Local Landcare network a finalist in national awards

Northern Yarra Landcare Network president John Birse and VicRoads Senior Environmental Specialist for Metro Maintenance Delivery Kelly Blackall were presented with the nomination award earlier this month. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Mikayla van Loon

Northern Yarra Landcare Network (NYLN) has been recognised as the Victorian finalist for the Australian Government Partnerships for Landcare Award that will be presented later this month.

Having partnered with Department of Transport (DoT) to conduct appropriate weed management along 14 kilometres of Melba Highway between Yarra Glen and Toolangi, NYLN president John Birse said the award comes as great recognition of how Landcare groups can support government agencies.

The project was sparked because Mr Birse and Landcare members from Steels Creek, Dixons Creek and Chum Creek, which make up NYLN, had noticed DoT contractors would spray weeds one week and slash the next.

“So all the work was basically being done for nothing. Because Landcare is involved with the local people with local volunteers, we said ‘we’re in a position to guide the weed management along the roadside of Melba Highway using local contractors’,” Mr Birse said.

“The benefit of that was we could choose the appropriate time and also the appropriate weeds to attack.”

Working with vineyard operators to ensure the weed management and spraying was done at a time that would not affect the crop, Mr Birse said built the relationship between Landcare, DoT and privately owned businesses.

“We’re very proud about the nomination as it actually shows a far better way of government instrumentalities like DoT getting bang for their buck, by working with local landcare and I think this provides a model for other things.”

Identifying weeds like blackberry, gorse and watsonia across 190 different sites, Mr Birse said NYLN could decide on the best practice for removing these fast spreading plants.

“The problem we had with Melba highway is it’s basically a spreader environment. So like rivers with blackberries, where the blackberries can spread down rivers, it’s the same thing with transport routes.

“We were finding a lot of weeds were coming in from other spots being brought down by transport.”

Initially being funded $15,000 from DoT to undertake the works, that was increased to $22,000 when the impact could be seen.

Because the project has been so successful, Mr Birse said now the NYLN has plans to do a similar weed management program along the rest of Melba Highway.

“We’re now extending it down to Maroondah Highway as well. We’ve also had other Landcare groups to the north of us who have expressed interest,” he said.

“So I’m hoping that if we’re successful in the nomination, the publicity from that is going to mean more and more Landcare groups will get involved. We’re really keen to see that happen.”

Mr Birse said while the nomination in these national awards hopefully builds trust between major organisations and Landcare, it will also spread the word about what Landcare groups can achieve.

“The publicity we get from this award will make people realise that Landcare is really important and hopefully it encourages more people to join landcare.

“What we want people to realise at the moment with the decline in our environment, if they want to do something, joining Landcare is a really good way of having an impact in climate management and the decline of species.”

Mr Birse will travel to Sydney later this month to be a part of the National Landcare Awards where one of the eight nominees will receive the national award.