Aire River - Victorian Heritage River
The Aire River is the only river in the Otways that is listed under the Heritage Rivers Act. Heritage River status means the river has important nature conservation, scenic, recreational and cultural values.
The recent annoucement by the Victorian State government to create the Great Otway National Park will include all the Aire Heritage River corridor. Additionally the The Heritage Rivers Act is to be amended to increase the Aire Heritage River corridor to 200 meters width though the Great Otway National Park.
The information below not in red is now of historical interest and represents the way the Aire Heritage River was being managed when it passed through the Otway State Forest (note that the Otway State Forest is to be abolished).
For the Aire river, the river reserve starts at Hopetoun Falls and runs downstream for 35 KM to the Ocean.
See old Map of Aire River corridor (169 kB)
The old Legislated reserves (buffers) along each side of the Aire river included:
See a summary of reports generated as a part of Government processes that resulted in the Aire Heritage river classification.
In 1978 the Land Conservation Council (LCC78) recognised the importance of the Aire river catchment and recommended that the major tributaries be placed into permanent legislated reserves large enough to protect values. These major tributaries included:
In 1987 the State Government directed the LCC to conduct A Special Investigations of Victoria's Rivers and Streams. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the scenic, recreational , cultural and ecological values of rivers and streams in Victoria with the view to make recommendations on how identified values could be protected.
In 1988 a report titled Scenic Assessment of Victoria's Rivers was prepared for the LCC. The report nominated five rivers in the Otways including the Aire River, as having high scenic quality.
The high scenic quality of the Aire river is also acknowledge in Chapter 17 of the 1989, LCC Rivers and Streams Special Investigation 1989.
Despite these acknowledgments, the 1990 Draft Recommendations Rivers and Streams Special Investigation did not nominate any rivers in the Otways for heritage river listing.
However over a six month period, the values of the Aire River were raised by public submission. The LCC 1991 Final Recommendations Rivers and Streams Special Investigation included the recommendation that the Aire River be listed as a heritage river.
In 1992, legislation was passed to protect heritage rivers in Victoria with buffers on each side of the river.
However the major tributaries such as Youngs Creek, Ciancio Creek and Clearwater Creek still have no legislated protection despite the 1978 LCC recommendation (See Link LCC 78).
Forestry refused to hand over any state forest.
The LCC wanted 200 metre buffers along each side of the Aire River in state forest. Objection from the Forestry department resulted in no commercial forests being removed and placed in reserves. Forestry argued 200 metre buffer would have removed 140 ha from clearfell logging for which 66 ha has "old growth" mountain ash. In the end only a 100 metre buffer each side of the river was granted for State forest sections of the heritage corridor. This 100 metre corridor incorporates areas that can not be logged anyway under standard forestry prescriptions. (See Link LCC 91)
The LCC Rivers and Streams Special Investigation, Final Recommendations, 1991 acknowledges the importance of scenic lanscapes of the Aire river. LCC 1991 states that protection is required of "scenic landscapes from the commencement of the corridor to the mouth of the gorge, and below Lake Craven". (See LCC91 extract.)
Heritage Rivers draft strategy plan
A draft strategy plan Heritage Rivers and Natural
Catchment Areas, Nov. 1997 provides some draft prescriptions for
the protection of the Aire river that go beyond just the buffers reserved
under the Heritage Rivers Act. The draft plan makes numerous references
for the need to protect scenic landscapes for which clearfell logging
is the greatest threat.
See extracts from draft 97 strategy plan
It is not known when the final plan will be released.
Otway Forest Management Plan
The 1991 Proposed Otway Forest Management Plan did not acknowledge that the LCC 91 had nominated the Aire River for heritage listing, only that it was being considered. Hence only people who were participating in the heritage river process would have been made aware of what was going on before the final Otway Forest Management Plan was released.
Section 6.7.2 of the finalised 1992 Otway Forest Management Plan (OFMP) makes a general statement that the same prescriptions that are in place to protect all Otway rivers from logging practices will be good enough to also protect the Aire River. (See extract from Section 6.7.2 OFMP).
Hence the OFMP does not provide any special consideration for the Aire river. To date prescriptions within the OFMP to protect scenic quality of the Aire river catchment have been breached. See OFMP Landscape Studies.
There has been limited information provided by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment to promote the Heritage River Values of the Aire River. Such promotion would draw attention to the threats clearfell logging has on the river, and hence would create public pressure to end logging on all public land in the Aire catchment.
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