Natural Values Discussion Paper

Natural Values Discussion Paper

‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’
South West Management Plan

Natural Values

(download  a PDF from the Resources page)


Effective management of the range of ecosystems in the planning area needs to be based on a sound understanding of the natural values and ecological processes that occur across the landscape, as well as the impact of existing and potential threats to those values. This knowledge, together with legislative and policy directions, forms the basis for developing clear long-term ecosystem management strategies to guide the day-to-day management actions and future research priorities. Establishing measurable desired outcomes and evaluation priorities are important components of adaptive management to be undertaken in partnership with other agencies and community members. Apart from providing ecosystem services the natural environment provides people with connections to landscapes, cultural sites, recreation, health and wellbeing.

For Gunditjmara Traditional Owners, ecosystems are intertwined with their cultural, social and spiritual systems. There is a long association with the natural environment and there are many sites of cultural significance throughout the ‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’ South West Management Plan area.



Protected areas within the planning area are managed in accordance with several pieces of legislation, as outlined below.

 National Parks Act 1975 (Vic.)

National parks, State parks and coastal parks in the planning area are managed under the National Parks Act primarily to preserve and protect their natural condition and natural features and, subject to this, to provide for their use by the public for enjoyment, recreation and education.

 Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 (Vic.)

Nature Conservation Reserves and Bushland Reserves are managed to conserve and protect natural values and for landscape protection. Historic reserves are managed to conserve and protect significant historical values, and as appropriate, to conserve and protect natural values and for use.

 Forests Act 1958 (Vic.)

Cobboboonee Forest Park is managed under the Forest Act 1958. Forest Parks provide for recreation activities but also protect cultural and natural values and provide for minor resource uses.

Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth)

The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) provides for the protection and management of nationally and internationally flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places of national significance.

The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape is protected under the EPBC Act Approval must be obtained before taking any action that may have a significant impact on the national heritage values of the place.

Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Vic.)
The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act provides for the protection and conservation of listed threatened species and communities and for the management of potentially threatening processes.

The following policies, documents and programs also guide management.

 Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Biodiversity Strategy

DSE released the draft Victoria's Biodiversity Strategy 2010-2015 Biodiversity is Everybody's Business in 2010 for public consultation. The strategy highlights the current challenges and opportunities for the management and protection of Victoria's biodiversity values and ecosystem services. It seeks to recognise the capabilities and dedication of a range of organisations contributing to biodiversity outcomes and promote opportunities for new partnerships (DSE 2010).

Budj Bim Botanical Management Plan
The Budj Bim Botanical Management Plan (2008) provides an analysis from field surveys and management directions for on-ground works to improve vegetation and fauna habitats of the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.

Habitat 141
Habitat 141 seeks to restore the links between major national parks and nature reserves over a 700 km stretch straddling the SA, NSW and Victorian border region. The planning area falls within habitat 141 zone 1 – Greater Glenelg. Habitat 141 is an integrated landscape approach to address major fragmentation of habitat and species extinctions caused by human development.


The planning area covers:

Managed by Parks Victoria

  • Lower Glenelg,  Mount Richmond and Cobboboonee National Parks
  • Cape Nelson, Dergholm and  Mount Napier State Parks
  • Discovery Bay Coastal Park
  • Discovery Bay Marine National Park
  • Cape Nelson Lighthouse Reserve
  • Crawford River Regional Park
  • 130 Nature Conservation Reserves, Bushland and other reserves

Co managed by Parks Victoria and Budj Bim Council

  • Mt Eccles National Park (proposed Budj Bim National Park)

Managed by Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners  Aboriginal Corporation

  • Lake Condah IPA, Kurtonitj IPA, Peters, Lake Gorrie

Managed by Winda – Mara Aboriginal Corporation

  • Tyrendarra IPA

Managed by DSE

  • Cobboboonee Forest Park

Glenelg Hopkins CMA

The Glenelg Hopkins CMA is currently leading a community consultation process for the identification of regional natural values, which will inform the planning process.



Landscapes within the planning area consist of four different types of Country:

  • Stone Country
  • River/Forest Country
  • Forest Country
  • Sea Country

These can be linked to the ecosystems within the planning area described below.

 The Gunditjmara Traditional Owners have six seasons:

  • Big Wet (May–September) Heavy rains, rivers and creeks burst banks, cold days and nights; wetlands fill up, frogs call, Brolgas dance.
  • Flowering Time (August–November) – Plants and flowers bloom, bees and insects become active, eels swim upstream, birds nesting, eggs available, Banksias flowering, silly winds blow all directions, tadpoles.
  • Fattening Up (October–December) – Chicks and young are raised, fish and eels feed in shallows, grass and shrubs grow, yam daisy and Lily tubers harvested. Bees are busy making honey.
  • Drying out time (November–January) – Northerly winds, weather heats up, grasses seed and dry off. Reptiles become active.
  • Big Dry (January–April) – Waterholes dry up, creeks at their lowest, eels, yabbies, frogs & turtles retreat into mud, wildfires, Bulrush shoots and Orchid tubers harvested, people move to coast feeding on Muntries, Coastal Beard Heath and other berries and seafood.
  • Early Wet (April–June) – Heavy dews, burning season, Old man weed begins to grow on the wetlands.

Natural values can include flora, fauna, ecosytems, landscapes, geology, geomorphological features, cultural sites, and intrinsic connections. The connection and relationship with natural values is varied within the broader community and there are different perspectives on natural values.

 Within the planning area there are five different types of ecosystems:

  • Coastal
  • Dry Forest and Woodlands
  • Heathland
  • Inland Waters and Wetlands
  • Marine

These diverse ecosystems contribute to essential ecosystem services which support human life including clean air and water, regulating climate, maintaining healthy waterways, preventing soil erosion, maintaining biodiversity, provide habitat for threatened species, absorbing and storing carbon, providing for recreational activities and nature-based tourism, and supporting the health and economies of Gunditjmara Traditional Owners and local communities.

The following will inform the planning process:

  • ‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’ South West Management Plan Review and Evaluation of Ecological Knowledge
  • Risk Assessment 
  • Development of conservation objectives
  • Gunditj Mirring Partnership Project Traditional and Contemporary Ecological Knowledge Literature Review
  • Cultural Heritage and Social Values Assessment

 Threats to Natural Values

A wide range of naturally occurring and human-induced threats can have an impact on the natural values of the planning area. These include:

  • Predation of native fauna by introduced species
  • Introduction and spread of invasive plants and pathogens
  • Habitat loss and modification
  • Altered hydrological processes
  • Altered fire regimes
  • Water quality decline and pollution

 Climate Change is already a known threat. It will most likely cause more severe weather conditions, increased fire activity, altered fire regimes, raising seawaters, storm surges, reduced rainfall, increased moisture stress, spread of invasive species, drying up of wetlands. All of these have the potential to threaten ecosystems and natural values. More information is available in the Climate Change Discussion Paper.

 Managing Threats to Natural Values

Protected area managers are faced with a high degree of complexity and considerable uncertainty in attempting to manage natural environments. In this context, Parks Victoria uses an adaptive Environmental Management Framework that can be applied at a range of levels, from individual species to broad natural ecosystems. This risk-to-values based approach to decision making is supported by a number of planning tools that aid planning and resource allocation by understanding individual parks in a statewide context. Refer to the Invasive Species Discussion Paper for more details on these threats.

Gunditjmara Traditional Owners past and present ecological knowledge will also inform the planning process and management of threats to natural values. Through the Lake Condah Sustainability Project an ecological knowledge toolkit will be prepared for public and private land managers.

Levels of Protection (LOP) is another Parks Victoria tool that groups parks according to biodiversity criteria and allocates broad conservation objectives to each group. LOP establishes a hierarchy of management responses to guide park managers in determining the management effort and resourcing priorities (see Levels of Protection Fact Sheet). Levels of Protection is currently only applied to parks and reserves in the planning area managed by Parks Victoria.

To help identify priorities at the species level, an analysis of statewide and bioregional representation and conservation status of flora and fauna species is undertaken. The results – priority species for conservation – are categorised from high to low. A similar analysis of Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) helps to identify priorities at a park level.

How Do We Know If We Are Meeting our Ecosystem Management Objectives?

Signs of Healthy Parks (SHP) is a new approach developed by Parks Victoria to ensure more systematic, robust and integrated ecological monitoring across the range of the State's ecosystems in parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria. In a time of climate change, and high levels of uncertainty, it is critical that we improve our knowledge about the health of our protected areas   and the effectiveness of our management actions as part of adaptive management (see Signs of Healthy Parks Fact Sheet).

While we would like to be able to monitor all of the major values and threats to them, we need to prioritise and target our monitoring programs to focus on the most important indicators of ecosystem health.

The ‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’ South West Management Plan will outline the major condition and threat indicators which need to be monitored over time to determine the change in the condition of the as well as the extent to which management plan objectives are being met.


  • The Gunditjmara Traditional Owners have an aspiration for a skills audit and training/capacity building in all areas of protected area management
  • Sharing of ecological knowledge between Gunditjmara Traditional Owners, Parks Victoria, DSE and the community
  • Partnerships across public/private land for whole of landscape and integrated approach
  • Opportunity to achieve more robust, resilient and sustainable environment
  • Research partnerships.


  • Respect the knowledge of the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners and in partnership implement management actions to maximise the resilience and ecological integrity of natural ecosystems, including their communities and species, using an adaptive management approach
  • Incorporate Gunditjmara Traditional Owners contemporary and traditional ecological knowledge to guide decision making
  • Build Parks Victoria, DSE and Gunditjmara Traditional Owners capacity to share ecological knowledge and manage natural values of the planning area
  • Identify and maintain ecosystems and ecosystem processes that are in currently good condition
  • Where practicable, restore ecosystems and ecosystem processes that have been degraded from past land uses 
  • Identify and protect areas that can be climate change refugia
  • Develop and implement targeted monitoring programs for key indicators of ecosystem health and management effectiveness, and
  • Improve knowledge of potential climate change impacts.


  • How do we continue to ensure Gunditjmara Traditional Owners are involved in partnership and that their knowledge is shared and respected?
  • Which of the planning areas ecosystems, habitats, flora or fauna species or communities, geology and geomorphological features as well as landscapes are the most important to target management actions?
  • How can the community assist in the management of climate change impacts which can threaten the natural values of the planning area?
  • Which of the planning areas natural values and threats are the most important indicators of ecosystem health to target our monitoring programs?


DSE 2010, Victoria's Biodiversity Strategy 2010-2015 Biodiversity is Everybody's Business, Department of Sustainability and Environment, East Melbourne.

Marsden Jacob and Associates 2010, Climate Change Strategic Risk Assessment.

Parks Victoria 2007, Victoria’s State of the Parks Report, Parks Victoria, Melbourne.

SKM 2005, State of the Parks 2005 - Run-off from Victorian Parks. Report prepared for Parks Victoria.

Contact: James Hackel

Phone: 0429950623