A good reason for doing a local budget submission

Here are some fun facts:

Weeds cost Australia $3.9 billion per year in lower farm incomes and higher food costs. In addition, Commonwealth, State and local government spend at least $116.4 million each year on costs of monitoring, control, management and research on weeds.

‘These costs do not include the loss of services from the natural environment, the impacts of pollen on human health, or the value of the ‘volunteer army’ widely active in weed control around Australia. So they are conservative estimates of the annual costs of weeds.’

Remember this? It’s the seed of Bindii, one of our less pleasant weeds, very good at puncturing bike tyres and the feet of people and pets. It’s been found in parks and roadsides in the region, possibly spread by maintenance machines.

That’s from a 2004 report. And guess what? In the intervening years the cost of weeds has blown out to over $5 billion!

Concern over weeds is not a matter of fussy people fretting over a few naughty plants: it’s engagement with a major economic, social and environmental problem.

That’s one reason why it’s a good idea to make a submission to the Mount Alexander Shire budget process. Weeds don’t just infest farmland and bush, they get into roadsides and parks too—and can spread from there. Local weed control workers have produced the following useful advice on budget submissions:

‘As a result of Council receiving  budget submissions in 2020 requesting more resources for weed removal, an extra $10,000 was allocated.  So far it has largely been spent on getting rid of newer weed infestations (largely in Castlemaine) before they take over, eg Galenia, St Johns Wort, Chinese Boxthorn and Prickly Pear and also on follow up work (eg with patches of Texas Needle grass at Elphinstone and Cape Broom in Castlemaine) where Council paid for some removal work previously but didn’t follow it up.

‘If you could spare the time to do a budget submission this year, that would be very useful.  The submission doesn’t have to be long – just one paragraph would be OK.  Council does statistics of topics people make submissions about, and both short and long ones are counted.  If we don’t tell staff and councillors we think weed removal is important, they won’t know, and are more likely to prioritise squeakier wheels.

‘In case of writer’s block, following are some suggestions for content:

‘- a commitment to ongoing weed removal is important, because if follow-up work isn’t done, many weeds will recolonise from seeds remaining in the soil.

‘- getting rid of weeds in the early stages of invasion is cheaper and more efficient than waiting till they are out of control.

‘- volunteers are pleased to be able to give time to help the environment, but it is unreasonable for Council to rely on volunteers to the extent that insufficient Council resources are allocated to weed removal.

‘- to get rid of big, longstanding infestations, many in areas outside Castlemaine, much more than $10,000 would be needed.

‘This year’s draft budget is available on the council website and to look at at the council offices.  (It’s just a summary and has very little useful detail.  Last year’s budget – on the Council website – may be of more use.)  Submissions, titled 2021/2022 Budget,  are due by 5pm Wed 19 May.  Address to the Chief Executive Officer and email to info@mountalexander.vic.gov.au, indicating if you’d like to speak to councillors at the special council meeting on 25 May at 5.30.  This is worth doing, to help our ideas stand out from the mountains of stuff they get to read.’


Posted in News | Comments Off on A good reason for doing a local budget submission

Art most fowl!

Looking for something positive to do on the weekend? Try Art most fowl, an exhibition uniting two artists, Bridget Farmer and Rhyll Plant,at the Newstead Arts Hub, on weekends from 10 to 4, closing on May 30th.

‘Art Most Fowl is a celebration of both printmaking and imagery inspired by the natural world. The appreciation for the ephemeral nature of birds unites two artists exploring, in Bridget’s case drypoint engraving, while Rhyll depicts her subjects as wood engravings and nature prints.’

Both artists express a uniquely interesting engagement with the world of birds. Rhyll, who designed FOBIF’s phascogale logo (see right of this screen), explains her work as follows:

‘Birds have inspired my artworks from the seaside gulls, penguins and shearwaters of my youth to the melodious magpies and raucous parrots of my Central Victorian landscape.

‘I borrow their feathered likeness in my traditionally rendered wood engravings exploring, for example, collective nouns such as ‘Layers of Chooks’ or ‘A Rustle of Crows.’

‘Sometimes I simply print their feathers.’

Posted in News | Comments Off on Art most fowl!

A sanctuary at Cairn Curran?

Readers will remember that last year FOBIF supported a letter to the Premier urging the banning of recreational shooting of birds, a practice banned in every eastern state except Victoria.

Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting (RVOTDS) running a petition urging the immediate banning of shooting at Cairn Curran reservoir. FOBIF supports this initiative. You can sign the petition by going to this link. It’s hoped to have the petition ready by this coming Friday (the 14th)…so make haste!

Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 22nd November 2020. (Geoff Park’s Natural Newstead website)

The gist of the petition is as follows:

‘Two years ago, the Mount Alexander Shire Council voted to ban recreational native waterbird shooting in the Shire in favour of safer, more peaceful and beneficial activities. We commend their leadership. However, the Minister for Environment referred Council’s decision to Goulburn Murray Water which has still not acted on Council’s decision to implement the ban. This has now become urgent given duck shooting is set to commence again on May 26.

‘Elsewhere, public waterways have been closed to shooting for safety and public amenity reasons. The same should happen in our Shire.

‘Mount Alexander Shire and Cairn Curran Reservoir specifically, is home to threatened species such as the White-bellied Sea Eagle. Cairn Curran is important for a large range of waterbirds and raptors as well as a feeding ground on the flyways of migratory shore birds –many of which are in significant decline.’

Posted in News | Comments Off on A sanctuary at Cairn Curran?

May FOBIF walk

Our next FOBIF walk will be at Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve on Sunday 16 May. The Reserve is 30km NE of Castlemaine. There is no need to book for this walk and everyone is welcome. Bring fungi and eucalypt guides if you have them.

We will meet as usual at the Community House in Templeton Street at 9.30 and drive in convoy to the start of the walk. The walk’s leaders, Joy and Di, will meet us at the corner of Axe Creek Road and Steens Road at 10am. 

For more information contact Joy 0403828566 or Di 0429861192.

Posted in News, Walks | Comments Off on May FOBIF walk

It was super but not pink

Supermoon yet to reach its full size near the summit of Mount Alexander. 6pm, 27 April. 

A ‘pink’ supermoon lit up the sky above Australia last Tuesday night. The moon, which began rising around 5:30 pm, appeared 17 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than usual. Several small groups gathered at different vantage points on Mount Alexander to watch it rise.

Although stunning, this supermoon is not actually pink. The description comes from American folklore where it’s named after the first pink flower of the season which is when a supermoon normally appears.

The phenomenon is caused when a full moon occurs while it is on its closest approach to earth. The next supermoon will be visible on May 25.

Another small supermoon image when it is about to set at Cairn Curran. 7.30 am, 28 April. Photos Bronwyn Silver

Spectacular supermoon photos from around the world can be found at this Guardian site.

Posted in News | Comments Off on It was super but not pink

MAS survey: Your community, your vision

This is a golden opportunity for you to have your say about what you value the most in our community. Our local natural environment is very special and a great attraction – and needs all the help it can get.

And this is your chance to shape the future of your community . . .

If anyone would like to talk about any issues feel free to call FOBIF president, Marie Jones, on 5472 2892. Contributions close on 15 May and the survey can be found here.

Posted in News | Comments Off on MAS survey: Your community, your vision

Questions, questions…

A small group of FOBIF members took a stroll last week through a patch of the Fryers Forest slated for burning within the next two years. This is burn is coded CAS-0243 Glenluce – Columbine Creek and is in the area bounded by Hunters Track and Hunters Lane. FOBIF walkers passed the edge of this zone last year on our Columbine Creek excursion.

Like all of our bushland, this small (71 hectares) patch of bush has its own fascination. Significantly mined in the distant past, and burned by the Department in 2008, it’s variably covered with tussock grass woodland, with some areas of dense, mainly wattle, understorey. The trees are larger than most in the Fryers forest, and there are few or no coppiced trees.

In the Hunters track proposed fire zone, April 2021: a mix of tussocks and shrubs, in an area burned 13 years ago.

The unburned areas bounding this zone, especially on the western side of Hunter’s track, are a remarkable example of tussock woodland, with trees very much larger than we are accustomed to seeing in this region. FOBIF sees this unburned bush as a kind of control zone, an indicator of the effect of fire both as a fuel reduction method, and as a way of influencing the ecology of the bush.

In the adjacent forest, unburned for many decades. The photo was taken in December, when the grass was greener,  but in other respects the scene is unchanged.

FOBIF has enquired of DELWP about the burn history of this block. We have also asked questions about the recent department burn around Wattle Track, in the Fryers Nature Conservation Reserve. This varied from a moderate, patchy effort to an extremely severe and destructive fire. We’re trying to find out how our managers assessed the result of the exercise.

Our questions arise from our curiosity about the actual effects of hazard reduction burns, both ecologically and from the point of view of fuel loads. In our view, this is a very complex issue: but the political debate about it is infected with the convenient notion that reduction burns vacuum up fuel and make us all safer. Only by paying close attention to the effects of each burning exercise will a more realistic view emerge. That would require better resourcing for managers, of course.

A map of the zone in question, and other proposed management burns, can be found on the Department’s excellent interactive map here.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Cats, dogs, visions

Mount Alexander Shire is running a couple of consultations of interest at the moment.

The first invites residents to share their vision of the shire and how it should be. You can participate by going to https://shape.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/vision

This consultation closes on May 15.

The second relates to the Shire’s draft domestic animal management plan, which proposes

• applying different controls in urban and non-urban areas of the municipality
• establishing different control requirements at different times of day
• banning dogs from the playing surfaces of certain sporting grounds
• implementing a 24-hour cat curfew.

The plan, going under the poetic acronym DAMP, can be found here.

You can express an opinion on the issues and solutions canvassed in the plan here.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Cats, dogs, visions

Central West forests: um, what’s happening?

Readers will remember that a long time ago, before we started thinking about viruses and such, VEAC made some significant recommendations to the state government about the status of forests on the margins of our region.

The recommendations were moderate and closely argued. As we said at the time, ‘VEAC has clearly bent over backwards to accommodate conflicting demands for the Wellsford [The Council recommended that part of this state forest be included in the Bendigo NP, and part included in the Bendigo Regional Park]. The recommended changes would exclude logging: but regional parks are managed primarily for recreation, and allow practically all recreational activities apart from hunting. This latter is seen, logically enough, to ‘[conflict] with use by large numbers of other recreational users.’

In the Wellsford Forest, site of some impressive Ironbarks. VEAC has recommended that part of this forest be included in the Greater Bendigo National Park,  but the State Government is mysteriously inactive on the recommendations. Photo: Geoff Lacey

What has happened to these recommendations? FOBIF has lent its name to a newspaper advertising campaign by enviro groups, noting, among other things: ‘The VEAC report was tabled in parliament over 18 months ago, yet the Victorian Government has found time to approve mining exploration leases and logging coupes in sensitive wildlife habitat, while ignoring the recommendations and missing legal requirements to respond. The response is now 12 months overdue.’

The full text of the advertisement follows:

An open letter to Premier Andrews:

It’s time to act for nature in Central Victoria

We write to you about the importance of implementing recommendations for new National Parks in Central Victoria.

Creating new National Parks isn’t just about saving wildlife and safeguarding beautiful places – it’s about clean air and water, a liveable temperature and people’s livelihoods.

Continue reading

Posted in News | Comments Off on Central West forests: um, what’s happening?

What’s special about this?

A strong group took on FOBIF’s walk to Middleton Creek yesterday, our first open  walk for many months. Middleton Creek is a marvellous waterway, characterised by interesting twists and turns and rocky cliffs. Unfortunately it’s currently overrun with gorse and other weeds, evidently spreading from nearby private land, which obscure the creek’s interesting features. Fortunately the surrounding bushland in the Park is pretty weed free, and features a variety of vegetation communities, including patches of park-like serenity, like the woodland pictured below. The dense green carpets of Matted Bush-pea are striking even now. In spring its flowers are a spectacular highlight of this end of the Park.

Amanda’s Track, Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park: a wooded parkland of Matted Bush-pea and tussock grass.

FOBIF’s walk took in the very southern fringe of the Diggings Park, before swinging over to the Goldfields Track through Brown’s Gully. It finished with a short traverse through the zone of DSE’s disastrous 2010 fuel ‘reduction’ burn, which managed to multiply the area’s fuel load dramatically.

Part of FOBIF walking group in Brown’s Gully. The Candlebark eucalypts are among the highlights of the Goldfields Track through this area.

Our thanks are due to walk leader Bernard Slattery for this excursion. Next month’s walk is in the Pilchers Bridge NCR: check the walks program for details.

Middleton Creek in a wet year (2010): note the gorse infestation to the left of the picture. The National Heritage Park is relatively weed free.

Photos below were taken by Liz Martin. Click to enlarge. 

Posted in News | Comments Off on What’s special about this?