How can we empower the community to get involved?

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Following on from the large Field Days, four of us tackled the popular Market venues setting up Rabbit Control Information Stands at the Metung Market on two occasions late last year, and the Kings Cove Twilight Market this summer. Once again we provided information show-bags for the public, pictorial displays and a variety of specific information on Rabbit Control methods. We encouraged people to use Rabbit Scan and record their sightings, or download the app. These educational stands proved very popular with many people chatting and asking questions. Some had heard of the forthcoming release of the RHDV K5 release, many were interested in the methods of transmission. Most were local people living in relatively new housing subdivisions. Many advised they had a rabbit problem, but hardly any did anything about the problem themselves, they just let it be!

We found good numbers attended these markets and the public were certainly interested in talking to us. Again they saw no need to get involved; it was someone else’s problem, and they hoped someone would fix.

Rabbit Control – Getting the message out there

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Being a member of Landcare for many years we formed a Rabbit Control sub-Committee within our Nicholson Group and having gained a Grant we focussed on a major Rabbit Control Program along the East Gippsland Rail Trail with extensive works being undertaken in a team effort over several years. Initial monitoring indicated that the problem was extensive, the undergrowth thick along many parts of the selected section of Trail, and the work ahead arduous. This didn’t deter the stoic members and having nominated a “leader of the pack” for on ground works plans were soon underway. Much monitoring, clearing of undergrowth and removal of rabbit harbour was essential. We saw a need to engage the services of a young contractor to do much of the initial clearing with assistance from Landcare Members. GPS warren recording was a great help in mapping and planning the best methods of rabbit control. Cameras were also set up in several locations. Due to the type of area, existing plantations and terrain we found that methods had to be confined to fumigation of warrens. This was not an area we could follow up with Ripping.

Many small properties abutted the Rail Trail and by talking with these landholders we were able to offer assistance in reducing rabbit numbers on these properties. During the Project we conducted two Community Forums the first early in the project was designed to educated the community about Rabbits, the life cycle, how quickly numbers increase, the various methods which can be used, and the need to all “get on board” and “do your bit” to assist in reducing numbers. We were fortunate to be able to attract some excellent guest presenters for these educational programs. We worked well together in partnership with Contractors, other agencies, the Rail Trail Committee and a positive result was achieved. Monitoring continued. We all know, Rabbit Control needs to be on-going, there is a need for sufficient funds and manpower to continue, and it must be a concerted effort, everyone needs to get on board and keep going!

A second Community Forum was held as a follow up to convey our findings with excellent reports being given by Presenters including an extensive report from our young Contractor. We endeavoured to make these Forums attractive for people to attend by providing a B.B.Q and refreshments with catering supplied by Landcare members. Throughout the project we found tremendous cooperation between everyone, all worked as a team with much happy interaction.

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Proactive management of serrated tussock

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The time to treat serrated tussock infestations is always yesterday. If that is not possible, the next best option is to treat the first plant that arrives on your property. There is a single immature serrated tussock plant in the picture, and also a single gorse bush. Imagine the time and money saved if the land manager removed these two plants and monitored the sites for a decade.

Community led action needs to focus on enabling landowners to identify invasive species during the early establishment phase, as well as prevention of spread and pathways. If a rural landowner receives good extension services from community groups/taskforces, these plants would be identified and the risks explained in clear language.

Removing these two plants prior to seeding would give you a great return on your money, time and investment.

A photo story

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The business definition of partnership goes something like this: A type of business organization in which two or more individuals pool money, skills, and/or other resources, and share profit and loss in accordance with terms of the partnership agreement.

In my experience though, when the term ‘partnership’ is used in the sense of ‘partnership with community’ it can become less business like and is often led from a community with strong emotional base.

A partnership only becomes a REALationship when there is a strong and underlying trust factor that is built into every decision and every action that each party makes concerning one another.

Partnerships with community must always begin with honest conversation and be developed and nurtured. Providing a group with $$ does not indicate a partnership, it simply indicates that you share mutual interests and that is all.

For community led action to work it must truly be led by community, on the ground and from a local level. This may not always fit with Government priorities.

To enable community led action we must truly value priorities as determined by local community. We must have more conversations about relevance, priorities and resources. And keep on having them.