NERWG Update

20 May 2010

Volunteers

Environmental Planning continues to allocate 77 volunteer days with Conservation Volunteers Australia days donated by Bendigo Bank. The days have been allocated to properties across, Christmas Hills, St Andrews and Strathewen. Volunteers are removing burnt fencing, re-stringing fences, erecting bio-diversity fencing, placing logs/rocks for ongoing erosion control, weed control and other land management tasks as requested by landowners. To date, all of March and April have been allocated to projects.

Approximately 15 re-vegetation projects will commence in May with CVA volunteers supporting landowners to undertake these works. Plants have been ordered from Edendale Farm. Other re-vegetation projects are emerging and volunteers will be allocated for these. Plants in these cases come from a variety of sources. In addition to the Edendale Farm plants, other local Landcare Groups are growing plants for the fire affected areas. Lori Arthur has coordinated some of these activities.

Private Land

Landowners continue to approach Council, often for the first time since the fires, for support with land management issues. Some landowners only just returning to their properties; others are still undecided whether they will return but still requirie land management advice. Landowners that have recently purchased in the burnt area are also requesting assistance.

To date Environmental Planning has meet and supported approximately 125

properties either through property visits/advice; weed control programs and/or volunteer support.

Weeds

Approx 70 properties registered for the blackberry control program and works on these properties has now been completed (some works, particularly on waterways, will be continued in spring).  It is likely that these works will be partly funded through Australian Governments Caring for Our Country – Bushfire Recovery program, Melbourne Water and Council.

Erosion

A tendering process to short list the most appropriate contractors to undertake 40 Erosion control projects on private land will be completed this week. This will establish a pool of contractors from which suited firms will be ask to quote and schedule works for the individual projects. The complexity of design, cost sharing arrangements and the contractor selection process has meant that these works have not been completed as early as some would have liked. However this measured approach will have real benefits in terms of ensuring the most effective design, maximum value for money and long-term stability of works. Patience will still be required to ensure that these projects reach their full potential.

Biodiversity

Landowners continue to participate in the biodiversity monitoring program. To date 18 landowners have registered and some have received reports. Botanical data can be shared with Council.

Council is working with PPWCMA and DSE to develop some consistent and clear messages regarding concerns about the amount of regeneration and potential future fire risk.

Landcare

St Andrews and Strathewen Landcare Groups were both successful in their applications for VBRRA funding. St Andrews Landcare has been successful in obtaining $7500 to run land management education programs and promote Landcare to the wider community in order to offer support for the longer-term recovery. Strathewen Landcare will receive $25,000 to update their spray equipment and run chemical user training sessions. The application for Christmas Hills Landcare is will be assessed by VBRRA in April.

The VBRRA application to establish the Community Nursery has been partially successful (more details to be provided when available). Some seeds collected for the nursery have been sown by local community nurseries for planting in Spring. Landcare Groups will assist with propagation days to prick out the seeds over the next couple of months.

Boundary Fencing project

· 45 properties have indicated that they still require boundary fencing (some of the people on the list have already done their fencing).

· 24 properties have been inspected by Council to gauge the level of work required.

· Inspections are being done as contact is made and as property owners are ready

· 38 landowners have been contacted by Council.

· Council is still chasing accurate contact details for 8 landowners.

· Council is looking a using a variety of methods to get the work completed including contractors, volunteers and CVA crews.

· Some landowners are not returning our calls and many still have complicated issues to resolve with neighbours.

· CVA crews have removed old fencing on a couple of properties

· CVA crews are booked in to do 8 days work in July/August

· Council has employed Julie & Alex Sutherland as Fencing Supervisors to help with the program

· 8 properties have been referred to Julie & Alex for them to organise volunteers crews and undertake works

· Information sheets have been prepared and processes set in place to actively seek volunteers (at the moment we have no volunteers available to do the work)

· More work will be allocated to volunteer crews, CVA and contractors as funding becomes available

· Council is currently sourcing additional funds to support the program. We have $18,000 which was part of the original DPI allocation and are seeking an additional $180,000 (approx).

Property Recovery Plans

Property Recovery Plans are being developed in consultation with 39 landholders and associated funding (via CFOC) is being sought for activities such as stock exclusion/biodiversity protection, erosion control, weed control and soil testing.

New projects

New Erosion Control and Biodiversity Fencing Projects- Assistance with funding ‘new’ erosion control works and biodiversity fencing can not be guaranteed unless the projects are registered by 30 June 2010. As such Council is urging owners of properties with bushfire exacerbated erosion to contact Tim O’Donnell ASAP to arrange an inspection.

Emerging issues include dam de-silting is (estimate 20+ properties), boundary fencing.

Council Land

Roadside erosion control remains a significant issue. Council Officers are compiling a list of priority areas requiring erosion control works and recording these sites using GPS. In addition to identifying the areas requiring works, the appropriate erosion control treatments and estimated costs are being evaluated.

A contractor has been appointed to undertake a 12-month weed control program along fire affected roadsides. Additional funding is currently being sought from DPI and DSE to continue this program.

A second assessment of hazardous roadside trees is about to commence. In addition a program of removing regeneration along roadsides which affect sight lines and/or is growing into the road space has commenced. Roadsides which have been treated include:

St Andrews

· Ninks Rd

· Olives Lne

· Black Calf Creek Rd

· Mullers Rd

· Wild Dog Creek Rd

· Mittons Bridge Rd

Christmas Hills

· Wallace Rd

A fourth round of surveying has been undertaken of the roadside monitoring plots (refer to the attached photos).

Land Management Initiatives

Department of Primary Industries are coordinating a Serrated Tussock control program for within the fire area and 5km below the fire line offering grants for control.

Council has submitted a grant application to the Department of Planning and Community Development requesting $20,000 to support sustainable gardening initiatives in the bushfire affected areas.

Upcoming Events:

Two pasture management information sessions for landholders were held on 17 and 20 March in St Andrews and Strathewen.

Wildlife Recovery and Spotlight Walk – Parks Victoria Ranger, Tony Fitzgerald, led a local spotlight walk up the gully to look at the local nightlife. Special thanks to Celeste and Dom for hosting the walk.

Property Management Planning Course

Sunday 23 May and Sunday 20 June, 9am to 4.30pm (plus a farm walk 18th July)

NMIT, Yan Yean Training Centre, 2005 Plenty Road, Yan Yean

A two day course (plus a half day farm walk) to help you to make the most out of your rural property. So far 6 landholders from bushfire affected area have enrolled. We area able to take more but would need to know by mid-day Friday 21 May..

The course will be especially useful for properties that have lost internal fencing and other infrastructure, where an opportunity for a new layout and management system now exists. Topics covered will include:

· Creating a plan for your property 

· Repairing damaged or fire affected land

· Planning for a bushfire     

· Pest plant and animal control

· Trees on farms

· Land and soil improvements

· Pasture management, and more (see flyer for details)

Cost:  $258 per participant, however for bushfire-affected properties within the Shire of Nillumbik, Council will fully subsidise the cost for one participant per property.

Property Management Planning Farm Walk- Sunday 18th July.

This half day farm walk is part of the above course but is also open to other participants. We will visit properties that have completed Property Management Plans (or ‘Whole Farm Plans’) and see the great benefits that can be achieved. The location & exact timing is still to be confirmed- but please contact Tim O’Donnell to express interest in attending.

A session on Maintaining your dam will be held at Allwood House on Saturday 5th June with Melbourne Water’s diversion staff. Flyer to be distributed asap.

Planning is underway for field days and events for Semester 2 of Council’s 6mthly Environmental Events Program. Ideas for programs in relation to land mgt include:

· Blackberry control field day (in conjunction with DPI) – Oct

· ACUP course (in conjunction with landcare and NMIT) – Nov

· Property Management Planning course (in conjunction with DPI) – Sept/Oct

· Rabbit control field day (in conjunction with Banyule City Council) – Nov

· Managing Native Pastures session (with DPI) – Nov

Other council contact

Ele’s Jenkins role

Ele Jenkins, Youth Participation and Development Officer (Bushfire Recovery)

– Working with current Youth Service projects in a supportive role.

– Working with Nillumbik Social Health and Community Recovery Group

– Role coordination with Assertive Outreach worker (Nillumbik Community Health Service).

– Engagement with young people (10 – 19), to ascertain project interests.

– In a nut shell: working with young people to help develop projects, events, seminars, forums, activities etc…..

Ele is Interested in Landcare developments and options for youth to get involved. She is not sure how this will look but open to brainstorming some ideas.

Nillumbik Shire Council

Ph: (03) 9433 3329

Mobile: 0438 009 185

Email: eleanor.jenkins@nillumbik.vic.gov.au

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