Minutes (draft): Catchment Forum - Saturday 6th May 2006




Bruce Andrews, Mark Bartkowski, Frank Buchanan, David Churchill, Ern and Nola Dawes, Jack Coles, Gene Gardiner, Helen Evans, Roger Hardley, Denise Hooke, Michael Hooke, Alan Huggins, Rowan Mackenzie, Lucas Oram, Simon Pockley, Hiedi Robinson, Phil Smith, Toby Sommerville, John Turner, Frits Wilmink,


Paul Boyd, Beb and Andrew Buchanan, Cath Callahan, Michael Callahan, Sylvia Churchill, Bruce Costin, Jo Davies, Jocelyn Dexter, Josh Feldman, Leslie Huggins, Greg John, Susan Pockley, Kate Szkonter, Elizbeth Smith, Jock Williamson, Carol Wilmink.



President, Denise Hooke, thanked the agency panel: John Turner (CCMA), Rowan Mackenzie (Barwon Water), Helen Evans and Heidi Robinson (Colac Otway Shire) for making themselves available on a Saturday. Round table introductions followed. Denise gave a brief background to the forum and an overview of the concerns raised in the letter of conditional support. The purpose of the forum was to address these concerns.

Lucas Oram explained the role of the Landcare coordinators and the various ways that he and Greg could help members develop their projects, property plans and funding applications.

Planning Process

Denise introduced Helen Evans from Colac Otway Shire. Helen presented a summary of the planning scheme, the role of the planner and the impact of overlays.

Helen: “Plannng is not just about housing, but about monitoring and regulating land use including the environment. Most (probably all) of the land owned by members of the OBCLG was covered by some form of overlay.”

Helen thought that members of the OBCLG might find useful information online at: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/planningschemes/colacotway/home.html

Question: David Churchill asked if there was any policy relating to road works on Killala Road. Helen replied that road works did not require a planning permit.

Discussion followed relating to the Special Water Supply Catchment (ESO5 - Environmental Significance Overlay 5) and the decision making process that resulted from it. Rowan Mackenzie (Barwon Water) pointed out that although the ESO5 was still an interim order, the impact of the ESO5 was that it triggered a referral process by Barwon Water. He assured members that Barwon Water would only object to a planning application if they could foresee a serious impact on the environment. John Turner (CCMA) maintained that the ESO5 actually didn’t change anything. It simply conferred legal status to Barwon Water as a referral agent. Helen Evans (Colac Otway Shire) responded that if Barwon Water were to object to a planning application, then the Shire would automatically reject the application. Simon Pockley asked for an example of something that Barwon Water might object to. Rowan’s example was a development that would not comply with the Septic Tank Code of Practice.

Contact details for Planning Officer, Helen Evans
ph. 03 5232 9524
email: helen.evans@colacotway.vic.gov.au

Septic Tanks

Lengthy discussion about the status of septic tanks was prompted by Frits Wilmink’s concern that the landholder was to be responsible for septic tank upgrades. Rowan Mackenzie (Barwon Water) referred to a Land Capability Study (about to commence) that would provide good scientific data on the area’s ability to absorb effluent. David Churchill pointed out that studies had already been conducted and that he would be prepared to alert Rowan to where they could be found. Rowan also mentioned the development of a Water Quality Risk Assessment for the whole Barham Catchment. David Churchill expressed concern that this might result in further delays to the planning process. Rowan replied that the risk assessment was simply a component of a continuing program that included addressing water storage as well as water quality.

To clarify the position, Roger Hardley proposed a hypothetical example of 2 development applications that were in all respects equal other than location: one in the Wild Dog Valley and the other in the Barham Valley. Would one succeed over the other? The answer from all members of the panel was “NO” they would probably both succeed. Bruce Andrews pointed out the overlap due to the fact that an assessment of the impact on water quality also falls on Colac Otway Shire as part of the planning process.

Native Vegetation

Heidi Robinson (Colac Otway Shire) spoke about the increase in native vegetation regulatory requirements. Victoria’s native vegetation is protected by legislation and she suggested you check with Council before starting any work that could impact native vegetation as a planning permit may be required. Frits Wilmink expressed concern about the need to apply suitable fines and asked about the imposition of fines for removing vegetation prior to applying for permit. Heidi replied that it was possible to apply for a retrospective permit requiring the replacement of vegetation, however Council only issues retrospective permit in a small and selected number of situations where the offender can demonstrate an improved environmental outcomes (refer to further comments from Heidi Robinson below). David Churchill pointed out that most of the land held by members of the OBCLG was covered in introduced pasture and that erosion from roads was a core matter for concern.

Contact details for Heidi Robinson, Environmental Planner Colac Otway Shire
Phone: (03) 5232 9451
Mobile: 0429 791 242
Fax: (03) 5232 1046
Email: heidi.robinson@colacotway.vic.gov.au

Reference Group and the Action Plan

John Turner outlined the role of the Reference Group and described its purpose as developing a framework for the Action Plan. He stressed that the Reference Group does not determine what can or cannot happen in the Catchment. Lucas Oram described the purpose and status of the Action Plan, which is currently in a first draft stage, with the next draft due on the 17th May 2006. David Churchill asked about time frames and Lucas replied that the Action Plan contained some long-term objectives (over 10 years) as well as shorter-term objectives.

Conditional Support for Special Catchment Declaration

The conditions listed in the letter of conditional support were as follows:

  1. Provision of stock crossings
  2. Provision of off-river watering points
  3. Fencing out of the river
  4. Fencing of areas with capacity for run off
  5. Upgrading of effluent systems where necessary
  6. Riverside weed control
  7. Re-vegetation and riparian projects
  8. Maintenance of the existing water pipeline
  9. Consultation on any proposed restrictions for future development
  10. Support for the publicly accessible river quality indicator for the Barham River.
  11. Provide opportunity for the Otway Barham Catchment Landcare Group to have input into any plan or policy development

At the outset these conditions were discussed in reverse order: It was agreed that items 11, 10 and 9 had been addressed. Frits Wilmink wanted to note that, in principle, new developments should be self-supporting rather than relying on the provision of services that degraded the environment. Rowan acknowledged that the Sustainable Water Strategy (open for comment) did, in fact, address sustainability. Rowan agreed to provide access to the Sustainable Water Strategy for posting on the OBCLG web site.

Discussion returned to who should take responsibility for faulty or malfunctioning Septic systems (item 5). Helen Evans said that the Shire was currently establishing a register of septic systems. It was agreed that Colac Otway Shire had the responsibility to administer legal standards but that there was a lack of clarity about existing septic systems. Helen and Hiedi undertook to facilitate the Shire coming back to the OBCLG with a clear policy on Septic Systems.

Maintenance of the existing water pipeline

Bruce Andrews spoke to this condition: (a) that the existing pipeline was a valuable asset and (b) that the maintenance of the pipeline and the fencing-off of the Barham River were interrelated because of the need to provide off-stream stock watering points. Rowan Mackenzie said that no decisions had yet been made regarding the pipeline and that while it was no longer needed from a water supply perspective. There was no plan to turn it off anytime soon and that nothing would happen until the new storage system had been fully implemented. Allan Huggins said that he thought it a most cost effective piece of infrastructure. However, Rowan disagreed, saying that it was in fact quite problematic. Toby Sommerville alerted the Forum to the fact that no water was flowing over the weir this summer and that the pipeline included asbestos pipes and that broken pipes had been left in the river. Frits Wilmink was concerned that documentation regarding the flow of the river as not readily accessible. Rowan agreed that we needed to know more about the river and committed to discuss the matter of the pipeline further with the catchment focus group. He thought that the issue of the pipeline was related more to the Action Plan than to the Special Catchment Declaration.

Riparian issues

Roger Hardley stressed that there was no compulsion to do any riparian works at all. The key issue was the health of the river. Discussion followed about Bruce Andrews stalled projects and how they might have been funded. It was generally agreed that the remaining riparian concerns were all matters that could be dealt with through funded Landcare projects. Denise Hooke pointed out that the Action Plan would underpin such projects and summarised the extent to which the forum had so far addressed the conditions of support.

Unconditional support - with notes

Roger Hardley put the following motion:

That the OBCLG support the Determination of the Otway Barham Catchment as a Special Water Supply Catchment area.

Rowan spoke for the motion saying that Barwon Water had clear job: to provide water - in addition (following the realisation that environmental health and community health were connected) this meant that Barwon Water was now asking how it could add value and make systems more sustainable. Rowan invited the OBCLG to work with Barwon Water to add value. Roger Hardley welcomed this invitation and asked the group to make the most of the opportunity. John Turner said that the Declaration under the current Act was the first time this had been attempted and would provide a model for the rest of Victoria and Australia. He said that the Board of the CCMA was seeking an assurance that there had been adequate consultation and that the community gave support. The Board’s last meeting occurs in 2nd week of June. Roger Hardley stressed the importance of using the process for the benefit of the OBCLG because the Special Catchment Declaration would proceed regardless. Toby Sommmerville noted that (given the history of the Declaration so far) people were naturally reticent. Simon Pockley suggested that we put the motion.

The motion: That the OBCLG support the Determination of the Otway Barham Catchment as a Special Water Supply Catchment area was put by Roger Hardely, seconded by Simon Pockley and carried unanimously.

While the motion was not contingent on the following actions they were part of the resolution of issues and are recorded below as:

  • Colac Otway Shire (facilitated by Helen Evans) will come back to the OBCLG with a clear policy on Septic Systems.
  • Rowan Mackenzie (Barwon Water) will facilitate further discussion about the future of the existing pipeline with the OBCLG focus group
  • Rowan would provide documents relating to the Sustainable Water Strategy for posting on the OBCLG web site

River Indicator Project

Simon Pockley thanked Barwon Water and CCMA for their support for the River Indicator Project and said that the next stage was a joint (along with Colac Otway Shire) application for Community Water funding.


Accounts relating to the Forum were approved for payment. Put by Frits Wilmink seconded by Allan Huggins.

Forum closed at 1:15pm followed by BBQ lunch.

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