Above: Members of the Cannibal Creek Landcare Group in 2009.
In the mid 1990s a group of local residents in the Tynong North area banded together to fight the possibility of a third local granite quarry being developed. When the battle to stop the quarry was successful the locals decided not to disband, but to form the Cannibal Creek Landcare Group.
A dynamic local couple, Anthony Hooper and Julie Weatherhead, were the driving force behind the formation of the group as well as instigating the growth of other Landcare groups from Beaconsfield to Neerim South and the eventual formation of the Bunyip Catchment Landcare Network (now the Western Port Landcare Network), and the Cardinia Environment Coalition.
Gerard Cunningham has been one of the group’s stalwarts. Gerard was the inaugural secretary and has been president since 2007.
In its 22 years of operation the Cannibal Creek Landcare Group has run successful planting days on more than 80 properties in the Tynong, Tynong North, Garfield, Garfield North, Bunyip and Iona areas. We estimate that the group has planted more than 90,000 trees, shrubs and grasses.
Direct seeding of native shelterbelts has also been one of the group’s major projects. Our members Charlie and Paula Rupe from Tynong North have carried out several large-scale direct seeding projects that have turned their farm into a showcase.
The construction of permanent fencing to protect remnant vegetation and the rehabilitation of the Cannibal Creek has been a long-term commitment, fortunately assisted by various grants. Weed control along the creek, with special vigilance required for blackberry, pittosporums and willows, is ongoing.
In the last year we have been involved in the Cannibal Creek Catchment Biodiversity Project, a major project to clean up and protect all of the Cannibal Creek from its source in the Gembrook State Forest to where it joins the Bunyip River.
This partnership project involves us working with Melbourne Water, Port Phillip and Westernport CMA, Western
Port Catchment Landcare Network, Friends of Mt Cannibal, Cannibal Creek Reserve, Gumbuya Park, Bunyip Landcare Group, Cardinia Shire Council, Mt Cannibal Preservation Society, and the Cardinia Environment Coalition.
Work is well underway on the project and it will see the group following a new direction – participating in environmental protection works in conjunction with local groups and government agencies whose aims are the same as ours.
“Other factors in our success have been good social events, including the involvement of children, which have helped to maintain the cohesion of the group. Staying on top of the work is also critical.”
Gerard Cunningham puts much of the success and longevity of the group down to having dedicated, proactive and competent people in leadership positions.
“Anthony Hooper, Julie Weatherhead, Linda Byrne, Margaret Evans and Pam Cunningham have been vital in providing leadership in the group.
“Other factors in our success have been good social events, including the involvement of children, which have helped to maintain the cohesion of the group. Staying on top of the work is also critical. We do regular follow up plantings, infill plantings and weed control and fencing days that keep members involved and keen to continue to participate.
“Competence and experience in preparing grant applications is vital to the continued viability and growth of the group. We have been well served by Western Port Catchment Network in this aspect of our work,” Gerard said.
Over the last three years the group has encouraged and supported the efforts of one of our members, Garry Burns, to reduce the number of foxes, deer and rabbits from properties within a three-kilometre radius of Mount Cannibal.
Through working with competent, licensed local shooters Gary’s efforts have seen the elimination of more than 200 foxes, 300 rabbits and 60 deer.
The group’s membership has fluctuated over the years but we have managed to retain an active core of 12-15 members. Not all of the people whose properties we have worked on have continued to be active in the group, but we still see these associations as a positive.
We make a special effort to contact new residents in the district, and as a result, we now have several new families with young children actively involved.
Our recent Clean Up Australia Day event was a great success. More than 35 people worked together to collect rubbish and remove pines and pittosporums from local roadsides and bushland. The work was done in conjunction with Gumbuya Park and our local Holcim quarry.
Our annual general meeting is always a major social event with a delicious meal prepared by members who can relax and enjoy each other’s company. The group’s future is looking bright. We will continue our works on Cannibal Creek and carry out as many revegetation projects as we can organise and fund. Landcare is in safe hands.