Skull Creek, Nature’s Classroom

Lindenow South Primary School students were out to play their part in the restoration of the upper reaches of Skull Creek last week on an excursion to connect to community and country.

CEO, East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Graeme Dear said, “the project is funded under the Victorian State Governments ‘Our Catchment, Our Communities’ plan which is supporting greater community involvement in managing our catchments.”

Working alongside members of Greening Australia (GA) and the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation’s On Country crew, nineteen students planted five hundred of the endangered ‘Swamp Everlasting’ and ‘Woolly Waterlily’ plants, and even found time to investigate the critters that live in the waterholes with the team from Bug Blitz.

“It’s great to be able to involve schools and the community to understand the importance of these wetland environments” noted Martin Potts, Project Manager for Gippsland at GA. “It’s not just about planting trees but the habitat as a whole. The waterholes along Skull Creek are very significant to this landscape so we need to understand that it’s not just about water but what’s living in the water, what feeds off that and how it all interacts”.

“Anything that gets the kids out of classroom is a good idea and met with 100% enthusiasm.” said Principal Michael Walker, “It was a magical excursion. The kids were all excited and it’s just opened up a new chapter of biological sciences at the school.”

New Residents Help Locals Return

As well as properties in the Cann River being in the same families for generations there are some new community members with much enthusiasm for their new local area.

Gary Arthurson and Annie Kentwell purchased their property in 2011 and have since worked with the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA) to assist in the recovery of the Cann River. Work has included  fencing to exclude stock from the river banks, willow removal, weed control and planting of native vegetation on the river banks and rock stabilisation to prevent erosion.

The improvements to the river has seen the return of platypus to parts of the Cann River where they hadn’t been seen for years. Gary said “We are particularly excited that seeing a platypus in the Cann River is because the work that has been done has created a healthy environment and encouraged this animal to return.”

A more diverse river bed with deeper holes and improved water quality together with the flourishing native vegetation has helped attract the platypus. The deeper holes give them a place to forage, hide and nest.  Planting native vegetation along river banks helps stabilise the banks, acts as a filter for nutrients, creates shade and attracts the insects and other invertebrates which are a food source for the platypus.

Weeds, particularly a heavy infestation of blackberries, have been controlled along the river bank. Annie said “the EGCMA have done a lot blackberry spraying along the river the last couple of years.  There used to be masses of blackberries, in fact you couldn’t see across the river as there was just a sea of blackberries.  Now you can see right across the river and beyond.”

Graeme Dear, CEO from the EGCMA said “ the Cann River community have been working in partnership with the EGCMA for many years to help the river recover. Partnerships like this are critical to long term success.”

A large number of naturally occurring native species of plants were identified in a creek that runs through the property and feeds into the river. Gary and Annie have fenced sections of the creek off to protect the existing vegetation and maintain it’s condition.  “The area has flourished since fencing it off and removing the access for the cattle.  The fencing is a win win, as the creek is protected and the fencing keeps the cattle contained.” said Gary

Gary and Annie are very proactive and have been very excited to work with the EGCMA. “We feel like we are a part of a positive move towards ensuring the Cann River is a healthy river for us personally as well as the community, environment and the animals.”

Get To Know Your Dirt

Want to uncover the real dirt about your soils? Landcare and the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA) invite you to a soils workshop to help you gain a better understanding of what’s happening right underneath your boots. The workshops are free and open to any landholder within East Gippsland.

Participants will learn the importance of soil – its formation, function, structure and chemistry – in a simple and easy to follow manner. We ask that participants  bring along a soil sample from your own paddock for a hands on exercise to determine the soil type and texture of your patch.

Participants can choose from two sessions held on Wednesday evening, 26th July 6pm-8:30pm or Thursday morning, 27th July 9am- 11:30am at 574 Main Street, the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) office in Bairnsdale.

To reserve your place contact Carolyn Cameron at the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority on 51503582.

Ebbs And Flows On The Wonnangatta

Murray Gibbs is more familiar than most with the changing face of the Wonnangatta River. A fifth generation farmer he’s seen first hand what nature can do, especially to the 10 km of river frontage that runs through his property. “When a flood comes down it just rushes on through” says Murray.

“The Pinnacles reach 5,000ft and there’s not much between them and me so it’s a fairly big roof. It’s got a large gable on it so the water rushes down and then it’s gone in 24 hours.” Gone but not forgotten leaving a path of debris along the riverfront paddocks.

“The 2007 flood was a particularly big one but the river flats have always been a changing thing and they always will be when you get those big ones.”

Murray has spent the last decade working alongside the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA) to help reduce flood damage to his properties. By using rock to stabilise the river bank and replanting several hundred metres of his frontage, the river bank has become more resilient to the forces of nature. Fencing ensures that his cattle are off the river allowing the plants to take hold and grow and help to manage his stock.

“It makes the farm management quite easy, the rocking has had a good effect and the tree’s are taking well so I think this is working.” he says.

Topsoils trials a good test

 

Janice Dowe runs the SFS trial plots in Forge Creek as part of the Topsoils initiative

Hidden among the farming properties of Forge Creek is a patch of ground that has come to resemble a chessboard with alternating squares of pasture all of various lengths and condition.

The site is a demonstration plot run by Southern Farming Systems (SFS) for the benefit of the National Landcare Programme’s Topsoils initiative, funded by the Federal Government and administered by the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (“the EGCMA”).

The chess player is SFS Gippsland Coordinator Janice Dowe who has spent the last two years trialling the addition of various soil treatments to test for productivity increases.

“We’ve taken the results of the Topsoils soils testing programme and we’re looking at improving nutrient levels.” explains Janice.

Ten treatments, including super, limes, copper and zinc amongst them, are applied in a variety of combinations over an 80m x 100m allotment in a grid like pattern. “With everything here on the one site, different fertilisers in the same situation, your comparing everything on the one plot to see what’s working” says Janice.

The trial site has been designed to compliment the trials being undertaken by the Topsoils farmer led focus groups. Where many members are low input operators, this site includes higher inputs and demonstrates the effects of multiple options.

“Southern Farming Systems is different from landcare Groups” says Janice, “which creates a good level of diversity for the farming community.”

While Janice acknowledges that not everything is going to work she suggests that that’s the beauty of small plot trials. “A farmer can come along and say I grow that one and it’s in a similar area, they can see which one does better and think maybe I’ll try that one next year.”

“We’re giving farmers the understanding and opportunity to push their options further with scientific rigour, it’s a chance to try before they buy.”

For more information about the Topsoils Programme contact the East Gippsland Landcare Network.