Last willow gone from the Agnes
Published: 27 June 2023

Last willow gone from the Agnes River 

West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is proud to have removed the last remaining stand of willow trees from the entire length of the Agnes River – a first for the organisation and a win for the environment. 

“Willows are a problem for rivers and removing them from 100% of the Agnes is a special milestone for the CMA,” said CEO Martin Fuller.  

“The Agnes is a flagship river for our region because it runs into Corner Inlet and what happens along its length has a flow on effect for the world renowned wetland.” 

West Gippsland CMA has recently celebrated 25 years and the team has been chipping away at removing willows across the catchment since it was established in 1997. 

Someone who has been on the ground since this project began is Project Delivery Officer, Richard (Richie) Allen who has worked with the CMA for over 20 years. He forms partnerships with landholders to map out the works required and then creates an agreement to implement them.  

“In the early days there was a different mindset, so we chipped in and just did what we could. As a few landholders came on board, the success spread like wildfire. Now people are queuing up to have works done because they see the benefits like how it’s much easier to manage their stock,” said Richie. 

“Willows are introduced, impacting on waterways by diverting the water flow, changing the channel, making the river wider, and have a massive leaf drop in one hit – which changes nutrients in the water.” 

The next step after removing willows and weeds is planting the riverbanks with native vegetation. The team will soon put thousands of indigenous species in the ground using a mix of 30% eucalypts and the remaining understorey plants. This links habitat which benefits the river health and wildlife.  

“So far, we have fenced and revegetated over 90% of the river. By the end of 2023-24, this will be 100% and I can see how the river is ‘reclaiming’ itself and wildlife is starting to return,” he said. 

To date, works on the Corner Inlet and Agnes River project, funded by the Victorian Government as one of its Flagship Rivers have also included: 

  • fencing 78.5 kilometres of river frontage at 65 sites
  • planting 235,838 trees and shrubs to restore 237.63 hectares
  • undertaking weed control on 414,51 hectares at 218 sites

All the positive works along the Agnes upstream ultimately flow down to benefit fish, birds and seagrass in Corner Inlet. The buffer created by the weed removal, fencing and revegetation improves conditions for seagrass to flourish by reducing nutrient and sediment flowing into the inlet. 
Agnes River is on Gunaikurnai Country and begins in the Strzelecki Ranges, meandering its way into Corner Inlet near the town of Toora. It is well known for the Agnes Falls where the river cascades into a spectacular 59m drop into a deep picturesque gorge. 

This large-scale restoration project is one of 19 Flagship Waterway projects funded as part of the Victorian Government’s $248 million investment over four years (2020-2024) to improve the health of waterways and catchments across regional Victoria. 

Agnes River after willow removal May 2023
Agnes River bank before willow removal.