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.

BB on Baw Baw

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Tent deconstructed and sheathed, the last sip of my morning coffee savoured, boots on and backpack donned. We left Mt Erica campsite without a trace to embark on the beautiful two hour jaunt down the hill past mushroom rocks to where we’d left the car parked two days earlier. What a weekend. What a place. The Mt Baw Baw section of the southern portion of the Alpine Trail was spectacular, silver wattle and snow-gums hugging the track and framing our impressions of this exquisite landscape – which, I noted, had been remarkably well maintained by the people at Parks.

It was with surprise that I happened upon a sneaky shoot of blackberry emerging from the native undergrowth, the sole blackberry I had encountered over three days on the track. Given how stubborn and prolific the spread of blackberry can be, I’m grateful for the good work being done in the area to manage this weed and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of this beautiful native ecology.

Thanks

A story about Blackberry

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I thought I would share my story about one of several rural blocks I have “cleaned up” in my life and specifically in the ongoing battle I have had with Blackberry, but i would also like to make mention of English broom, as it appears to me it is going to get just as bad as Blackberry.

The general location I am talking about is central and east Gippsland & north east Victoria.

I wish the government would reclassify blackberry from noxious to prohibited so that a greater effort was made to control this weed, but I also realise why its classified as it is.

I am very concerned about English broom getting established elsewhere other than the mitta catchment (ie Jordan/Thomson & Goulburn catchments) because it could be eradicated there, to date the govt land managers responsible for those locations are not making enough effort to achieve that.

Two “before and after” photos of part of a property (I cleared blackberry entirely) I use to own.

Gorse spiel

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Moyne Shire Council is responsible for around 3,000km of municipal roads within its municipality. One of these roads is Three Chain Road at Wangoom on the outskirts of the sprawling urban city of Warrnambool. The road runs pretty much North-South, is fairly short (3.3km), is basically unformed, and happens to have environmental reserves a short distance (<1km away) from either end.

Back in 2007 Council’s Environmental Unit was made aware of a major Gorse (Ulex europaeus) outbreak along this road by volunteers with an interest in the environmental reserves. The size of the problem (1.5km long x 40m wide x 3m high in the main patch) immediately took it to #1 as the largest Gorse patch on any Moyne managed roadside. Unfortunately, there was no funding available to treat it at the time but the site was listed as a very high priority in a Victorian Government grant application that was applied for in 2008. Funding was successfully obtained but due to oversubscription it was significantly less than was required to do a thorough job. A single chemical treatment was all that could occur and thankfully the contractor tasked with the job of manually spraying it performed admirably!

Council had insufficient budget available to return in 2009 but spraying was able to occur in 2010 and 2011. Working closely with the local part-time Gorse facilitator in 2012 a machine operating on private land at a nearby area was obtained allowing Three Chain Road to be groomed/mulched (ironically by the original contractor that had manually sprayed it). With additional funding having subsequently been made available Council has returned to spray this roadside twice per year for the five years since. In this time Council has assisted the neighbouring private landholders by allowing them to utilise the contractor whilst on-site to perform Gorse spraying works at minimal cost.

In 2017 the urban sprawl of Warrnambool is creeping ever closer to Three Chain Road but the road itself still remains unformed along its entire length. The only difference is that Gorse bushes are far harder to spot and when they are found they are ankle high rather than towering monsters. Council knows it will need to re-visit this roadside regularly for the foreseeable future to ensure it stays on top of the problem, but looking back on the results of the past nine years of activity it certainly feels that the Three Chain pain is now a gain.

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.

Start the conversation over a cup of tea…

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I’m really lucky that I grew up in a country town surrounded by redgum forests, rivers and wetlands alongside farms in a small community. It’s provided me with great motivation to protect this space and also provide a solid foundation to have a career in the space of environment, water, agriculture and community.

Working in the rabbit management field I find that I dabble in all four areas frequently, they all connect in one way or another. Not everyone cares about rabbit issues in Australia as much as I do, but I have found by talking with someone about their values, what they care about that opens the doors and starts endless conversations.

In these conversations when I share my knowledge on the importance of rabbit management, people can soon see what the landscape can look like with no rabbits. People realise when rabbit management is not undertaken that the significant damage is done to native plants and animals, agricultural production is down and their neighbours in the community are frustrated. They soon realise that something they care about for themselves or their future generation will be lost if they don’t do something.

Once this is visualised, motivation kicks in and then there is a goal set to look after what they care about. It doesn’t matter if the value is environment, agriculture or community we all benefit, we all win if there is rabbit action.

Many of us have been undertaking rabbit management for years achieving both small and large success. Sadly many of us have been ignoring our responsibility on rabbit management. I feel nothing will change, if we change nothing so I recommend everyone to start the community conversation on what the landscape could look like with no rabbits, share the knowledge on rabbit management and you’ll soon see onground rabbit action and our landscape looked after.

Conversations + knowledge + vision = rabbit action