Our river banks are special places. In good condition with intact native vegetation, they provide habitat for wildlife, food for fish, shade to keep the water temperature in check, and roots to control erosion. They also stop pollutants from entering rivers and help to prevent flood damage.
The problem is that most of our river banks are in terrible condition – and the main reason for that is damage from unrestricted livestock access, especially by cows. Our river banks simply can’t cope with the herds of cattle chomping their way through the vegetation, trampling the ground and pooing in or near the water.
Fortunately there is a simple solution – putting up a fence! Coupled with re-vegetation, excluding livestock from riverbanks creates benefits for farmers and for the environment.It’s also a really important way to mitigate the impacts of climate change – intact river corridors provide a migration route for wildlife and the trees shade the water, helping to keep it cool.
The Andrews Government has made a good start to moving the cows out with its Regional Riparian Action Plan that will protect 2,500 km of river banks in the next 5 years. But thousands of tonnes of cow poo are still getting into our rivers every day – much more needs to be done!
We are very fortunate in Victoria that a lot of the land on river banks is public land. The Andrews government will soon have an opportunity to upgrade the licensing system for this land to better protect our river banks. We’ll be getting busy in 2017 to make sure they do a good job!