The Annual General meeting of Muckleford Catchment Landcare will take place at Muckleford Community Centre on Saturday, November 14 at 11.30am, followed by lunch and a geology bus tour. Here for your perusal is the President’s Report:
Muckleford Catchment Landcare
Annual General Meeting, 2015
This will be my final report as president of Muckleford Catchment Landcare. My reasons for not seeking re-election are summarised later in this document.
For a relatively sparsely supported group we have managed to achieve quite a lot in 2015. The activities undertaken in this past year are:
1. The successful completion of the Chinaman’s Creek Project. The final stage took place in June-July when a group of hard-working volunteers planted 1,500 seedlings on private land thereby creating a significant new vegetation link between the creek and remnant vegetation on the upper slopes. We would like to thank the NCCMA for funding the project and Mark Perry for having the vision and building the fence as his contribution. Recent inspections of the site have revealed a near-perfect success rate and we are confident that the preparation work will ensure the survival of the plants in their establishment phase despite a hot, dry summer. We would like to thank all the volunteers for their planting and David Griffiths for his skilled preparation work.
The Chinaman’s Creek Project was many years in the making. Max Schlachter, Landcare Facilitator with Connecting Country, helped us compile the results of a community survey and write a community plan. There were several meetings of landholders in the project zone and much work went into the development of a successful grant application.
Matt McEachran from BushTech expertly dealt with large areas of blackberries along the creek.
2. A Wheel Cactus information session and working bee was held at the Muckleford Bush Reserve on March 29. Once again, I wish to thank the indefatigable people from the Wheel Cactus Taskforce for their attendance and advice.
3. Beth Mellick and family led a successful walk for FOBIF through the Muckleford Historic Reserve on April 19.
4. We set up a stall at Mucklefest on October 25 and sold several native hundred plants in an arrangement with Frances Cincotta of Newstead Natives.
5. We lodged a grant application to the NCCMA to fund an education program in 2016: ‘Welcome to Muckleford’. At this time we don’t know if the application was successful.
Thanks to everyone who has helped in any way to conduct the above events. Your contributions, big and small, were greatly valued.
As noted above, I will not seek re-election to the committee.
I have served as either secretary or president of Muckleford Catchment Landcare since taking up permanent residence in 2000. In that time I have seen a small but steady stream of people join the group, sometimes serve on the committee and then move on. For one reason or another we have been unable to retain the support of this revolving door of members and supporters. I am the only member of the 2000 committee left in place and I have worked continuously, in as many different ways as I could imagine, to attract and retain members. In these 14 years we have achieved many significant things but overall, by any test of developing and maintaining meaningful community support, I consider these years a failure.
The history of the group bears some examination and analysis and this is not the place for great detail, although some follows.
The group was originally formed by a good representative group of farmers in 1990 and important work was done over the first ten years. However, by the time I joined in 2000, all but one or two farmers had left for one reason or another. Since then the group has been made up of small landholders many of whom, after showing some initial interest, have moved on to other places and/or other enthusiasms.
There is no doubt that society has changed. The pool of people able to undertake volunteer work has been diminished by the change in work conditions, the loss of the formal weekend and many of the newcomers to the area have young families which makes their time scarce for other commitments. Under these circumstances it was always going to be difficult to maintain a viable and active membership.
Another major factor is undoubtedly the relatively large, varied and rapidly changing nature of the membership area. Our catchment includes Castlemaine peri-urban settlement, smaller close rural subdivisions like Walmer and Ottrey’s Scrub and the intact larger family farm holdings, some of which are now being subdivided and sold. The natural community centre for most people in the valley is Castlemaine, not Muckleford. Finding common interest amongst these diverse interests is very difficult.
Of great significance in the past year has been the work of Connecting Country in our area, particularly that undertaken by the Connecting Landscapes Program. Connecting Country has been able to achieve large-scale on-ground works in the valley in the last year or two that the landcare group could only once have dreamt about. The landcare group was made aware of these initiatives as they developed and we strongly welcomed them. The legacy of some of the work will be of long term benefit to the valley and its environment. The disappointing aspect of this development is that, as far as we are aware, none of the participants in these projects have joined the landcare group or have indicated interest in more general landcare issues in the area. Generally speaking, landholders are showing a strong preference for working directly with Connecting Country to design and implement environmental projects. This is partly due to Connecting Country having a skilled and professional staff to create and pursue opportunities and the simple, face-to-face, one-stop, local funding and administrative structure. In comparison with the alternative of sitting through community meetings, developing and waiting on grant applications, handling the detail of project management, financial control and compiling final reports, the Connecting Country option obviously has great appeal. I want to be clear that I strongly support the work of Connecting Country and acknowledge that until last month I sat on the Connecting Country Committee of Management. I have worked closely with the Connecting Country Landcare Facilitator, Max Schlachter on several successful landcare projects. It is possible that we have not cultivated our relationship with Connecting Country as well as we could have and the situation could do with more thought from every side.
Clearly, if Muckleford Landcare is to revive it now needs new blood, probably new ideas. I am happy to step aside in the hope that someone new can facilitate these.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to several people I have worked with over the last 14 years:
David Griffiths has been a reliable and invaluable source of skill, labour and friendship. He is unquestionably the main reason why our on-ground works have yielded a very high success rate.
Barry Sutton has stayed the course as Treasurer despite having many other important things to do and having moved into town. Barry is typical of many of his generation in his passion and commitment to community service.
Beth Mellick and family moved into the area not long ago and immediately involved themselves in the group. Beth, like Barry is a person deeply committed to community service. Having Beth to work with kept me going for a year or two longer than I would otherwise have managed.
Since his appointment as Landcare Facilitator, Max Schlachter has always been available to solve problems, come up with ideas and generally inject energy and enthusiasm into our work. Max is moving on at the end of this year and I wish him much success and pleasure in his new ventures.
To everyone who has involved themselves in our group as members and presenters in the last 14 years I thank you. I have met many interesting and knowledgeable people. I have learned a great deal and have made many good friends.
Thursday, November 12, 2015.
Paul – you have done a great job over there in Muckleford and I hope the group doesn’t fold. Your president’s report is a great read – much to be proud of over many many years. I enjoyed working with you on the combined Newstead and Muckleford Landcare roadsides day and had hoped there might be more combined activities in the future. You raise an interesting question about how small Landcare groups work alongside Connecting Country – and so how do we each strengthen the other? Sorry I can’t come on Saturday as I’ll be away working on a community consultation Friday and Saturday. Kind regards and best wishes – Chris Johnston (Green Gully)
Well said Paul, you have given consistent service to the natural environment of our district. The success of the many projects and events will be your legacy.