Victorian Landcare Magazine - Spring 2016, Issue 67

Millewa-Carwarp celebrates a long history of sustainable land management

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Above: The Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group provided a barbecue at the 2015 cull-a-carp competition.

By Sonya van Heusden

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Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group

Landcare has a long history in the Millewa-Carwarp area. Both Mildura Shire winners of the 1945 Hanslow Cup for soil conservation were from Karawinna. Local rabbit action management groups were also up and running in the 1940s and farmers were sharing knowledge about crop rotations, effective weed control, fertilisers, seasonal information and natural environmental factors including native flora and fauna.

Many farmers were using sustainable land management practices and most were involved in a group. Before Landcare was introduced in 1986, these groups tended to concentrate on single issues like rabbits, weeds or soil erosion.

Millewa farmer and conservationist Allan Scown introduced Landcare to the region in 1987. In 1988 the Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group was officially incorporated, becoming the 57th Landcare group in Australia. For the first six years Ron Hards was the President and Colin Hunt the Secretary of the group.

Several members of the group, including Ron Hards, travelled to Western Australia for an early Landcare conference where they had observed the rehabilitation of farming land using a grader board. They also saw a Chatfield tree planter in use in an area where thousands of kilometres of farmland had been planted with trees.

The group decided to purchase a grader board and a Chatfield Tree Planter to undertake its first major projects, which were to reclaim land laid waste by soil erosion, and plant trees on farmland and along barren roadsides. Erosion in the sand hills had taken these areas out of cultivation and created a breeding ground for pest plants and animals. Once these areas were rehabilitated they became some of the Millewa region’s most viable and sustainable cropping country.

The tree planting campaign was also a great success. The group collected seed, propagated and planted thousands of trees on farms and roadsides.

In 1993 the group embarked on a project to build an electric kangaroo barrier between the Sunset National Park and farming land. This fence is now 160-kilomteres long and also restricts access to the area by emus and goats.

In recognition, the group has received a number of awards including the 1993 Victorian Community Landcare Award, the 1994 Victorian Landcare Award and the 2000 Hanslow Cup for Sustainable Agriculture.

“More than 85 per cent of the farmers in the area are now members of the Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group.”

John Cook (from left) with Ron Hards and Craig Bildstein at the launch of the kangaroo fence in 1993.

Above: John Cook (from left) with Ron Hards and Craig Bildstein at the launch of the kangaroo fence in 1993.

Millewa-Carwarp today

More than 85 per cent of the farmers in the area are now members of the Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group. Maintaining this high level of membership and community involvement have led to a staggering amount of work under the Landcare banner.

The group has an impressive collection of machinery that members have worked hard to purchase and maintain. It includes three different rippers, five bait layers and a grader board. The machines are always in high demand for Landcare activities.

The group’s current secretary was one of the founding members of the Greater Mallee Landcare Group, an informal group that was formed with surrounding Landcare groups to manage pest plant and animals on a larger scale to ensure that these programs are more effective.

In 2015 a successful rabbit management program was conducted along approximately 1000 hectares of roadsides with more than 90 per cent of the farms along those roads participating. Plans are in place to complete a similar scale program this year.

The Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group also supports local farmers in an annual feral animal shoot and an annual cull-a-carp festival.

Landcare has been an important meeting ground for the farmers of the Millewa-Carwarp area to combine and employ their sustainable farming practices. The group has a rich history with many success stories, thanks to some very committed and passionate members. I am keen to
be a part of their plans for the future. 

“Landcare has been an important meeting ground for the farmers of the Millewa-Carwarp area to combine and employ their sustainable farming practices.“

Long-term member of the Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group Lyn Harmer watering trees in the mid 1990s.

Above: Long-term member of the Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group Lyn Harmer watering trees in the mid 1990s.