The Goulburn Valley has lost more than 97 per cent of native vegetation that was in the region before pre-European settlement, according to Greater Shepparton City Council.
Chief executive officer Peter Harriott said it was a sobering statistic and one that required prompt and decisive action.
He said it was time to stop the bleeding.
‘‘There’s plenty of cleared farmland out there that can be utilised for a range of development proposals,’’ Mr Harriott said.
‘‘The footprint of our irrigation district is changing. There’s not the amount of water going down the system that there used to be.’’
Mr Harriott said it was essential to start talking to farmers during the initial planning phase of farm upgrades.
‘‘The earlier we can have the conversation with landowners the more chance we have of protecting the native vegetation.’’
Goulburn Broken Catchment Authority, Goulburn-Murray Water and council have pledged to work together to preserve what is left, committing to a forum early next year where actions to protect scattered paddock trees and other native vegetation will be discussed.
Goulburn Broken CMA municipal catchment co-ordinator Rebecca Caldwell said the forum would be an opportunity to bring the key players together.
‘‘What we’re really wanting to do is make sure we’re talking together and we’re on the same page,’’ Ms Caldwell said.
‘‘We’re having new landholders and industries coming into the region and we need to constantly communicate with farmers about the value of native vegetation on their properties.’’
Ms Caldwell said most of the farmers she dealt with were also committed to retaining their paddock trees.
‘‘It’s about finding a balance between the need for irrigation upgrades and the value of paddock vegetation.’’
The forum is planned for March next year.