The action area – Waterways management focuses on current and future management of Geographe Waterways including the appointment of lead waterway managers. At the end of the program, Revitalising Geographe Waterways will deliver a blueprint for future management of Geographe Waterways based on community input and sound science.
An early initiative of the Vasse Taskforce was to appoint interim waterway managers to oversee and deliver actions across key waterways.
The Vasse Wonnerup wetlands Partnership are the interim managers of the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands. The Partnership is made up of representatives from the Departments of Water and Environmental Regulation, Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Water Corporation and the City of Busselton.
The Partnership, formally known as the Vasse Estuary Technical Working Group (VETWG), was established in 1997 to reduce the frequency and severity of fish kills. With the development of Revitalising Geographe Waterway the role of VETWG was expanded to include development and coordination of projects and science of the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands. The change in name symbolised the expanded role of the group and partnership approach needed to manage the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation coordinate the Partnership.
The City of Busselton is the interim manager of the Lower Vasse River and Toby Inlet. The City stepped into this role in recognition of the high value these waterways have in the local community. The City is the largest local government authority in the Geographe catchment.
The Water Corporation are the managers of the Busselton Drainage network. The Water Corporation is a corporation under State Government, accountable to the Minister for Water, and is the principle supplier of water, wastewater and drainage services in WA.
GeoCatch is the interim manager for the Geographe catchment and waterways. GeoCatch are leading many of the projects under Reduce Nutrients and Working together action areas. GeoCatch are a natural resource management group formed in 1997 who work in partnership with government agencies and the community to manage the natural resources of the Geographe catchment.
The City of Busselton led the development of waterway management plans for the Lower Vasse River and the Toby Inlet and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions are led the development of an Operational plan for the Vasse Wonnerup Wetlands. These management plans will guide how these important waterways are managed into the future by identifying long-term strategies and actions to improve water quality and overall management.
Community input was sought to develop the vision and management objectives for the three waterways through collaboration workshops and online surveys. Links to the management plans are provided below.
To sustain the momentum built during Revitalising Geographe Waterways the Vasse Taskforce are developing a 2030 Sustainability plan. This plan will guide the future management of Geographe waterways and ensure the strong partnerships, water quality improvements and the improved management of waterways continues. Water quality declines in the catchment have taken a long time to occur and will take a long time to resolve. The Sustainability plan will make sure actions continue into the longer term to achieve measureable water quality improvements and meet future challenges. It will address the need for all partners to work collaboratively to find solutions across government, industry and the community that will ensure long term sustainability of our waterways and growth and development for our industries and liveable communities.
The 2030 Sustainability plan will identify:
An overarching vision for the future of Geographe waterways
What needs to be done (on-going actions to improve water quality)
Who will do it (a long-term governance framework)
How will it be done (funding options and partnerships)
Most of the waterbody area of the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands is on unallocated crown land. This makes management of the wetlands challenging as no one government agency has responsibility for managing the wetlands. To support the future management of the wetlands the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions are coordinating transfer of the land vesting of the wetlands into Conservation Estate. When the land has been vested in Conservation Estate the Department of Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions will formally become the responsible managers of the wetlands. In anticipation of this change in vesting the Department are leading the development of the Operational Plan for the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands.
The Geographe Catchment, including the Busselton and Capel local government areas, is one of the fastest growing areas in Western Australia and an important agricultural precinct. Trends of strong urban growth and agricultural intensification are expected to continue into the future, increasing nutrient loads and adding to the challenges of improving water quality in the Geographe catchment. The Optimising Planning project will examine ways in which changes in land use can be better managed through the planning framework to minimise potential impacts on water quality. The City of Busselton is leading this project.
Major fish kills have been recorded in the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands since 1905. After a major fish kill in 2013 the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands Partnership updated the fish kill mitigation and response plan to reduce the frequency and severity of fish kills in the system. The plan focuses on using water quality data from continual loggers and regular phytoplankton monitoring to identify the risk of a fish kill due to poor water quality. Action to reduce that risk by opening gates on the surge barriers to increase seawater inflows and to let fish escape poor water quality conditions are enacted by the Partnership. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation have also trialled the effectiveness of a mobile oxygenation plant to reduce the risk of fish kills.