Northern Yarra Landcare Network - From the Ground Up

Hear how the Northern Yarra Landcare Network was formed in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires, and how a strong community of Landcare groups have since enhanced the sustainability of the catchment.

Audio described version

[Gentle acoustic music plays. A man looks up at tall gum trees.]
[On-screen text: Rob Fallon – Northern Yarra Landcare Network, Facilitator]

Rob Fallon: When I look up at the Manna Gums here I guess I’m reminded of a natural heritage that is pretty rare in these parts. And since the ‘09 fires, it’s the only unburnt patch that we have in the area. But the potential for it to be lost was very real, because it was almost exclusively weeds at ground level and unable to recruit saplings at the base because of the density of the weeds.

[Views of dense blackberry bushes covering the ground at the base of the gums.]

Rob: So we had to intervene using this – what I would argue is a unique approach.

[Six goats wade through the blackberry bushes, cutting to a scene of Cathy looking over at the gums.]
[On-screen text: Cathy Phelan – Local Winegrower]

Cathy Phelan: Goats preferentially eat blackberries, they love blackberries and this beautiful bush was just getting covered by blackberries, they were getting out of control. It would’ve taken a heap of spray which we don’t like to do, or to use. So we got goats to come in, eat it down to a manageable level so we can actually look after it and just get in and do a little bit of spot spraying as we need to, and use a lot less chemical which is a really great thing for the environment.

[Cathy looks out at the gums, with a line of metal fencing weaving through the trees]

Cathy: Landcare and all the local landowners put all this fencing up because we’re getting the goats in patches. So we’ve started with this little area here and you can see that they’ve done an amazing job.

[Scene of bushland with blackberry bushes removed.]

Cathy: We are winemakers and we’ve got a vineyard here. But part of the reason we bought this property was for the native bush – we love the natural environment around this area in Dixons Creek, and we just want to look after it and bring it back to what it was before these invasive species came through.

[Rob and a winegrower stroll through a vineyard]

Rob: Winemaking has typically not been the type of industry that you would expect to care a lot about the environment but what I’ve noticed is a wholesale change in the attitude of winegrowers and vineyard managers. They’re much more concerned about their impacts and we’ve got a situation here where two winemakers, fortunately, are both very interested in biodiversity conservation on their land.

[On-screen text: Matthew Davis – Local Winegrower]

Matthew Davis: As a vineyard owner, we certainly live here because we love the nature, we love the environment. There’s not just our business, but also the land that we’re caretakers of here and ensuring that that land is in a better condition when we leave it for our kids and our next generation.

[Close-up of Matthew speaking against the backdrop of his vineyard]

Matthew: If you look through the vineyard too you’ll find it’s a bit unkept in a way. That’s because we really don’t like using herbicides, so we minimise the herbicide usage. So when the goat project came up to tackle this back property area it was just right up the alley of what we’re trying to do. And Landcare is just so great with this sort of stuff because it is all about working together as a community, working together as neighbours and to find a community where there is such engagement is something I never actually thought I’d have. And it’s just amazing and the results that you’ll see, you won’t find in too many places.

[Close-up of Rob speaking, surrounded by gums]

Rob: This community and this environment have always been intertwined. What the fires probably did was make them realise how intertwined they were. I stood in driveways with people much older than me cradling them while they wept because that blackened landscape is so confronting, so traumatising. And I, myself, was affected by the fires. So I have first-hand experience of what its like to lose everything, in that sense. And so, after the fires we were all about problem solving, people were very practically-minded.

[View of charred stumps, cutting to scene of Rob and two other people standing and conversing in a natural environment]
[On-screen text: John Birse – Northern Yarra Landcare Network, President]

John Birse: Out of adversity, like the Black Saturday fires, like you see the beautiful green shoots come up on the gum trees after a couple of seasons, the same thing – the community does rally together. So we decided to set up the Northern Yarra Landcare Network to do something about invasive weeds. And through getting rid of fields of blackberry, helping property owners get their farms back again.

[A woman walks through fields]
[On-screen text: Ros – Landowner]

Ros: My grandparents lived and worked on this land and so it’s been in our family for over 100 years. Pa farmed until he was 98 so by the end of his life there was not a lot of farming being done. There was a lot of blackberry, there was a lot of weeds and when we came on it was a really big job. We just didn’t have the capacity to do it. We also didn’t have any advice on what to tackle and how to do it. But having Landcare and being able to talk to people like Rob and John about how to improve it is just really great and just now it’s starting to feel like we’ve really made headway.

[Panorama of green fields interspersed with rows of trees, with mountains in the background]

Ros: You can see here, the dead canes at the back and how it’s now clearing away and we’re starting to get some regrowth of the natural habitat which is really fantastic. If everybody continues to do their little bit on their own properties we are going to see a lot more native plants coming back, we’re going to see more species of animals coming in, and that will just create that environment that’s going to be much better for everyone. I can’t do it on my own and every other farmer can’t do it on their own but if we all work together we can.

[Scenes of Rob, Ros, John and Matthew talking and looking out at the natural environment]

Rob: We’ve been able to pull together a wide variety of participants. We’ve got government, we’ve got local community groups, we’ve got individual private landowners. But in reality, all this is is the product of conversation and a willingness to participate in something for the longer term that is bigger than any individual. And, you know, like we’ve seen – more trees, fewer weeds, happier landscapes.

[Melbourne Water logo]
[On-screen text:]
[Victorian State Government logo and Victorian Landcare Program logo]

[End of transcript]