Above: A Dunns Creek Landcare Group annual working bee to remove weeds on a high conservation value roadside.
The Dunns Creek Landcare Group was formed in 1991. A few of us on Dunns Creek Road had become concerned about high salinity readings and decided that we needed to work together if we were to have an impact on the salt. I called a meeting of neighbours at my house and the Dunns Creek Landcare Group was born.
The group had several inspirations. The previous year, Wally Shaw from the VFF had launched VFF Peninsula Landcare in McIlroys Rd, Red Hill. We were hearing about the activities of the Warrenbayne Boho Land Protection Group and the Bass Valley Landcare Group that was underway with large-scale roadside spraying of blackberry and ragwort.
We were also haunted by photographs of the white, salt-encrusted moonscapes on the outskirts of Kerang that had been blighted by severe salinity.
The original membership of the Dunns Creek Landcare Group was only open to people with properties that fronted Dunns Creek Road, Wallaces Road, Harrisons Road or Gibb Road in the Red Hill and Dromana area. I was able to letterbox each property.
Later, at the urging of the then Department of Sustainability and Environment, the group expanded to include all properties within the catchment area of Dunns Creek and its tributaries, upstream from Moats Corner. This took us right up to the saddles of Arthurs Seat Road and Red Hill Road, beyond which many years later other Landcare groups would form. Road representatives were appointed to letterbox each road.
I insisted that I was not going to be the group’s president, but a president didn’t step forward. We solved the problem by having a rotating chairman. The member that provided the house for the meeting had to chair the meeting.
We later evolved to meeting in wineries on a Sunday night after the cellar door closed with the vigneron having to chair the meeting. I took the minutes and called the meetings and Bill McDonough became the treasurer. We weren’t great at succession planning. It took 23 years for Bill and me to find the capable Roger Stuart-Andrews and Les Coleman to take over from us as president and treasurer.
The initial objectives of the group were to encourage land management practices that promoted sustainable agriculture. We focused on tree planting, protecting remnant vegetation, salinity and drainage, soil erosion, ragwort, blackberries and rabbits.
Early work included exchanging information and circulating fact sheets. We’ve had some major successes with roadside spraying of blackberry and ragwort, annual weeding of high conservation value roadside reserves, a group fox control program, and fencing off livestock from a section of Dunns Creek as well as removing the willows and replanting native vegetation.
The group currently has a membership of more than 25 properties in Red Hill, Dromana, Safety Beach and Merricks North. We are a small, but active and sociable group. We have an annual dinner and different speakers at our annual general meetings.
A few of our members attended the
10th Anniversary of Landcare Conference in Ballarat in 1996 (I still have the coffee mug!) and we look forward to attending the 2016 National Landcare Conference in Melbourne this year to celebrate 30 great years of Landcare.