Vision: Healthy landscapes and soil managed for the future

The Land theme considers land health with a focus on agricultural land use.

The north central region has been extensively cleared for agriculture, particularly on the flatter more fertile plains, where less than 30% native vegetation remains (refer Biodiversity theme page for more information). Eighty seven per cent of land in the region is privately owned and much of it used for agriculture.

The region’s land managers are recognised as successful and innovative growers of food and fibre, who work hard to improve the condition of the natural resources on which they rely. Landcare was founded in the region in 1986 and there are now more than 160 Landcare and other sustainable farming groups active in the region.

The region comprises a variety of land and soil types that sustain a diverse range of agricultural enterprises. In the steeper terrain of the uplands, land is mostly used for livestock grazing, however further north in the gentler more undulating foothills of the Campaspe, Loddon, Avoca and Avon-Richardson river basins, cropping is common, alongside mixed farming enterprises.  Irrigated agriculture is concentrated within the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID), in the north of the region on the Riverine Plains.

In the south east part of the region, predominantly south of Bendigo, the demographics continue to change with an increasing demand for rural residential living (lifestyle, hobby farm) development. With this expansion comes a wide range of landholders new to land management.

Whilst an ageing population and trend toward larger/corporate farms in the north and west is leading to population decline and associated socio-economic impacts including a reduced volunteer base.

Across the northern irrigation districts of the region, there has been significant change, driven by climate change, drought, irrigation modernisation, changing water policy, water trade out of the region and fluctuating commodity prices. This has reduced the amount of irrigation in the region and changed; the mix of irrigation enterprise types, irrigation businesses, surface and subsurface drainage requirements. 

Extent of land uses 2015-19 (click arrows to see 1985-90 map)

Changing demographics and land use and climate change bring considerable challenges but also opportunities.

The key approaches proposed to deliver on priorities for the Land theme are:

  • Participatory community-based approaches that build capacity, empowering land managers/owners to make informed decisions.
  • Supporting and recognising stewardship, and holistic land management for agricultural productivity and ecological values.

The RCS Land Discussion Paper was drafted to frame conversations with stakeholders, obtain feedback and inform the development of this webpage. It includes more detail and references.