Waterway Frontage

Waterway frontage isn’t just a narrow strip along each side of a creek or river. Waterway frontage includes any land that adjoins or directly influences a body of water.

What is waterway frontage and why is it important?

Waterway frontage isn't just a narrow strip along each side of a creek or river.

Waterway frontage includes any land that adjoins or directly influences a body of water.

This includes:

  • The land immediately alongside small creeks and rivers, including the river bank itself.
  • Gullies and dips which sometimes run with water.
  • Areas surrounding lakes wetlands and river floodplains which interact with the river in times of flood.

Depending on the nature of a landholder's property and its use, the width of waterway frontage that needs special management will differ.

Healthy waterway frontage has a diverse understorey of native grasses, herbs and shrubs and an overstorey of larger trees.

Download our waterway frontage poster to see an illustration of a healthy waterway frontage.

What is waterway frontage and why is it so important?


What is a wetland and why is it important?

Wetlands provide a range of benefits to land management in the immediate area and help form an important part of waterway frontage.

Wetlands are areas of land that are either temporarily or permanently covered by water that is typically:

  • Shallow;
  • Slow-moving or stationary; and
  • Reasonably well vegetated.

Wetlands perform many important functions including water purification, nutrient processing, maintenance of watertables, flood protection and erosion control.

They also provide habitat, refuge, breeding and nursery areas for many common and threatened plant and animal species.

The use of property for agricultural purposes doesn't necessarily conflict with the conservation of wetlands, and they can also contribute to agricultural production by providing forage during very lean periods, a reservoir of water for emergency use and refuge and breeding habitat for beneficial insect eating species.

It's essential that we manage wetlands, like all other waterway frontage, in a sustainable way for current and future generations.

About Crown Land water frontage licences

Crown Land water frontage is any strip of Crown Land that runs alongside rivers, streams and creeks.

The actual width of the water frontage reserve (that is the distance from the top of bank of the waterway to the freehold boundary) may vary considerably, and exact boundaries are often very difficult to determine on the ground.

Not all land along waterways has a crown reserve along it. Only 25,000 kilometres (or 20 per cent) of Victoria's 128,000 kilometres of water frontage is Crown Land. Where Crown land does not exist the land is under Freehold ownership.

Management of Crown Land water frontages is the responsibility of Crown Land Management within the Department of Sustainability and Environment, unless a licence has been issued to another person or body.

Crown Land Management may only issue a licence to an owner and/or occupier of the adjoining private land to the Crown water frontage.

A licence over a Crown Land water frontage provides the licensee with permission to enter and use the land for a specified purpose, usually grazing, but does not offer exclusive use to the licensee. Licence conditions detail how the frontage is to be managed by the licensee and are legally binding.

When a Crown Land water frontage is licensed, the public retains the right to enter and remain on the land for passive recreational purposes, e.g. walking, fishing, or bird watching.

However, members of the public are not permitted to camp, light fires or carry firearms on the land, and are strongly advised to contact the license-holders before accessing any waterway frontage.

The GBCMA actively encourages adjoining landowners to frontage reserves to manage the frontage for the purposes of protection. If a landholder chooses to undertake protection works the GBCMA can offer funding through its waterway grants program. As part of that process the adjoining landowner if required to hold a licence on the frontage from Crown Land Management, so becoming the official manager of that land.

If a landholder doesn't want to take out a license for the adjoining frontage, then the GBCMA will deal directly with Crown Land Management to achieve the protection of the river frontage.

For further information regarding Crown Land water frontage licenses, contact the GBCMA or Crown Land Management at the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

What causes damage to waterway frontage?

The major cause of damage to waterway frontage has been the clearing of vegetation to increase land available for stock grazing and crop cultivation.

Grazing and cultivation inhibits the natural regrowth of native vegetation along the waterway frontage and can lead to other problems including bank erosion.

In the past, attempts to repair and stabilise bank erosion have included planting exotic rather than native species. Exotic species such as the willow can often have a negative impact on the waterway frontage.

More damage to the waterway frontage can be caused by road building, recreational activities such as dirtbike riding, road construction and weed infestation.

Why are willows a problem?

Willows are trees that have been planted on rivers and streams in South-Eastern Australia since early settlement.

Widely planted to control erosion of stream banks, most species of willow are now declared "Weeds of National Significance" under the National Weed Strategy.

Willows are among the worst weeds in Australia because of their invasiveness, potential for spread and economic and environmental impacts.

They have invaded riverbanks and wetlands in temperate Australia, occupying thousands of kilometres of streams and numerous wetland areas,

Many willows spread by fragments of stems or twigs breaking off and growing new roots in water.

Seed is the main method of spread for several other species, and these can invade off-stream wetlands from sea-level to alpine locations.

The GBCMA has developed a Willow Management Strategy to help prevent further spread of willows, and is progressively reducing their impact on rivers and streams.

This strategy involves:

  • Eradicating existing willows.
  • Managing and controlling the spread of new willows.
  • Engaging community participation and understanding.

There are some things landholders can do to control willows along waterway frontage. Contact a local GBCMA office for more information.

To learn more about Willows, download our willow poster.

Weeds of National Significance - Willows

What are the benefits of managing my waterway frontage?

There are a wide range of benefits associated with managing waterway frontage. Dowload a Land and Water Australia Factsheet below to learn more.

  • Reduced erosion
  • Better water quality
  • Retention of soil nutrients
  • Maintaining river courses
  • Lower water tables
  • Less algal growth
  • Stock management
  • Shelter effects for stock
  • Opportunities for diversification
  • Increase in capital values
  • Better eco-tourism prospects
  • Healthy ecosystems
  • Less insect pests
  • More fish
  • Refuge for wildlife

What can I do to manage my waterway frontage?

While a carefully planned waterway frontage management strategy is necessary to ensure landholders achieve their objectives, there are several specific measures that can be used to keep waterway frontage in good condition.

  • Retain existing natural vegetation and suppress or remove weeds and pest species.
  • Stabilise and revegetate degraded areas.
  • Control and manage stock access with adequate fencing and off-stream watering systems.
  • Carefully plan the use of fire to control weeds and maintain vegetation in healthy condition.

Contact one of the GBCMA's Waterway Vegetation Officers for more information on how to effectively manage waterway frontage.

How do I apply for a GBCMA WATERWAY grant?

The GBCMA's Waterway Grants Program provides cash incentives and professional advice for landholders who want to undertake works to prevent or repair damage along waterways.

The grants are available for:

  • Fencing
  • Revegetation
  • Off-stream watering points for stock.

To apply for a cash grant contact one of the Waterway Vegetation Officers at a local GBCMA office. For further information regarding the Waterway Grants Program, visit our funding section.

Priority Crown Frontage Licence Review

Victorian catchment and land managers are working to improve river bank management. The aim is to protect and improve waterway health.

The licence review project, running until mid to late 2010, is part of this. It affects up to 1400 of the 10,000 Crown frontage licences in Victoria.

The project focuses on management of Crown land alongside waterways and will update licences to reflect already improved river bank management and accelerate improvements in priority areas.