Above Grade three and four students from Lockington Consolidated School installing tree guards and stakes at the plantings along the old Elmore to Cohuna railway line in October 2018.
Lockington and District Landcare Group (L&DLG) was formed in 1993 to undertake revegetation to tackle salinity caused by rising water tables, improve habitat for native birds and to regenerate disused railway reserves in the group’s area.
The group has sunk and monitored ground water bores, worked with the Lockington Consolidated School on Junior Landcare, and worked on rabbit control and roadside weeds.
The railway line between Lockington and Kotta has been revegetated and a seed orchard was established at the old Kotta Railway Station.
Sustainable soil issues have also been a focus for the group with an extensive dung beetle program as well as the establishment of seven moisture probes with full weather stations across the district which provide vital information to local farmers.
The group went into recess in 2007 but reformed in 2011. We now have a solid membership of 27 committed local families.
In July 2017 the group negotiated with Parks Victoria for permission to plant trees and shrubs along the old Elmore to Cohuna railway line between O’Donnell and Diggora roads. This 2.5-kilometre section of the line was closed in the late 1980s. The existing railway fence line was repaired by a local fencing contractor and gates were added at each end of the plantation to protect the trees and shrubs from wandering stock.
Trees and shrubs were selected under the advice of Drew Gailey from the Australian Plants Society in Echuca and purchased from the Rochester Native Nursery.
In October 2018, after a very dry winter, our members planted half the area with 1600 trees and shrubs. The remaining 1400 plants were established in August 2019. The plants were loosened in their tubes prior to planting and the species selected to provide a good variety. A tree planting machine was used that also gave the plants their first watering.
On both planting days we were assisted by students from Lockington Consolidated School who staked the plants and erected tree guards. We all enjoyed a very welcome sausage sizzle after the hard work.
The new plants were watered twice in the following couple of months and we were fortunate to get some summer rain. Around 70 per cent of the plants have survived. We have not had any significant problems with weeds, our philosophy being: prepare the ground well, give them some water to establish their roots and then let them fight for survival as our summers can be challenging and trees that have to look for water from the beginning will last longer.
We hope that the plantations established by the Lockington Landcare will provide habitat corridors for birds and small animals in our area. This branch of the railway line went from Elmore to Cohuna so perhaps in the future the tree line will continue to the north providing a wooded area towards the Murray River.
My advice to any group that plans to establish tree plantations in the future – get the local school children involved, their enthusiasm and energy makes the day physically less draining. It also gives the children a sense of ownership of the project, improves their awareness of nature and establishes a commitment to the environment. These children are the future Landcare group in this area.
The L&DLG has not met since February 2020 due to the COVID-19 restrictions. We are looking forward to the easing of restrictions and being able to meet again and plan our future projects.
Wendy Sims is President of the L&DLG.
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