A range of conservation measures are in place for the protection of streams and catchments in the Central Highlands. These include a conservation reserve system, incorporating specific conservation measures for the protection of aquatic habitats.
Following the Land Conservation Council’s (LCC) Rivers and Streams Special Investigation (LCC 1991) the Government declared the corridors of the Yarra, Goulburn (below Lake Eildon), Big, Aberfeldy and Thomson Rivers to be Heritage River Areas because of their significant natural, scenic, cultural heritage and recreational values. Timber harvesting is excluded from the Heritage River corridors within this planning area. In State forest, these corridors are included in the Special Protection Zone (SPZ).
In its recommendations following the Melbourne Area District 2 Review (LCC 1994) identified a ‘River Zone’ along other rivers and streams in the Central Highlands which contain significant natural, scenic or recreational value. These are the upper Goulburn, Murrindindi, Acheron, Latrobe and Toorongo Rivers and Snobs Creek. The corridor to be protected along these rivers and streams varies according to local circumstances but generally extends between 100 m and 300 m from each bank. These areas are also included in the SPZ.
Other protection for some aquatic species is afforded under Forest Management Zoning for other values (Special Protection Zones and Special Management Zones) or management prescriptions for other species or communities (e.g. Spotted Tree Frog, Rainforest) outlined in the Central Highlands Proposed Forest Management Plan.
Under the provisions of the FFG Act 1988 and the ESP Act 1992, and as part of Park and Forest Management Plans, conservation guidelines can be developed and implemented to protect individual species and their habitats from threatening processes. Where biological information is adequate, quite specific guidelines can be developed. This has been done for the Barred Galaxias. For this species, extended minimum streamside buffer widths are proposed in the Central Highlands Proposed Forest Management Plan. Additionally, trout exclusion barriers have been established below a number of populations to control predation.
A lack of detailed scientific information has to date precluded development of more species-specific conservation guidelines for other priority aquatic species. These species rely on the more general habitat protection measures of the Code of Forest Practices, and the Proposed Forest Management Plan for protection.
Recreational fish species are protected by a variety of fishing regulations, mainly bag and size limits and closed seasons during breeding. Fishing regulations also exist for Euastacus species in Victoria.
Management strategies to protect riparian and instream values are also key elements of the Code of Forest Practices for Timber Production and the Proposed Central Highlands Forest Management Plan. The Code contains a number of measures aimed at minimising impacts on water quality and, by extension, instream values.
Linear reserves in Special Protection Zones (SPZs), extending 200 metres from each bank of the watercourse have been established in the Proposed Central Highlands Forest Management Plan along most major streams. Within the SPZ, construction of new roads within linear reserves is to be avoided wherever possible.
In the General Management Zone (GMZ) the Code of Forest Practices for Timber Production requires: