Above: The Fish Creek Landcare Group helped to organise a Hoddle Range mountain walk in the summer of 2006.
The Fish Creek Landcare Group formed in 1992 and has been working actively since then. It grew from the closure of the South Gippsland Farm Trees Group. When this group wound up, its funds were shared between the new Lower Franklin and Fish Creek Landcare Groups.
Membership grew rapidly after several successful field days around the catchment showed landholders the benefits of improving the landscape. During the last 24 years, the group has been successful in receiving grants for many projects. All members are encouraged to be involved in the planning of activities at a committee of management level, or as individuals.
The group’s vision is to provide the whole community with leadership and education for a sustainable and productive environment through coordination, cooperation and communication. The motto on our signs and car stickers is: Fish Creek Landcare, Landscaping the Future.
Approximately 50 families make up our membership. The group began with a focus on broad scale agriculture – dairy, sheep and beef farming. It has now widened to also embrace the smaller landholders who have chosen to make the Fish Creek area their home or weekend getaway.
“The group’s vision is to provide the whole community with leadership and education for a sustainable and productive environment through coordination, cooperation and communication."
Initially the group focused on revegetating the Fish Creek, downstream from the town. Many Fish Creek waterways were protected from extensive damage during the floods of 2011 due to our early riparian management projects.
More recent works have been of a broader nature on both public and private land. The Great Southern Rail Trail project, the Strzelecki Lyrebird Link, facilitating the revegetation and protection of the Battery Creek Reservoir catchment, improvements to the town environment and the construction of an information rotunda display, are good examples.
Cooperation with neighbouring Landcare groups has been a feature of our group. Over the years we’ve worked with the Tarwin, Foster North, and Promontory Plains Landcare Groups. We are always happy to include members, non-members and neighbouring groups in any activity that we run. We have also worked on projects with the Fish Creek Primary School and the West Gippsland CMA.
The group runs a range of outdoor activities to cater for different interests. Most activities attract between 15 and 35 people. Activities have included
summer farm walks showcasing different farming enterprises, a farm dams walk on a dairy farm looking at the integration of wildlife with a productive farming system, and whole farm planning activities aimed at smaller landholders where fencing, revegetation and weed management techniques were demonstrated.
Assisting with a community walks initiative on the Hoddle Range mountain trail has been worthwhile. Interesting guest speakers are good for attracting members and the general community. We’ve had speakers with expertise in marine biology, local reptiles, geology, dung beetles, climate change, resilient dairy farming systems and planning for dry periods.
The local newspaper is an important avenue of communication for the group, along with the South Gippsland Landcare Network newsletter. These publications allow us to promote upcoming events as well as report back to the wider community on what we have achieved.
More recently the group uses an email update to send members information on upcoming events and items of interest. Occasional letterbox drops help to get the message out to the wider community.
Landcare displays at local events, including the 2009 Back to Fish Creek celebrations, have also been a good way for us to showcase what we are doing and attract new members.
According to the current President, Robin Stevens, group numbers are prone to fluctuation.
“We seem to have lost the larger dairy, beef and sheep farmer members, probably because they have done their Landcare thing, but over the past 10 years our numbers have swelled with sea and tree changers. They are keen to become part of the community and Landcare has been popular.
“Our role in the community has also changed. We used to be a resource for trees and revegetation works, but now we have a more educational role. Our new members are very enthusiastic. In the last 18 months we sent out a survey to gauge what they would like to gain from their Landcare membership. This will have an impact on how the group develops in the future,” Robin said.
As the group approaches its 25th year of activity it is in good health. We are looking forward to a future of fruitful collaboration with other groups, agencies and organisations, and involving all landowners in our community in positive landscape change.