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King Parrot Creek rescue needs more help

An award-winning Landcare project at Strath Creek has stalled.

CHALPAT SONTI August 1, 2014 3:42am

Strath Creek Landcare Group president Terry Hubbard with one of the trees planted out on his land next to King Parrot Creek.


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It’s an award-winning, slightly unusual and much admired project, but the rehabilitation of King Parrot Creek now needs government support to be completed.

That support hasn’t been forthcoming either at state and federal level, which is a surprise because the work so far has been an outstanding success and a role model for other river rehabilitations.

It is the work of Strath Creek Landcare Group which, unusually for such a group, ‘‘adopted’’ a creek as its main project.

This has led to a recent Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority community group award, the latest in a long list of achievements, but more importantly significant improvement to, using group president Terry Hubbard’s words, ‘‘transform parts of it from an open drain into a pristine environment’’.

Whether it be fencing — about 70 per cent of the creek length — even more trees, weed control or anything else, they are well on the way to accomplishing their goal. They have also restored areas next to breeding pools of Macquarie Perch, and that population continues to grow. The creek is home to a small population of platypuses.

Mr Hubbard, who farms the 849ha Three Sisters property between Strath Creek and Flowerdale and is also chairman of the Victorian Landcare Council, said he could not recall a more successful means of blackberry control at a low cost than the offshoot King Parrot Creek Blackberry Action Group, which takes in more than 9000ha.

All this from a group with 66 members, an impressive number in a small community.

But given the uncertainties surrounding Landcare funding from the federal budget and an apparent lack of interest from the state or federal governments in helping the group finish the job, how much more progress there will be is unclear. The battle is on two fronts — to get governments to change laws (and provide funding), and with small landholders.

‘‘I don’t for a moment advocate we should be fencing off every stream and waterway but where the stream is significant such as King Parrot Creek I think there’s justification for another approach,’’ Mr Hubbard said.

‘‘People who don’t co-operate should be forced to or surrender their licenses to enable the works to proceed. It’s a mistake for people who own small parcels of land to think that extra area means extra carrying capacity.

‘‘Fencing it off enhances the value and appearance of their property as well as the environment. The government needs to toughen up the laws relating to the use of frontages (particularly unrestrained stock grazing). That may not be popular with a lot of people but there are compromises which can be useful in restoring frontages.’’

Then there’s the money — and a little goes a long way.

‘‘We’re not totally reliant on grants being given to us,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re quite prepared to work and earn them but it’s still a cheap workforce for the (Catchment Management Authority). For every dollar of government money invested in the Landcare world there’s between $4 and $7 returned in value. It’s hard to beat that.’’

Strath Creek Landcare Group is among the few taking on a waterway project to such an extent — 11km of fencing is proof of that — and they are usually seen as the domain of CMAs.

‘‘Why wouldn’t you partner with Landcare to see the works carried out,’’ he said.

‘‘The funding these days precludes contractors, and Landcare volunteers are happy to pitch in and help out. They don’t care where — it’s seen as part of the function of Landcare.’’

It also has, literally, downstream effects.

‘‘There are places you can’t always expect fencing to happen, like flood plains where it would be a waste of time and money, but there’s a real need to tidy up our waterways which have degraded into open drains in many places,’’ Mr Hubbard said.

‘‘All it does is present problems downstream in places like Shepparton where floods occur in irrigation areas. The more vegetation adjacent to the stream and even in stream is healthier in so many ways. It filters out the nasties and it is a better environment for the habitat.’’

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