The world and our region are changing at a rapid rate. Our region is more interconnected with the world than ever before, and new forms of interconnectivity are emerging all the time. These connections and changes influence, and have the potential to significantly transform, our communities, economy, culture and natural landscapes within north east Victoria.
Drivers of change
By understanding the drivers of change and how they influence north east Victoria, we can understand challenges and opportunities for managing our natural resources.
The following links explore the major drivers of change and challenges and opportunities for north east Victoria.
Climate change, extreme events and shocks
The climate is changing.
For the past 30 years (1989 – 2018), winter rainfall has been moderately reliable in north east Victoria, but the summer rainfall over the same period has changed by up to 70-80%.
More hot days are being recorded, especially in the northwest of the region. Wodonga, for example, has recorded temperatures above 44 degrees four times since 1989 – before this, the last time Wodonga exceeded 44°C was in 1968.
Much of the region is also experiencing later and more frequent frosts, with frost risk extending into the last week of November and an average of six more spring frost nights compared with the previous 30-year period.
Rainfall events are predicted to become more intense, and the fire season is likely to continue to get longer and commence earlier. It is likely the effects of fire, flood, drought and blue-green algae in the region will worsen and become more frequent due to climatic changes and will significantly impact ecosystems and the community in the region.
The 2019-20 fires burnt 22% or 431,100 ha of north east Victoria. Of the 226,000ha that burnt in the Upper Murray in 2019-2020, 45% had been burnt multiple times since 2003. Bushfires like the 2019-20 fires, and the rain events following, resulted in increased rates of erosion, increased sediments and turbidity, decreased riparian vegetation, and the introduction of a range of chemicals into waterways. These impacts have flow on effects for potable and agricultural water users, fish and other aquatic populations and social and recreational values.
Events and shocks in the past six years
- 2015 – Fire in the Indigo Valley that burnt nearly 7,000 ha over seven days.
- 2016 – Major flooding in the King and Ovens Rivers and the Murray River downstream of Lake Hume.
- 2016 – 1,700 kilometres of the Murray River affected by a severe outbreak of blue-green algae.
- 2018 – Flash flood event impacting Mid Ovens catchments east of Wangaratta, including significant impacts on Hume Freeway, Tarrawingee, Everton, Eldorado, and Beechworth.
- 2018/20 – Moira, Wodonga, Indigo, the Rural City of Wangaratta and East Gippsland Shire affected by drought and offered government assistance.
- 2019/20 – 22% of the catchment burnt in bushfires that affected areas of the Upper Murray and Ovens catchments, with over 400 properties and large amounts of public land directly affected.
- 2020 – A significant algal bloom occurred on the Murray River, stretching from the Hume Weir to Mildura.
- 2020 – Coronavirsus (COVID-19) Pandemic with lockdowns and border closures impacting the flow of goods, services into and out of the region, volunteering numbers and social interactions.
The following table identifies a range of factors that are causing change in our region, other more specific drivers of change are found in the theme and landscape sections of this strategy. The main trends, in response to these drivers of change in north east Victoria are:
- Intensification of climate variability, acceleration of climate change and with that, an increased intensity and frequency of fire, flood and drought
- Increasing visitation to the region and access to the region’s natural assets for nature-based recreation
- Increasing pressure on the region’s biodiversity due to decline in habitat condition, connectivity, vegetation cover and increased impacts from invasive species and disease
- Increasing rate of land use change including urbanisation and urban growth, which has been intensified by coronavirus (COVID-19) migration and transition from agriculture to lifestyle properties
- Increasing abundance and range of pest plant and animals
- Increasing recognition of rights of Traditional Owners/ First Nations Peoples to care for their Country and acknowledgement of the need for a transformational change in NRM, though a collaborative and strength-based approach.
|Driver of change||Leading to|
|Climate change||Increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, including fire, intense storms, and flash flooding, with less recovery time in between.|
Declining average rainfall and change in seasonal patterns – decrease in modeled water yield of up to 30% less water by 2050 and less rainfall in autumn, winter, and spring.
More frequent and extended drier periods that result in reduced stream base flow.
Increase in temperature variability across all seasons and increase in the number of hot and frost days.
Increase in the adoption of and interest in emissions management by sectors such as agriculture and energy.
Continued loss of habitats, plant species and animal species and increased risk of extinction of threatened, icon and culturally important species.
|Transition to a service economy||Transition away from primary industries and manufacturing towards services-based industries, such as education and health, public services, recreation, visitation, and tourism, including accommodation, cafés, and arts.|
Increase in urbanisation and urban growth.
Increase in incomes and wealth in regional centres, creating demand for recreation and amenity experiences and increased expectations for services.
Increase in land demand for urban expansion and rural residential development and associated rising land values and prices.
Increase in rural gentrification pressures and weekender settlement patterns in towns such as Bright, Yackandandah and Mt Beauty.
|Technological innovation||Increased reliance on high speed and reliable internet and phone coverage to support increased online platforms and virtual/online businesses. |
Rise in social media and changes in the type and nature of communications, public opinion, and advocacy. A perception that social media has led to a decline in reasoning and informed debate.
New technologies that improve management practices, reduce costs, improve product quality and supply chain efficiency.
Applications mixing augmented and virtual reality to demonstrate and enable Traditional Owners/First Nations Peoples to interact with the virtual and physical environment across time.
|Demographic transition||Overall ageing of the population. The median age is increasing fastest in agricultural areas surrounded by regional centres. Small towns close to regional centres such as Beechworth and Yackandandah exhibit much lower rates of ageing.|
Rapid growth and migration into the region from metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney increasing diversity.
Migration of younger people out of the region in search of better job opportunities.
Change in community values and expectations for services and potentially different political views, e.g. with changing demographics, the Indi electorate changed from a Liberal to an independent seat.
Changes in how communities engage may see a decline in memberships of community groups.
Generational change impacts community organisations and volunteering. E.g., millennials tend to care more about issues than organisations.
Early trends since coronavirus (COVID-19) suggest an increase in migration into rural areas as businesses transition to more flexible work arrangements and increased virtual connectivity, demonstrating that change and opportunities can come quickly.
|Changing markets and commodities||Reliable water resources in the north east have seen relatively low demand for trade water, compared with other groundwater and surface water systems in Victoria, but there is some evidence of increasing demand and water market activity in the region. |
Emergence of a carbon market.
Emergence of markets for renewable energy, e.g. solar and wind.
Ongoing and new demands for minerals and the exploration of mineral deposits.
|Acute shocks||Significant economic shocks associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the related population migration into the region.|
Impacts from regular major fires. The 2019-20 fires burned 22% or 431,100 hectares of north east Victoria. Of the 226,000ha that burnt in the Upper Murray in 2019-20, 45% had been burnt multiple times since 2003, impacting community resilience, biodiversity and water quality.
|Change in governance – Strengthening empowerment and self-determination of Traditional Owners /First Nations Peoples||Government policies and legislative changes are formalising rights to self-determination, co-management arrangements and Traditional Owners/First Nations Peoples involvement in land and water management. E.g. The Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Act 2019 and Victorian Framework for Government Engagement with Traditional Owners (2020) |
Legislative changes have formalised co-management of specific areas and legal obligations for public land managers.
Greater collaboration with Traditional Owners/First Nations Peoples to incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge and cultural objectives and practices into planning and managing natural resources.
Need for greater resourcing to strengthen partnerships and engagement; and for Traditional Owners/First Nations Peoples to care for and manage Country according to their Lore and Customs and gather and implement Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
|Change in Governance – Government||Greater centralisation of decision making.|
Change in funding and programs – reduced funding to regional NRM, moving away from agricultural extension and NRM.
Increase in individual and sectorial accountability for the impact of businesses on the environment (e.g. Environment Protection Act 2017, General Environmental Duty)
Increase in standards for community engagement by government agencies increasing local input into NRM planning and decision making.
Environmental-social governance, international pressure and legislative changes to force or encourage sustainable environmental accounting that could change the way the region’s business and industry operate. E.g. the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Table 1. Major drivers of change and impacts influencing north east Victoria.
Major challenges and opportunities
In planning for a resilient north east Victoria, we need to consider and plan for our main challenges and opportunities. Extensive consultation along with consideration of the major drivers of change has enabled us to identify the following major challenges and opportunities for the region:
- Water use and availability
- Changing land use
- Changing economy and demographics
- Strengthening empowerment and self-determination of Traditional Owners/First Nations Peoples
- Resilience with a changing climate
- Changes in volunteering and stewardship
- Increased visitation and recreation.