Koondrook State Forest watering delivers results for local environment and farmers

Rare waterbirds are fledging, river red gums are thriving and local farmers are sharing in the returns, as Koondrook State Forest’s first colonial bird breeding event since 1993 draws to a close.

Forestry Corporation of NSW’s The Living Murray Program Manager Linda Broekman said up to 1000 breeding pairs of birds nested in a Koondrook State Forest wetland known as the Pollack following natural flooding last year and environmental water was released to see the breeding event through.

“If floodwaters recede too quickly, there’s a real risk of nests drying out and being abandoned before the chicks fledge, so we have been working with local farmers since mid-December to release environmental water to slow the drying process,” Ms Broekman said.

“The environmental flows have maintained water levels in the 200-hectare wetland so the chicks can safely hatch and fledge and we’ve been gradually reducing flows as the breeding draws to a close.

“Waterbird fledglings are now foraging happily, adult herons are leaving having successfully raised their young and Intermediate Egret chicks have almost reached independence, which is an exciting result given there have been no colonial waterbird breeding events in the forest for 24 years.”

Keith Stockwell, Secretary of the Echuca District of Birdlife Australia, and long-time local bird watcher said Intermediate Egrets, a threatened species, were rarely observed nesting in the region.

“Egrets tend to nest later than most other colonial water birds so it is pleasing that environmental water was released into the Pollack to top up floodwater and enable Intermediate Egrets to complete their nesting cycle,” Mr Stockwell said.

Ms Broekman said the environmental watering was the result of a partnership with local farmers and delivered returns to irrigators as well as the forest.

“Because of its location, the Pollack can only receive environmental water via a neighbouring farm so we’ve worked with the Bringan Irrigation Trust to develop outlet points and upgrade pipes to direct environmental water through private irrigation infrastructure,” Ms Broekman said.

“This is an excellent example of local irrigators contributing to spectacular local environmental outcomes. As an added bonus, by using spare capacity in local irrigation infrastructure, the environmental flows have delivered returns to farmers as well as the environment – a real win-win.

“The breeding event was a great indication that the wetland is in good health and we know the rest of the forest has also responded well to recent flooding. With all these adult birds now in the area, we’re preparing for the real possibility of another historic bird breeding event in the forest next spring.”

The development of environmental flows into the Pollack was a collaborative effort between Forestry Corporation, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Bringan Irrigation Trust, which provided the pumps and channels to deliver the flows and members of the local community.

Water was provided by the NSW OEH Adaptive Environmental Water allocation and The Living Murray. The Living Murray is a joint initiative of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

Media contact: Elizabeth Fowler 9407 4265/ 0408 779 903