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Uncovering the Ovens


The Ovens River rises in the Victorian Alps near Mount Feathertop and Mount Hotham, where it is linked to significant freshwater meadows and marshes on the slopes of the Alpine and Mount Buffalo National Parks. Formed by the confluence of its east and west branches at Harrietville, the Ovens River flows north-west towards Bright, fed by many tributaries. The Ovens River is a significant contributor to the Murray-Darling Basin; comprising 0.7% of the catchment area, it contributes 6% of the basin water.

The Ovens River has been greatly modified since European settlement by land clearing, changing land use, gold mining practices and the introduction of willows and other invasive plant and animal species. These activities have had a long-lasting impact on the river. Despite these challenges, the river is highly valued for the environmental, social and economic benefits it provides to landholders, towns and communities.


  • By 2040 the health and resilience of the upper Ovens River will be improved.
  • The river system will be more resilient to high flow events and provide a consistent native vegetation corridor that will be connected and diverse.
  • Instream habitat structures will have increased to provide areas of habitat for the river’s important aquatic and terrestrial fauna species.
  • Woody weed infestations will have significantly reduced, increasing the accessibility for many users.


  • Streamside vegetation structure improved along the river
  • Improved stream channel resilience to protect existing
  • infrastructure and past investment
  • Opportunities for recreation improved, with more access points along the waterway leading to greater visitor numbers and increased local expenditure
  • Water quality maintained to support potable water supply
  • Improvement in aquatic biota


The Flagship Project involves four phases of long-term river management. This approach to river restoration includes the creation of a long-term vision (out to 2040) with a timetable and costing of river works and recovery. There will be many years of coordinated actions to achieve the long-term objectives. The four phases are:

  • Planning and target setting
  • Taking action
  • Recovery and growth
  • Target achieved

‘Uncovering the Ovens’ is entering Phase 2 Taking Action. Phase 1 of this project commenced in 2016 and since then has included extensive planning in consultation with the key community groups which has allowed priority actions to be identified and on ground works to commence to address the project objectives.

This project is part of the Victorian Government’s $222 million investment over four years to improve catchment and waterway health across regional Victoria.

HAVE YOUR SAY - Upper Ovens River Health Program survey - closes 14 November 2022

The North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is developing a long-term River Health Program for the Upper Ovens River and adjoining tributaries between Harrietville and Eurobin. This plan will assist in guiding future investment in these waterways.

Central to developing the plan is capturing community and stakeholder aspirations, priorities, and concerns for these waterways. Engagement of community and stakeholders is being led by the CMA with the support of a local Project Steering Group formed of representatives from the community, businesses, industry, and agencies.

The Upper Ovens River and tributaries support a variety of environmental, social, cultural and economic reasons. We know there are opportunities to improve the health, amenity and recreational access to these waterways and we want to hear what you have to say.


Take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/UpperOvensRiverHaveYourSay

More information - Scott McDonald, North East CMA on 0429 275 171 or scott.mcdonald@necma.vic.gov.au


Uncovering the Ovens fact sheet

North East Catchment Management Authority’s ‘Uncovering the Ovens’ is one of ten state-wide Flagship Waterways projects made possible through ‘Water for Victoria’ and the Victorian Government’s $222 million investment in waterway and catchment health. These large-scale, long-term restoration projects have been identified as priorities for action through consultation with communities and key stakeholders.

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Porepunkah Primary School's plantation block

A Partnership Project is well underway along the Upper Ovens River in Porepunkah. 2.9 Ha of river frontage has been treated for invasive weeds like willow and blackberry.

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Headwater invasive woody weed control

Did you know that the pristine headwaters of the Upper Ovens River are under threat from invasive weeds? Salix cinerea, commonly known as grey sallow willow, is an invasive introduced willow species that has colonised areas of the Victorian alpine environment.

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