Region: Ballarat

Legal Number: LEGL/94-15

Plantation: Stewarts Creek

Conservation Priority: High

Google Earth image from 2004.

Image eight years later. It appears that much of the regeneration was burnt in the 2009 bushfires. Image Source Nearmap

Feb 04: Panoramic View of Stewarts Creek Hydrological area recently clearfelled by Hancock.

May 04: Stewarts Creek catchment gets torched by Hancock.

May 05: One year later and the site is now reverting to native vegetation as it has been retired from being a plantation and reverted to Crown 'ownership'.

May 05: One year on after clearfelling and burning.

Responsible Authority: Mount Alexandra Shire Council.

Click here for map of Hancocks' Ballarat region plantations.

Entire Plantation lies within Daylesford Mineral Springs Recharge Area.

Declared Water Catchment Area: Plantation lies within Cairn Curran Proclaimed Water Catchment. Proclaimed 30/5/62. The area also lies in the water supply catchment for the town of Daylesford.

May 04: Recent burning of Daylesfords' Water Supply. Sediment traps have been installed in the main drainage line of the plantation in the past few months by Hancock after complaints by Wombat Forest Society.

May 05: Sediment trap one year on.

Feb 04: Locals were not impressed to see this extremely poor creek crossing inside the coupe. This creeking crossing lies upstream of the Daylesford drinking water supply.

Site Description (provided by Loris Duclos - Wombat Forest Society).

"Location: The site is located within the Hepburn Shire, approximately 1km upstream (south) of the Wombat Reservoir, which is 11km south-east of the township of Daylesford. Access to the site is gained via alogging track on the western side of Wombat Creek Road, 200m south of Leonards Hill Road. The site is located in the Headwaters of the Loddon River and is part of the Cairn Curran Special Water Supply Area under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.

Physical Description: The site encompasses the small catchments of two first order streams that flow generally northwest off the crest of the Great Dividing Range and into Stewarts Creek. These temporary waterways are shown on standard 1:25000 maps and are clearly definable in the field.

Rainfall: 1100mm/yr

Elevation: 770m

Soils: Ordovician sediments

Aspect: north-west

Land Tenure: The site is part of the Hancock Victorian Plantation lease agreement where by the crown has retained ownership of the land and HVP maintain a 99 year right to use the land for timber production purposes. Hepburn Shire is the responsible local government authority in this area. Section 52.18 of the Hepburn Planning Scheme states that 'All requirements of this scheme apply to Crown land which has been leased'.

Daylesford Hepburn Town Water Supply: The site is located within the 916 ha catchment above the Wombat Reservoir. The Reservoir was built in 1964, it has a capacity of 586 ML and is the major water storage facility supplying the townships of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs (CHW 1997).

Murray Goulburn Water (MGW) is the referral water authority relating to planning matters within the Cairn Curran Special Water Supply Area. However, by agreement MGW have handed this responsibility to Central Highlands Water (CHW) for areas above the Wombat and Bullarto Reservoirs."

Plantation Catchment: 2 creeks flow into Wombat Creek Dam/Jubilee Lake/Lake Daylesford/Crow Creek/Loddon River. Area provides drinking water the township of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.


May 2005: One year after burning and clearfelling of pine plantation native species emerge including; Lomandra, various grasses, dichondra, helichrysum, bracken fern, wattles and eucalypts etc etc.

May 05: Dozer tracks one year later, now being reclaimed by nature.

The Stewarts Creek Project - SCA 1979.

The Stewarts Creek Experimental Area was set up in 1957. It was managed by the Soil Conservation Authority, with the co-operation of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission and the Forests Commission. The SCA was responsible for data collection and the agricultural aspects of the project.

The experiment area is in the Wombat Forest, approximately ten kilometres south-east of Daylesford, in the headwaters of the Loddon River. The original vegetation consisted of the messmate and peppermint forest which is typical of large areas of Central Highland forest. The average rainfall is approximately 1080mm.

The experimental area consists of four catchments, ranging in size from 4 to 24 hectares. The catchments were calibrated for studies under natural conditions for nearly ten years. No. 2 catchment was then cleared and sown to pasture and No.5(?) Catchment was cleared and planted to pine trees. The other two catchments have been kept in their natural condition as control or comparison catchments.

Feb 04: Recent clearfelling of plantation by Hancock has disregarded the catchment values of Stewarts Creek.

May 2005: Will this area revert back to native forest in time?

Some Hydrological Effects of Land Use Changes at Stewarts Creek Experimental Area by E. Tsykin & E.M. Laurenson - Department of Civil Engineering Monash University 1980.

"p1 The research at Stewarts Creek is concerned with the hydrologic effects of land use change. In 1959, small experimental catchments were established to discover the difference between the water requirements of eucalypt forests and pine forests as well as the difference between eucalypt forests and pasture. Hydrologic data have been collected since then.

Establishment of the Stewarts Creek experiment followed from the recommendations of an inter-agency committee representative of the Soil Conservation Authority, The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission and the Forests Commission of Victoria. Since its initial establishment, the analyses of the Stewarts Creek data are now being carried out by the Department of Civil Engineering of Monash University with the support of the Authority and the Ministry for Conservation ...

Calculation of runoff from watersheds is one of the main themes in hydrology. This calculation is especially important in Australia because of the dry conditions common here and because the hydrology of land is largely unknown ...

Feb 04: Sediment trap lieing downstream of recent logging.

2. Natural Condition and Treatments

The experimental area at Stewarts Creek is located in the Wombat State Forest, immediately north of the Great Dividing Range. Average annual precipitation for the period 1960-1978 is 1077mm. Ordovician siltstones and mudstones underlie stony loams and soils.

Soils of all the catchment areas belong to yellow and red GN type with sporadically stretched dark A horizon. This horizon is met with in the eucalypt forest relatively often, in pine forests seldom, and in pasture very seldom. Subsoils are practically uniform everywhere: brown silty clay.

Initially, the vegetation of all the catchment areas was approximately uniform, consisting of regrowth messmate and peppermint forest with many trees reaching merchantable maturity. The area had been lightly cut over for may years. The vegetation was represented initially by Eucalyptus dives and Eucalyptus radiata, Acacia micronata, Pteridium aquilinum, Tetrarrhena Juncea and Poa caespitosa.


More detailed image of Stewarts Creek, with Hancock land (Catchment 5) marked in orange.

Five relatively equivalent catchment areas were established in this forest in 1959 but one has been discontinued. Digitized data are therefore available for four catchments, designated herein as CA1, CA2, CA4 and CA5.

Feb 04: Bulldozers have driven through this soak/drainage line inside the logging coupe. This practice could be a breach of the Code of Forest Practice.

Table 1 Catchment Characteristics

Catchment number 1 2 4 5
Area, ha 4.29 4.02 25.25 17.64
Length of the Main Water Course 192 156 984 703
Average Width of Basin, m 223 258 257 251
Average Slope of Basin (degrees) 5.5 6.3 6.2 6.0
Aspect E E W W

8. Conclusion

The first report clearly established the significant increase in runoff that followed the clearing of the eucalypt forest at Stewarts Creek and its replacement by pine forest and pasture. The analyses of this report clearly establish that the magnitude of the increase in runoff was very substantial for the first four years after the clearing but has decreased markedly since then, though it is still significant. Continuation of data collection is necessary to determine long-term effects.

Clearly, the absence of vegetation greatly increased the runoff and the re-establishment of the new vegetation reduced this increase. However, the mechanisms for these changes is not known. They may indicate that the transpiration effects of vegetation have a dominat effect on runoff that outweighs interception effects. On the other hand, they may arise from the influence of vegetation on soil structure and the consequent effects on water balance components. Further research will be necessary to identify the specific hydrologic mechanisms that caused the runoff increases.

Both the runoff and the infiltration studies showed the mature eucalypt forest to have relatively large storage effects (long memory for previous rainfall) while the pine forest and pasture had relatively small storage effects (or short memory). This conclusion was confirmed by studies on catchments elsewhere in Victoria. It seems to be related to changes in the nature of the upper soil stratum that occurred either at the time of clearing or afterwards as the new vegetation became established. These observations should be valuable in the development and fitting of a deterministic hydrological model to the catchments for deeper elucidation of the hydrologic effects of the land use changes.

Feb 04: Main drainage line of coupe with bulldozer tracks through it. This is substandard logging practice by the only company currently operating in Australia with Forest Stewardship Council Certification.

Catchment Managment Authority: North Central Catchment Management Authority

Wombat Creek Dam, Daylseford: A very deep 2ha reservoir, surrounded by forest. Domestic water supply, boating and wading prohibited. A permit to fish is needed and can be obtained from the Daylesford Water Board. Contains some brown trout to 500g, small rainbow trout, and a few redfin.

Source: A Guide to the Inland Angling Waters of Victoria by BR Tunbridge, PL Rogan, CA Barnham. Department Conservation and Environment. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, 123 Brown St, Heidelberg, 3084. (4th ed - 1991)

Feb 04: Gully of Stewarts Creek recently trashed by Hancock operations.

Wombat Creek Dam Jubilee Lake Lake Daylesford Crow Creek Loddon River Ballarat (Central West)