Bushfire Council Update 18 February

NERWG

Council Update 18 February

Private land

Council Officers continue to provide on-site land management advice and support to landowners and priority projects are being implemented for erosion control. Issues of particular concern include erosion, damage to dams, weeds (particularly pasture weeds and blackberry) and damage done to private infrastructure in high rain events. Council has engaged with 110+ landholders in relation to environmental recovery since the fires. Landowners are referred to Council from case managers, the Hurstbridge Hub, Ladies of the Black Belt, Recovery Committees, Landcare and word of mouth.

Activities using volunteers and paid contractors on private properties have been undertaken. A schedule of works has been developed until June 2010. Works include weed control, fencing removal and replacement, biodiversity fencing, erosion control and revegetation. Council’s Liason Officer has been working with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) in the area since November 2009. The program is partly funded by Turn Energy and Caring for our Country (CFoC). Recently a submission was made to the Bendigo Bank, which has resulted in a project delivering 100 hours of volunteer time to Nillumbik and Yarra Ranges (80/20% split) allowing us to provide some ongoing and additional support to fire-affected property owners. The liason officer is working with the regional mgr of CVA to develop a timetable of works under this program.

DSE funded erosion control works have been undertaken on 5 private properties. Council continues to work with DPI in designing significant erosion control projects for 14 private properties within the Shire. To date DPI has completed 4 designs and Council is currently awaiting approval from the landowners prior to engaging contractors to implement the designs.

Council has engaged a consultant to support landowners in establishing a biodiversity monitoring program on their property to record changes in vegetation following the fires. 17 landowners have so far registered for the program.

Landcare Australia Ltd and WACMAC funding has been allocated to undertake some erosion control and revegetation works on 2 properties.

Planning is underway to support a number of landowners accessing Caring for Country funding via the CMA and some grant requests have been submitted and approved.

65 landowners have registered for the blackberry control program. A map of interested property owners has previously been distributed to the group. Lori has visited the majority of sites with the contractors to gain quotes. The program will be quite expensive in the order of $60,000-$80,000 but we are hoping that there will be positive results. This program also supports weed control works that Melbourne Water is programming for the Diamond and Arthurs Creeks.

Public land

Monitoring

The long-term monitoring program of the established demonstration sites is continuing. Consultants have recently undertaken assessments of the 10 x 10m quadrats including updating photo-point monitoring and developing a list of indigenous species which are naturally regenerating. The on-going monitoring has highlighted that natural regeneration of species is occurring which is assisting in stabilising soils and reducing roadside erosion. The monitoring has also revealed that the strategic log placement program is assisting in capturing sediment, reducing erosion and encouraging natural regeneration.

Weed control

· A contractor has undertaken a second round of weed control and mapping on Council managed road reserves throughout the Fire Affected Area

· Priority weeds such as St Johns Wort, Cape Broom, Blackberry, Tree Lucerne, Tutsan, Cootamundra Wattle, Blue Periwinkle, Agapanthus, Cordyline and Spear Thistle were controlled across 30km (both sides) of roadsides with high conservation significance

· Weed infestations of concern to local residents and Landcare Groups were targeted as a priority

· Weed regrowth in the fire affected area is being monitored by Council staff with new and emerging infestations being recorded using GPS units. These infestations are then being added onto the weed control program of works.

· A 10 month program of works for weed control is currently being developed.

· A grant application has been submitted to DSE for additional weed control funding until June 2011.

Erosion Control

· Environmental Works Officers have been liaising with Infrastructure Maintenance (IM) and Environmental Planning to assist in the coordination of erosion control works on both Council and private land and to ensure the implementation of environmental best management practices. 

· Erosion problems identified can be loosely grouped into three categories: major erosion problems in association with creeks and gullies, erosion associated with culverts, and bank erosion associated with road embankments.   Vegetation on the majority of road reserves has now regenerated substantially and has inhibited these areas from eroding unless associated with the above categories.  Areas in which high intensity fire has resulted in poor regeneration of plants are being monitored for the development of erosion problems.  

· Major erosion control sites are being managed by Infrastructure Maintenance with input from Environmental Works.   

· New and existing culverts have concentrated run-off flows onto road reserves creating new erosion problems.  IM are installing erosion control structures in association with their culvert replacement works.  These structures are generally functioning well and require minimal input from Environmental Works at this stage.  EW will continue to monitor the impact of these works on road reserves and private properties and ensure environmental best management practices are implemented where required. 

· Bank erosion associated with road embankments is a major concern having serious safety implications to road safety.  Road embankments are at risk of collapse with continual undercutting caused by increased run-off and the dissolution of the subsoil layer.  Integrated solutions are required to mitigate this complex problem.

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