How we made it work-A Pest Plant and Animal Roadside Management Program

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Up until about 2011 there was a lot of doubt and controversy about who was responsible for pest plants and animals along roadsides. After a lot of consultation and hard work in establishing a determination, local councils were deemed to be responsible for all roadsides that were ‘council roads’. VicRoads would continue to maintain all roads and freeways for which they were responsible.

As a result of this decision the Victorian Government provided funding to shire councils to address roadside weed and pest management. Shires could engage contractors to undertake the work that would then be approved for payment.

Our shire’s initial funding was $150 000 over the first three years: this was extended to a fourth and fifth year – total funding was in the order of $250 000.

The rate base for our Shire is small. There are not many on-ground staff. Recognising this as an issue, that in the past weed control had led to sub-optimal results, our local landcare groups developed a model to assist the Shire in delivering the program.

Our proposition was that if the Shire met all the regulatory requirements of the funding, the landcare groups would inspect the roadsides to locate weeds and rabbits. Each group selected an approved contractor to undertake the work; a landcare representative supervised the work and approved final payment by the Shire to the contractor on the basis that work was completed to the required standard.

Shire officers, agency staff and the landcare group representatives have met annually to review and improve the program.

There has been a significant impact on the extent of roadside weeds. The involvement of the landcare groups meant that community education is more effective and our community owns the project. A win-win for all.

A Story of Success – Effective Rabbit Control Is A Long Haul

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Our rabbit control story has been ongoing … forever. In ‘the old days’ it was poison, spotlight, fumigate … every year, year after year! In the early 90s the tide began to change. We developed and implemented a broad scale, integrated approach that covered six landcare groups in our area – a total of 93 000 ha. To do this our community established a collaborative of the six groups. We called ourselves The Granite Creeks Project.

The community led integrated control program was developed by our Committee of Management. We decided to employ a fulltime Education Officer. This was a critical part of our early and ongoing success. The role was to actively educate our community by attending landcare meetings, contacting agencies, making site visits to individual and groups of landholders, publishing articles in local papers, building partnerships … we even featured in The Australian Geographic.

Often, the best things that can happen are unplanned … enter the 1995 RHDV impact. We were chosen as one of 17 data collection sites across Victoria. Our spotlight transect has been continuous from 1996 to 2017 … 22 years of data. Our control program has been in place for more than 25 years and continues every year … so what is the proof of success?

Rabbit counts for the 18 km transect are down from 1070 rabbits in 1996 to 8 in 2016. Cost to government and community is down to one tenth of 1996 expenditure. Land mangers have more time for other activities. Our current funding is in the order of $15 000 … because this is essentially all that is needed to maintain our previous investment and gains.

Some reasons for our ongoing success are that the program is landscape wide, it is community developed and community driven.

How can we empower the community to get involved?

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Following on from the large Field Days, four of us tackled the popular Market venues setting up Rabbit Control Information Stands at the Metung Market on two occasions late last year, and the Kings Cove Twilight Market this summer. Once again we provided information show-bags for the public, pictorial displays and a variety of specific information on Rabbit Control methods. We encouraged people to use Rabbit Scan and record their sightings, or download the app. These educational stands proved very popular with many people chatting and asking questions. Some had heard of the forthcoming release of the RHDV K5 release, many were interested in the methods of transmission. Most were local people living in relatively new housing subdivisions. Many advised they had a rabbit problem, but hardly any did anything about the problem themselves, they just let it be!

We found good numbers attended these markets and the public were certainly interested in talking to us. Again they saw no need to get involved; it was someone else’s problem, and they hoped someone would fix.

Rabbit Control – Getting the message out there

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Being a member of Landcare for many years we formed a Rabbit Control sub-Committee within our Nicholson Group and having gained a Grant we focussed on a major Rabbit Control Program along the East Gippsland Rail Trail with extensive works being undertaken in a team effort over several years. Initial monitoring indicated that the problem was extensive, the undergrowth thick along many parts of the selected section of Trail, and the work ahead arduous. This didn’t deter the stoic members and having nominated a “leader of the pack” for on ground works plans were soon underway. Much monitoring, clearing of undergrowth and removal of rabbit harbour was essential. We saw a need to engage the services of a young contractor to do much of the initial clearing with assistance from Landcare Members. GPS warren recording was a great help in mapping and planning the best methods of rabbit control. Cameras were also set up in several locations. Due to the type of area, existing plantations and terrain we found that methods had to be confined to fumigation of warrens. This was not an area we could follow up with Ripping.

Many small properties abutted the Rail Trail and by talking with these landholders we were able to offer assistance in reducing rabbit numbers on these properties. During the Project we conducted two Community Forums the first early in the project was designed to educated the community about Rabbits, the life cycle, how quickly numbers increase, the various methods which can be used, and the need to all “get on board” and “do your bit” to assist in reducing numbers. We were fortunate to be able to attract some excellent guest presenters for these educational programs. We worked well together in partnership with Contractors, other agencies, the Rail Trail Committee and a positive result was achieved. Monitoring continued. We all know, Rabbit Control needs to be on-going, there is a need for sufficient funds and manpower to continue, and it must be a concerted effort, everyone needs to get on board and keep going!

A second Community Forum was held as a follow up to convey our findings with excellent reports being given by Presenters including an extensive report from our young Contractor. We endeavoured to make these Forums attractive for people to attend by providing a B.B.Q and refreshments with catering supplied by Landcare members. Throughout the project we found tremendous cooperation between everyone, all worked as a team with much happy interaction.

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Proactive management of serrated tussock

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The time to treat serrated tussock infestations is always yesterday. If that is not possible, the next best option is to treat the first plant that arrives on your property. There is a single immature serrated tussock plant in the picture, and also a single gorse bush. Imagine the time and money saved if the land manager removed these two plants and monitored the sites for a decade.

Community led action needs to focus on enabling landowners to identify invasive species during the early establishment phase, as well as prevention of spread and pathways. If a rural landowner receives good extension services from community groups/taskforces, these plants would be identified and the risks explained in clear language.

Removing these two plants prior to seeding would give you a great return on your money, time and investment.

BB on Baw Baw

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Tent deconstructed and sheathed, the last sip of my morning coffee savoured, boots on and backpack donned. We left Mt Erica campsite without a trace to embark on the beautiful two hour jaunt down the hill past mushroom rocks to where we’d left the car parked two days earlier. What a weekend. What a place. The Mt Baw Baw section of the southern portion of the Alpine Trail was spectacular, silver wattle and snow-gums hugging the track and framing our impressions of this exquisite landscape – which, I noted, had been remarkably well maintained by the people at Parks.

It was with surprise that I happened upon a sneaky shoot of blackberry emerging from the native undergrowth, the sole blackberry I had encountered over three days on the track. Given how stubborn and prolific the spread of blackberry can be, I’m grateful for the good work being done in the area to manage this weed and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of this beautiful native ecology.

Thanks

 

A story about blackberry

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I thought I would share my story about one of several rural blocks I have “cleaned up” in my life and specifically in the ongoing battle I have had with Blackberry, but i would also like to make mention of English broom, as it appears to me it is going to get just as bad as Blackberry.

The general location I am talking about is central and east Gippsland & north east Victoria.

I wish the government would reclassify blackberry from noxious to prohibited so that a greater effort was made to control this weed, but I also realise why its classified as it is.

I am very concerned about English broom getting established elsewhere other than the mitta catchment (ie Jordan/Thomson & Goulburn catchments) because it could be eradicated there, to date the govt land managers responsible for those locations are not making enough effort to achieve that.

Two “before and after” photos of part of a property (I cleared blackberry entirely) I use to own.