Over 60 people attended the  Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut Masterplan launch at the Batesford's Moorabool River Reserve Wednesday the 14th of February 2024. It was a beautiful morning to gather and celebrate another chapter in the history of the stewardship of the Moorabool River. Wadarrung woman Corrina Eccles performed a moving welcome to country along with a smoking ceremony before an address by Christine Couzens MP (standing in for Minister Harriet Shing) who officially launched the plan and announced further funding for works on the Moorabool River.

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Other elected representatives in attendence included Ella George MP (on yet another visit to our beautiful river), Darren Cheeseman MP, along with Councillors Brett Cunningham, Owen Sharkey and Gavin Gamble from the Golden Plains Shire.

After the official matters were concluded GPS Environment Officer Dale Smithyman took attendees on a tour of part of the Moorabool Reserve to show some of the works the Shire was conducting to revegetate this quite stunning part of the lower Moorabool River.

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So what is the Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut Masterplan?

"Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut is an initiative to enhance the visitor experience of the unique environmental, cultural, and recreational values of the Lower Barwon and Lower Moorabool Rivers extending from near Meredith to the Barwon River Estuary at Barwon Heads, encompassing an extensive corridor of river frontage on Wadawurrung Country."

PALM acknowledges in many ways such a document is welcome. It enables a vision for the management of the riparian areas of the Moorabool River and Lower Barwon. It sets out public open space areas for inclusion in precinct plans as the development of the Western Growth Area of Geelong threatens the Moorabool Valley. With luck this will enable push back on, and even get ahead of, some of the less desirable intentions of some developers.

The concern is it will potentially drive visitor numbers to sensitive areas of the river environs, and the infrastructure to cope with excessive patronage will then impact the biodiversity of what are essentially refuges. There should be a general acknowledgement that there should be areas let alone and that no amount of visitor infrastructure will protect them.

During the consultation of the masterplan PALM raised this and number of other issues including: the human-centric language and priorities, no mention of river’s roles in ecological resilience to the impacts of climate change for the myriad of species they support, the reference to a 30mt buffers which are of course inadequate, and little mention of the river bed restoration at the Batesford Quarry. 

Those concerns were spelt out in this correspondence: PALM Notes on Consultation on KDBBLU.

PALM would like to acknowledge there was effort made by the authors to incorporate a number of these concerns with language changes in the final document.

Ultimately the success or otherwise of the master plan will be judged on by how well the Moorabool River and its valley are protected in the long term. Its future should always be the primary focus.

Finally it should be acknowledged the extent of the reserve we were standing in for the announcement was only realised by the hard work of locals and members of PALM in lobbying the Golden Plains Council and Councillors to have it excised from the adjoining development. That those Councillors, and the CEO Eric Braslis, were prepared to listen to the community and its vision for the reserve, then to act to secure it should also be applauded.

The Masterplan can be downloaded from: https://ccma.vic.gov.au/projects/barwon-river-parklands/

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