After the 1860’s, vast areas of land were cleared or modified to make way for cropping and pasture development. Later, around the turn of the century, large-scale irrigation schemes for the production of fodder crops, cereals and fruits were established on the Campaspe, Goulburn, Loddon and Murray Rivers. Problems of salinity and waterlogging were evident soon after irrigation began in the Kerang area. Vegetation clearance in the south has also had salinity impacts, contributing to rising water tables and saline discharge areas (the former DNRE, 1997).
Patterns of land use reveal a significant level of agricultural activity, when compared to the total land area of the North Central catchment. While 73% of the region is privately owned land (compared to 56% for Victoria as a whole), only 31% is utilised for cropping, pasture or irrigation land uses (TBA Planners P/L. and Neil Clark & Associates, 1998).
Source: TBA Planners P/L. and Neil Clark & Associates (1998).
The flatter and more fertile areas within the catchment have been substantially cleared for dryland agriculture, principally sheep and beef cattle grazing (the former DNRE, 1997), while crops include grains - such as cereals, legumes, oil seed and hay. Irrigation districts provide for dairying, vegetables, horticulture and viticulture. The irrigation districts of the Kerang Lakes, Tragowel Plains, Torrumbarry and Campaspe cover an extensive area of the North central region. In total, approximately 160 000 hectares within the region are irrigated. These areas produce the bulk of agricultural production and enable the most flexible and diverse agricultural activity to occur (TBA Planners P/L. and Neil Clark & Associates, 1998).
Forestry is also a significant land use, particularly around Creswick and Daylesford. Commercial tree species of North Central Victoria include Pinus radiata (Radiata Pine) and Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum). Hardwood processing takes place within the North Central catchment, along the Murray River, while softwood production occurs throughout the central part of the catchment area around Bendigo.
Gold mining is the most significant mineral development industry in the region and although the area affected by mining today is relatively small, large areas remain covered by exploration licenses (the former DNRE, 1997).
Peri-urban and rural residential development has become extensive in the North Central region. Significant areas of the Macedon Ranges, the Calder corridor and the Bendigo area has experienced changes in settlement patterns and rapid growth as a consequence of low density peri-urban, or rural residential development (TBA Planners P/L. and Neil Clark & Associates, 1998).
Vegetation clearance, causing land degradation and salinity, has been identified in the Avon-Richardson region, especially in the terminal lakes of the catchment. In 1996, 12 km of fencing was constructed to prevent regular grazing in salt affected areas and 23 km of fencing was constructed to isolate planted trees. This contributed to an overall total of 695 hectares of the private land that is fenced for the management of vegetation, waterways or salt affected land (TBA Planners P/L. and Neil Clark & Associates, 1998). There is little irrigation in the Avon-Richardson and the most dominant land use is cropping (over 93 000 hectares), while pastures account for around 13 600 hectares.
Over 105 000 hectares of the Loddon catchment are irrigated. This is the largest set of irrigation districts in North Central and the Loddon is the largest catchment within the region. Dairying, tomato production and orchards are significant activities in these areas. In dryland areas, cereal and oilseed crops as well as pasture seed and hay production are important components of overall land use (TBA Planners P/L. and Neil Clark & Associates, 1998).
The Campaspe region is the smallest of the North Central catchments and almost 20 000 hectares, or 8% of holdings, are irrigated. Orchards, intensive horticulture, agriculture and over 46 000 dairy cattle comprise the bulk of agricultural output, and account for activity in most of the viable agricultural operations throughout (TBA Planners P/L. and Neil Clark & Associates, 1998). Cropping and pastures both account for approximately 30 000 hectares of this sub-region.
Cropping dominates land usage in the Avoca, accounting for roughly 32% of total private land (or 192 000 hectares). Meanwhile, more than 35 000 hectares are utilised for irrigation and 45 000 hectares are pasture based land uses.
|Total North Central||Avon||Avoca||Loddon||Campaspe|
|Catchment Area||2.96 million ha||272 882 ha||754 884 ha||1.5 million ha||418 204 ha|
|Private Land||2.2 million ha||229 074 ha||594 803 Ha||1.08 million ha||251 650 ha|
|Irrigated Holding||161 651 ha||242 ha||35 701 ha||105 885 ha||19 822 ha|
|Crops||546 601 ha||93 482 ha||192 254 ha||231 468 ha||29 396 ha|
|Pastures||204 465 ha||13 611 ha||45 338 ha||113 818 ha||31 698 ha|