m wide and 3 to 4 m deep with gradual, well vegetated banks. This reach is stable with very few stream related problems (Ian Drummond and Associates Pty Ltd., 1993).
The middle reach is unstable, and may be divided into an upper incised section and a lower depositional section. Bankfull channel widths are around 30m with depths of around 4 m, with generally steep, poorly vegetated banks. There are small sections of gravel in the bed material which still support a pool-riffle sequence at low flow. Some willows grow at the base and river red gums grow discontinuously along the tops of the banks. Erosion of the steep banks is common as large bank sections are undermined and stock disturbance and saturation also lead to bank deterioration (Ian Drummond and Associates Pty Ltd., 1993).
In the lower section of the middle reach, the creek has many bends and is fairly continuously lined with river red gums. The creek is approximately 15m wide at bank full stage and gradually decreases in depth downstream from 2.5 to 2 m. Banks are steep, particularly at the outside of bends, many of which are eroding. In other places, the build up of sand reduces bank angles and may deflect flow onto the opposite bank. A considerable number of logs and limbs block flow within the channel and may also deflect flow onto eroding banks (Ian Drummond and Associates Pty Ltd., 1993).
The lower reach of the Holland Creek, downstream of the Ryans Creek junction, still has the bending channel pattern and riparian River Red gums from upstream. The channel is larger; 20 to 25m wide and 2 to 2.5m deep at bankfull stage. The steep banks are more stable, although isolated bank erosion still exists. There is a significant amount of sand in the creek, slowly being transported downstream to the Broken River (Ian Drummond and Associates Pty Ltd., 1993).
Only Hollands and Ryans Creeks are perennial; Watchbox, Sams and Blind Creeks flow for up to nine months of the year (April to December maximum). Flows in the Demonstration Reach are not heavily affected by water abstraction.
The catchment geology is primarily acidic volcanic; rhyodacite and rhyolite, with smaller areas of various sedimentary lithologies. The volcanic bedrock produces steep narrow valleys which have not been subjected to much clearing, apart from colluvial footslopes and alluvial valley floors. The stream substrate consists mainly of movable sand and gravel, with areas of active bank erosion in sections.
The upper reach of Hollands Creek has natural flows, and relatively diverse instream habitat, with an abundance of rocky pools, runs and riffles. Sections of bank instability are present, but on the whole the section is relatively stable. The majority of the riparian zone is well vegetated, although there are abundant willows and blackberries in some sections. Management of willows and blackberries has been partly addressed in some recent works by the Broken River Management Board and the Tatong Angling Club to restore natural riparian vegetationLimited cover such as woody debris is present although there has been some snag removal in the area. The stream becomes increasingly rocky with less gravel and woody debris in the upper sections. Instream aquatic macrophytes are generally limited in abundance through the reach.