Protecting pristine headwaters

Rivers start their journey high in the mountains and flow to the sea…

This project aims to protect the environmental condition of pristine waterways and support recreational use and tourism in the upper ‘catchments’ or ‘headwaters’ of the Victorian Alps and the Strzelecki Ranges in West Gippsland.

The project will focus on the upper reaches and tributaries of the Thomson, Macalister, Avon and Latrobe Rivers (Victorian Alps) and the Tarwin (West Branch), Franklin, Agnes, Jack-Albert and Tarra rivers (Strzelecki Ranges).

The project will build upon and extend the success of previous work to reduce the spread of willows and maintain willow free areas in these waterways. 

 Waterways in the project area are highly valued for their intact native riparian zones, water quality and diverse ecological communities.  


Willows can physically restrict access for activities such as fishing, canoeing and rafting, and in the case of the latter, pose a serious threat to human safety in fast flowing water.  

The headwater tributaries of our waterways are often of the highest quality, surrounded by native vegetation and providing high quality water and habitats.

This project will address risks arising from the spread of highly invasive willow species (particularly the seeding Grey sallow willow - Salix cinerera and hybrids) on these values.  

Reducing willow infestations and maintaining ‘willow free’ areas in the headwater catchments will benefit waterway condition in the immediate waterway corridor and reduce the risk of reinfestation in downstream environments.  

The project also enhances recreational outcomes eg: fishing and kayaking principally in the Thomson and Macalister rivers, by reducing in-stream obstructions.


Evaluation of work conducted in previous funding rounds has been included in the planning for this three-year cycle. 

Collaborative planning and detailed discussions with partner agencies such as DELWPParks Victoria, neighbouring Catchment Management Authorities, forestry industry, Landcare groups and recreational users have and will continue to inform and shape this program. 

The project interacts and supports broader initiatives such as the West Gippsland Regional Waterway Strategy and the Regional Catchment Strategy


Approximately 400 kilometres of riverbank will be checked, and any willows found will be treated  by June 2024. 

This work will be done by small mobile crews of contractors working by hand to treat infestations.

It is expected that this project will result in ‘willow free’ status that was attained following previous works to be maintained and extended to new areas. 

Work will complement other willow control works being done in the upper catchments of the Victorian Alps including those being done by Parks Vic and neighbouring Catchment Management Authorities.