Dockers Plains Pastoral Company Landscape Covenant: Trust for Nature
The Dockers Plains Pastoral Company holding consists of 3,000 hectares with two main enterprise activities, a self replacing Angus herd and share cropping principally canola and wheat.
After several years of development, based on work carried out by a river tender grant and some months of negotiation, a deed of Covenant was signed with Trust for Nature in September of 2009. Designed specifically to achieve sustainable land use, the covenant protects significant conservation values whilst allowing sustainable agricultural activities.
The Dockers Plains Pastoral Company Landscape Covenant is the largest covenant in Victoria. The Covenant totals 916 ha and is located in North East Victoria on the Lower Ovens River, approximately 10 kilometres north of Wangaratta. Additionally the northern section of the covenant is an adjunct to the adjacent the Warby Range Lower Ovens National Park.
The covenant protects a high conservation landscape of riparian native vegetation, over 70 to 80 separate wetlands and with 17kms of frontage to the Ovens River. There is an additional 10kms of Reedy Creek frontage and the landscape is the confluence of these two streams. The site is significant in terms of flora and fauna with remnant Floodplain Riparian Woodland, intact wetland systems and significant numbers of wetland birds.
The covenant has two tiers, 331 hectares is classified as Protected Land and 585 ha is classified as Modified Land. The two tiers reflect differences in conservation significance and land use. The Protected Land conserves the most intact and extensive areas of native vegetation. The Modified Land conserves more modified vegetation areas and wetlands and allows a range of agricultural land uses but critically precludes intensive land use development.
In partnership with the owners and farm management, a system of three grazing zones has been established. Zone one is total stock exclusion in high conservation value areas. Zone two is modified grazing of higher value areas where a set of prescriptions have been developed to minimize grazing impacts on the environment. Zone three is normal grazing where there are no restrictions on grazing levels and restrictions apply on pasture development and intensive agricultural development.
Speaking of his motivation towards private land conservation, co-owner and principal of the Dockers Plains Pastoral Company John Paul states: “The thing that encouraged me to look at the landscape in a different way was the rate that we were losing our large old red gums and how long it would take to replace these paddock trees and monarch gums: hundreds of years”.
“After doing a number of environmental projects including covenanting individual wetlands, we were looking for some way of further protecting the environmental values of the property” John states. “Jim Blackney the Trust’s North East Regional manager aided by developing the Landscape Covenant with us, the first for the State”.
“Our partnership with Trust for Nature has allowed us to continue in developing both the agronomic and environmental aspects of the enterprise. The environmental development continues and is a major focus of the activities of the property. Recent initiatives include a major environmental project via Caring for Our Country project to extend and develop corridors and protect riparian remnants.”
(Thanks to Jim Blackney and John Paul for their preparation of the above story)