Serrated tussock community engagement training

Towards Better Management of Serrated Tussock

Community Engagement Principles and Practice Workshop

Bacchus Marsh, Saturday 25 May

9 am – 4 pm

Are you interested in serrated tussock control and looking to develop your community engagement practices?

Apply now for this free workshop, hosted by the Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP).

You will need to be interested in connecting with others to share your knowledge and experience of what is going well and the issues you face, in a professionally facilitated, peer-based learning environment.

Fifteen places are available. Applications are welcomed from community members, volunteers and professionals involved in serrated tussock management, whether it be through a community or farming group, Landcare, government agency, Catchment Management Authority, or any other organisation with land management responsibilities.

Applications close Friday 5 May 2019. Apply online at https://goo.gl/forms/RTDn3wwqbcazJbW33

For more information contact Martin Deering, VSTWP Executive Officer: info@serratedtussock.com

Reinvigorating community action on blackberry

The first year of a partnership between the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce (VBT) and the Whittlesea community (on the northern fringe of Melbourne) has been productive and busy for landowners and the local council.

Formed in response to community and council interest in managing blackberry infestations on peri-urban and small rural acreages, the Whittlesea and Surrounds Blackberry Action Group have worked closely with City of Whittlesea and the VBT to sign up 29 local landowners to voluntary management agreements.

The group have also hosted an Invasive Species Forum, which saw 40 community members meet to discuss blackberry biocontrol, deer population projections and further collaborative opportunities with local council and Melbourne Water.

Most recently, the group worked with the VBT to hold a demonstration day on practical control techniques including the use drones for applying herbicide.

The Whittlesea program will continue over the next 12 months, focusing on follow-up visits and recruitment of new landholders. The video featured at the start of this newsletter highlights some of the group’s early achievements.

Another new group, the West Strzelecki Blackberry Action Group, has recently been formed in the Mt Worth area south east of Warragul. The group hopes to sign 20 landholders to a voluntary management agreement in the next 12 months.

Image: VBT Executive Officer Barton Roberts with WASBAG President Peter Rutley and City of Whittlesea Environment Officer Katherine Whittaker.

Motivating the disengaged

Field day participants at a talk on serrated tussock controlAn innovative social science project has delved into one of the biggest issues plaguing community pest management: how to motivate disengaged landowners.

Funded by the VSTWP through the Weeds and Rabbits Project, it focused on understanding the mindset of “don’t know/don’t care” landowners.

The research considered different types of landowners and the values that would be most likely to drive or hinder weed control.

Community Engagement Officer at VSTWP, Ivan Carter, said the findings were transferable to many environmental issues and challenges.

“The work provides us with more effective options and strategies to embed into our engagement activities, and gives us a better understanding of the landowner groups we are dealing with and what exactly motivates them.”

A report on the project is available on the VSTWP website.

Image: VSTWP Extension Officer Ivan Carter with community members at a recent field day.

Master class on leading change in communities

Master Class delivery team members Tanya Howard, Ted Alter, Lisa Adams and Darren MarshallA community engagement course with a difference has helped build new skills and networks for supporting community-led management of weeds and pests.

The Master Class in Leadership for Community Engagement brought together 23 aspiring community engagement leaders, representing Landcare, government agencies, local councils, industry and community groups.

Instead of following a step-by-step engagement framework, the Master Class encouraged participants to consider how they could advocate for a stronger voice for the community in the planning and delivery of weed and pest management.

The program highlighted the importance of investing in relationships within the community to build trust. For many participants, this was a shift away from the more traditional approach of coming up with a project idea and then ‘engaging’ the community to help ‘deliver it’. It also highlighted that ‘outputs’ such as hectares of control undertaken, number of trees planted, or number of people ‘engaged’ are not always reliable indicators of success for either projects or communities.

The Master Class is the Weeds and Rabbits Project’s major community leadership program. It was facilitated by Professor Ted Alter from Penn State University and Dr Tanya Howard from University of New England.

If you missed out on this opportunity and are keen to build your community engagement skills, read on below for details of an upcoming program.

Image: Some of the members of the Master Class delivery team – Tanya Howard (co-facilitator), Ted Alter (facilitator), Lisa Adams (panellist) and Darren Marshall (presenter).

Lives are meant to get easier

pastedImage

Malcolm Fraser infamously reminded us that life is not meant to be easy, indeed each generation considers their lot hard. After some reflection it occurs that we do want life to get easier.

That’s what your family and forebears worked for and it is what you’re doing for your children, learning and working to make life different for them. Ours is a co-operative way of life, we elect our representatives to work for and on our behalf. It’s their job to direct the servants of the public to help us get things done that benefit the community and the catchment. Where farmers and town’s people put in their share reasonably, government can meet halfway. After years of working on the land, waterways and catchments we have this chance now. For now is the best or maybe the last chance. The work of others means we have the knowledge to remove Australia’s most costly pest – the rabbit – and be in charge of what plant species grows and survives on country.

Over 50 years of research proves that only by kicking the rabbit out can ecosystems recover. Just a rabbit per three hectares can stop natural regeneration in most landscapes in your state. All of the tree planting schemes, ever done pale in comparison with rabbit reduction. The returns from implementing effective rabbit control based off warren destruction are great; every dollar invested, ten comes back. Ten million dollars invested can return $100m for Victoria. The best efforts of farm and conservation managers will come to nought without effective rabbit control.

Lives are meant to get easier.

WAGS – Wabbit Action Group Silvan

Laying carrot bait

The Wabbit (rabbit) Action Group Silvan operates in an area of high value, intensive horticultural production on the urban fringe of Melbourne. Rabbit numbers have increased significantly over the last two decades, causing economic damage to orchard trees, berry crops, nursery and cut flower plants.

Small acreage holdings and the many hobby farms means that traditional methods of rabbit control are no longer appropriate. Traps are banned, baiting (1080) is not safe and ferreting is no longer popular. Shooting is still useful if care is taken but is discouraged by many people. Many lifestyle landholders have some complacency about the damage rabbits cause, perceiving them as ‘cute’.

Mechanical warren destruction is much more difficult here because a majority of warrens are in dam banks, creek banks, under trees or on land that is not to be disturbed for environmental reasons.
Blackberry infestations are a major harbour for rabbits and it is very difficult to get landowners, to clear blackberries.

WAGS has run several information workshops since it was formed 18 months ago. We have distributed Pindone bait to interested landholders. However, with plenty of fresh green grass all year round, rabbits do not eat the bait.

WAGS participated in the recent Calicivirus K5 release. The uptake of the treated bait was very encouraging but only one obvious Calici carcass has been collected. Our next spotlight count will, hopefully, confirm this success of the K5 release.
WAGS’ next steps are to assist the spread of the K5 virus by storing K5-dead rabbits for re-release of the virus at an opportune time in the future.

A demonstration plot is being developed to revegetate a warren-pocked area that was also infested with blackberries.

With ongoing funding, WAGS will continue to encourage and assist local landowners to combat rabbits in an area-wide multifaceted approach.

Roadside pests: how we made it work

neil2

Up until about 2011 there was a lot of doubt and controversy about who was responsible for pest plants and animals along roadsides. After a lot of consultation and hard work in establishing a determination, local councils were deemed to be responsible for all roadsides that were ‘council roads’. VicRoads would continue to maintain all roads and freeways for which they were responsible.

As a result of this decision the Victorian Government provided funding to shire councils to address roadside weed and pest management. Shires could engage contractors to undertake the work that would then be approved for payment.

Our shire’s initial funding was $150 000 over the first three years: this was extended to a fourth and fifth year – total funding was in the order of $250 000.

The rate base for our Shire is small. There are not many on-ground staff. Recognising this as an issue, that in the past weed control had led to sub-optimal results, our local landcare groups developed a model to assist the Shire in delivering the program.

Our proposition was that if the Shire met all the regulatory requirements of the funding, the landcare groups would inspect the roadsides to locate weeds and rabbits. Each group selected an approved contractor to undertake the work; a landcare representative supervised the work and approved final payment by the Shire to the contractor on the basis that work was completed to the required standard.

Shire officers, agency staff and the landcare group representatives have met annually to review and improve the program.

There has been a significant impact on the extent of roadside weeds. The involvement of the landcare groups meant that community education is more effective and our community owns the project. A win-win for all.

How we made it work-A Pest Plant and Animal Roadside Management Program

neil2

Up until about 2011 there was a lot of doubt and controversy about who was responsible for pest plants and animals along roadsides. After a lot of consultation and hard work in establishing a determination, local councils were deemed to be responsible for all roadsides that were ‘council roads’. VicRoads would continue to maintain all roads and freeways for which they were responsible.

As a result of this decision the Victorian Government provided funding to shire councils to address roadside weed and pest management. Shires could engage contractors to undertake the work that would then be approved for payment.

Our shire’s initial funding was $150 000 over the first three years: this was extended to a fourth and fifth year – total funding was in the order of $250 000.

The rate base for our Shire is small. There are not many on-ground staff. Recognising this as an issue, that in the past weed control had led to sub-optimal results, our local landcare groups developed a model to assist the Shire in delivering the program.

Our proposition was that if the Shire met all the regulatory requirements of the funding, the landcare groups would inspect the roadsides to locate weeds and rabbits. Each group selected an approved contractor to undertake the work; a landcare representative supervised the work and approved final payment by the Shire to the contractor on the basis that work was completed to the required standard.

Shire officers, agency staff and the landcare group representatives have met annually to review and improve the program.

There has been a significant impact on the extent of roadside weeds. The involvement of the landcare groups meant that community education is more effective and our community owns the project. A win-win for all.

In it for the long haul on rabbits

rabbit pm

Our rabbit control story has been ongoing … forever. In ‘the old days’ it was poison, spotlight, fumigate … every year, year after year! In the early 90s the tide began to change. We developed and implemented a broad scale, integrated approach that covered six landcare groups in our area – a total of 93 000 ha. To do this our community established a collaborative of the six groups. We called ourselves The Granite Creeks Project.

The community led integrated control program was developed by our Committee of Management. We decided to employ a fulltime Education Officer. This was a critical part of our early and ongoing success. The role was to actively educate our community by attending landcare meetings, contacting agencies, making site visits to individual and groups of landholders, publishing articles in local papers, building partnerships … we even featured in The Australian Geographic.

Often, the best things that can happen are unplanned … enter the 1995 RHDV impact. We were chosen as one of 17 data collection sites across Victoria. Our spotlight transect has been continuous from 1996 to 2017 … 22 years of data. Our control program has been in place for more than 25 years and continues every year … so what is the proof of success?

Rabbit counts for the 18 km transect are down from 1070 rabbits in 1996 to 8 in 2016. Cost to government and community is down to one tenth of 1996 expenditure. Land mangers have more time for other activities. Our current funding is in the order of $15 000 … because this is essentially all that is needed to maintain our previous investment and gains.

Some reasons for our ongoing success are that the program is landscape wide, it is community developed and community driven.

A Story of Success – Effective Rabbit Control Is A Long Haul

rabbit pm

Our rabbit control story has been ongoing … forever. In ‘the old days’ it was poison, spotlight, fumigate … every year, year after year! In the early 90s the tide began to change. We developed and implemented a broad scale, integrated approach that covered six landcare groups in our area – a total of 93 000 ha. To do this our community established a collaborative of the six groups. We called ourselves The Granite Creeks Project.

The community led integrated control program was developed by our Committee of Management. We decided to employ a fulltime Education Officer. This was a critical part of our early and ongoing success. The role was to actively educate our community by attending landcare meetings, contacting agencies, making site visits to individual and groups of landholders, publishing articles in local papers, building partnerships … we even featured in The Australian Geographic.

Often, the best things that can happen are unplanned … enter the 1995 RHDV impact. We were chosen as one of 17 data collection sites across Victoria. Our spotlight transect has been continuous from 1996 to 2017 … 22 years of data. Our control program has been in place for more than 25 years and continues every year … so what is the proof of success?

Rabbit counts for the 18 km transect are down from 1070 rabbits in 1996 to 8 in 2016. Cost to government and community is down to one tenth of 1996 expenditure. Land mangers have more time for other activities. Our current funding is in the order of $15 000 … because this is essentially all that is needed to maintain our previous investment and gains.

Some reasons for our ongoing success are that the program is landscape wide, it is community developed and community driven.