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Number 87 May 2014 email: New website: From your Network Committee Convener Ray Radford

Stay sane by acting local and being vocal Currently it seems like the environment is under siege. The Victorian Government prepared its battle plans by slashing the regulations on native vegetation, which is likely to mean more land clearing. Then, using backto-front planning, the Growth Corridor Plans were released before the Biodiversity Conservation Strategies. To make matters worse, some so-called “Logical Inclusions” were added in to the Urban Growth Boundary, without any clear environmental process at all. The Victorian Government tore up their agreement with the Federal Government to protect 80% of Grassy Eucalypt Woodland within the Urban Growth Boundary, and only proposed to instead protect 61%. These are the beautiful old River Red Gums that are such a feature of landscapes to Melbourne's north. Corridors for Growling Grass Frog habitat are also being whittled down. To top it off, the government then disposed of the monitoring and evaluation plan and the independent auditor that they were supposed to have. (Presumably, this was seen as mere “Green Tape.”) Other shots across the environment’s bow include opening up National Parks for potential commercial development, burning off much more bushland than necessary in the name of fire reduction, scrapping of the two bandicoot wildlife corridors, and the proposed return of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park. In the face of this barrage, the best thing that conservationists can do is to bunker down and put our energy into our Friends groups. By weeding, planting and helping to maintain our local environment, we can ensure that we stay sane and at least achieve something positive, no matter what is happening beyond our control. Of course we can still make sure our voices are heard as well. Another positive thing you can do is to see who in your group is worthy of a Best Friends Award.

Who’s your Best Friend for 2014 It’s time to consider nominating at least one hard-working person in your group for the 2014 Best Friend Award. This is more significant than most awards, as it involves recognition by one’s peers rather than by an outside panel of judges. The Award is also not limited to only one “winner.”

To qualify for the Best Friend Award, a person needs to have made an outstanding contribution through exceptional dedication as a Friend. This will usually involve constant honorary involvement in the work of the group for at least ten years. The nominee doesn’t have to be of high profile or an office bearer, but the contribution must be outstanding and involve exceptional dedication over a long period. It will need to be accompanied by three references, one of which should be from the managing organisation or Council. Nominations are considered by an independent panel of three appointed by the Friends Network Committee and Awards are made on its recommendation. The Award is in the form of a certificate, which may be presented at a Friends Network or Group function at the option of the Group. There are bound to be people in your group who qualify, so send in your nominations by email to or by post to: Victorian Environment Friends Network, c/o VNPA, Level 3, 60 Leicester St Carlton 3053, before Thursday 31 July.

Where to now for the VEFN? Thanks to those who provided some feedback as to what the VEFN should do now instead of the bi-annual weekend conferences that we can no longer afford to run. The Committee is considering a number of options. We still welcome any suggestions – by email to:

Birdsland nursery: Discovery weekend One of the Saturday excursions on our weekend was to the Birdsland (Southern Dandenongs Community) nursery in Belgrave Heights (Melway 84 C1) Gavin, of Yarra Ranges Council, spoke to us of the history: the Kennett municipal amalgamations in the 1990s led to closure of the nursery which was not seen as a core function of Council, by the Commissioners. The community disagreed and reopened it as Birdsland, looking after plants from two bioregions: Highlands-Southern Fall, and Gippsland Plains. It supplies the Council, Vic-Roads, South -east Water, schools, scouts, residents and a re-search program of Monash Uni Botany school, and is now 18 years old, during which about 500,000 plants have been grown. It is associated with the Westernport Biosphere project and grows some Flora-and-Fauna Guarantee species.

hectares of weeds and early work was a bit unsystematic. They eventually divided it into 13 work areas ranked by their conservation value and focused on the best ones with annual work plans and post-work assessment walks. They keep records of areas worked on, work done and the evaluations. They work hard to make working bees enjoyable and value their volunteers, provide morning tea and an educational talk each month.!

The area was settled in 1839 by farmers, growing wheat and sheep. In the 1960s the Birds family bought 17 land titles in a cluster, and sold it all in the 1980s to Council to add to the Monbulk corridor development. The nursery has permits to collect seed of rare species and GPS maps of seed sites, a good calendar for seed gathering and propagation skills. [Ed: their website has downloadable fact sheets on birds, butterflies and frogs, all linked to plants to make gardens friendly for these fauna groups, and a helpful guide to techniques for identifying the local plants] Website at:

Glenfern Valley Bushland Group We next heard two reps from Friends of Glenfern Valley, which is 2 km west of Birdsland (Melway 74 F10). It comprises 40 hectares of bushland on a slope with a ridge at the top and a creek at the bottom. Main threats to its conservation value are from pasture grasses, suburban sprawl garden escapes, foxes and cats. Glenfern valley is now the sole buffer between the suburbs and the hills.

A nearby quarry was very noisy. It was eventually moved via a land swap, but there are still issues with 4Wds and rubbish dumping. The community got together and formed the Glenfern Valley Group Inc. with good support from Yarra Ranges and Melbourne Water. Member recruitment is an ongoing issue – too many passive members, too few active ones. They organize newspaper stories, an annual Discovery Day, a newsletter, an essay competition with local schools that requires a visit to the reserve. Many locals don’t even know it’s there. At the start it was just 40

One of their main issues is Sweet Pittosporum. They put up a display of before-andafter photos to show their weed removal efforts and what they have achieved. Impressive! Garriq, the project manager, spoke of the major achievement of getting a 3 funded perimeter fence and removing 73 m of rubbish in the first year. Major weed control work is about Pittosporum and Boneseed. The public areas are now well managed. It is not a conservation reserve, but they try to add conservation value to it. Information shelters, tables and seats and a nicely built entrance gate have been funded from various sources. They have the universal problem of an ageing membership but try to engage the young via projects and field experience for schools and TAFE.

Andrew and David spoke about the grants program. They get grants of $10,000 to $20,000 to pay contractors to remove the Pittosporum, supervised by GVBG. It has been reduced from 40 hectares to one 0.25 ha. thicket which is impenetrable and a thin scatter of trees across the reserve.

They still pull out several thousand seedlings each year. They have surveyed nests and owl roosts and found that Pittosporum does not contribute to fauna diversity at all. Much of the former Pittosporum thickets has been replaced with grasses and shrubs, and the birds are coming back so it is now common to see 30 to 40 species on a walk. They have been at it for 10 years now, with another few years to complete it and remove the seedbank in the soil. Glenfern Valley is seen as a fire risk, so compromises have had to be made, but Pittosporum removal has reduced fire risk.

Marine National parks vs fishing

Barwon Bluff and its friends

Victoria created 13 Marine National Parks and 11 Marine Sanctuaries in 2002 (bi-partisan support of both major political parties) conserving significant marine habitats and offering an insurance policy against environmental impacts. They cover only 5.3 % of Victoria's marine environment.

Right at the end of the Discovery Weekend, a little session in a side-room was led by Rhonda Coffey on a venture into phone-apps. She leads a group of Friends of The Bluff at Barwon Heads, southwest of Geelong. It is a tiny headland at the mouth of the Barwon River, with largely weedfree coastal shrub -land (Beardheath, Boobialla, Ti-tree) and well-maintained steps down to the beach both sides of the Bluff with graveled walks and post-and-wire fences to keep people from trampling sensitive vegetation. The Friends obtained a grant to employ an IT person to develop an application program to download onto mobile phones using a little plastic plaque with an app icon stapled to the fence railing at the Bluff. It has a lot of text, maps of trails and the adjacent Marine Reserve, and a menu to access information about many of the animals and plants of the area, on land and in the water, with a guided tour (for low tide) around the Bluff on an interactive touch-screen map

[Rod Webster conducts rockpool rambles during school vacations at Inverloch as well as tours of the Bunurong Marine National Park. He has become concerned at the possible state government reaction to allow recreational fishing in these marine parks in response to lobbying by VRFish to abolish no-go zones in the parks around our coast. Here is his request for a response from people who care about protecting our marine parks – Ed.]

The integrity of these Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) is now threatened by moves from VRfish, representing some recreational anglers who wish to open up these "no take" areas to fishing. (I gather they have become emboldened by successful attempts in NSW.) Research around the world and anecdotal evidence from local fishermen actually suggests that MPA's serve to enhance fishing values (size and quantity of catches) while providing resilience for fish stocks throughout their distribution. Rationally, VRfish should be calling for an increase in the number and size of marine national parks rather than reducing the already minimal 5.3% of marine environment they are excluded from. These small MPA's cannot possibly serve their purposes if fishing is allowed to occur within their boundaries. The larger, breeding size animals targeted by fishers are the very ones especially needed to be conserved. "Catch and release" methodology is problematical with many species and realistically most fish are targeted for the table! The principal purpose of marine national parks is to protect marine biodiversity, but there are potential secondary benefits for fisheries management, marine research, tourism and education. Marine national parks provide the following benefits: (VNPA) · They repair ecological damage and restore ecosystem health. · They build resilience into ecosystems so that they can better cope with the impacts of climate change. · They protect marine biodiversity. · They protect rare and threatened species. · They can help maintain or increase fish stocks. · They protect habitats, including nursery areas such as sea-grasses. · They serve as ecosystem control areas that can be compared with other non-protected areas. There is widespread public recognition of and support for marine national parks in Victoria. Government surveys have shown more than 90% of Victorians support marine national parks. Other research demonstrated in 2009 that 64% of Victorians support an increase in the size of our marine national park network. More recently, 80% of respondents to a Weekly Times poll in July 2010 supported new marine parks for Victoria. I'm sure they expected such areas to be fully protected. Climate change is likely to have profound impacts on the marine environment, and so we need to ensure that this environment is resilient enough to survive in a changing climate. Rising sea levels, storm surges, increasing ocean

temperatures and growing ocean acidity are just some of the many pressures climate change will place on our fragile marine world. Recreational fishing does have an environmental impact larger than many expect. The total recreational catch is equal to or greater than the total commercial catch for popular species such as snapper, flathead and King George Whiting. Recreational fishing has a number of other actual or potential impacts that add to the pressure of coastal use. These include mortality of released animals, retention of undersized fish, lost gear, habitat damage, hydrocarbon release by outboard motors, marine litter, the impacts of fish removals on the wider ecosystem and the transfer of pests and diseases.

we ran out of markers! In addition we installed a Parks Vic wooden sign at the Playgrounds, showing the start of the track. It was a very successful and enjoyable day. The group camped at Native Dog Flat Friday and Saturday nights very pleasant prior to the holiday rush. As a bonus, on the Sunday morning we explored the waterfalls on the upper Buchan River, below Native Dog Flat.

Woodchipping in the Strathbogies again?

I fish regularly and also visit our magnificent Bunurong Marine National Park all through the year with locals, visiting families and school groups who marvel at the wonderfully rich biodiversity present along our coast. A highlight of the Great Victoria Fish Count this year held within the park was sighting a Blue Groper. A fully protected species we would hope to see in greater numbers in coming years. Although clearly it should not be targeted by anglers, it would likely become a casualty. I urge you to immediately contact VRFish and inform them and the public that no fishing will be allowed now or in the future within MPA's. Parks and Sanctuaries are a 'win-win' for both the environment and fishers but only as long as they remain fully protected. Marine Protected Area's must remain just that!

Friends of Cobberas and track marking [Ed: Mt Cobberas is in the northeast of Victoria, part of the Cobberas Range in Alpine NP, close to the NSW border. It has two peaks, Cobberas 1 & 2]

On 14th December 3 Friends of the Cobberas, 2 visitors and Ranger Deb improved the marking of the track from the Playgrounds to the top of Mt Cobberas No 1. Orange triangle markers had been installed a few years previously but with large enough gaps between them to make it difficult to stay on the track in the lower section, where there is plenty of fallen timber, regrowth, and feral horse tracks. Additional markers were installed from here most of the way to the summit - then

VicForests has announced a plan to clear 500+ hectares of forest in the Toorour-Mt. Strathbogie area over the next two years. They don’t say what the timber is to be used for, but the suspicion is it’s for wood-chipping. The Strathbogie Sustainable Forestry Alliance is not happy about it and has organised a community meeting on 22 Feb. in Strathbogie Community Hall.

150+ people came to the meeting, addressed by Lindsay Hesketh (ex ACF Forest Campaigner) and others from the Alliance, Bertram Lobert, Sim Ayres, Michael Spencer, and facilitator Andrew Townsend. The meeting agreed to start a program of fact-finding on the forest’s logging history, mapping its flora and fauna, producing a newsletter, organising forest walks and information boards. See their website

Versus We have received a little swag of poems by an anonymous versifier named Evan Elpus. Something to enliven debate about what we are doing to our land. Evan is not happy with our widespread practice of removing indigenous trees and replacing them with northern hemisphere species (or with bare soil), and the consequences that has for all the

fauna that depend on indigenous trees. Here is another sample. More in our next edition: Cantata radiata As the hippo marks his empire with a line of pungent pee So our landed folk do likewise, but they choose the cypress tree No more useful to the country than are rabbits, cats and foxes They can no more blend with bushland than a row of thunder-boxes. Yet a cypress hedge proclaims your place in higher income strata, With an unrelated virtue - it's not Pinus radiata. For all decline to plant the pine, including people who Think an Agapanthus native, or that erudite's a glue Since they've learnt that once it's planted, few can ever halt its spread From beside the chilly farmhouse where the dogs lie on the bed From behind the sagging hayshed with its rusting drums of oil, From the tax-free hill plantation and its dehydrated soil, From the municipal parkland with its sundry growth exotic, Planted when all things indigenous were deemed unpatriotic. And nought impedes the pinus seeds as, catapulted far, They stake their claim on hill and plain, or by a river's bar Where soon their acid needles do to bushland species' home What the Romans did to Carthage and the Vandals did to Rome.

Friends group awards research grant Friends of the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve member David King left a legacy to be used by the group to be used as a research grant to support post-graduate biology students at universities. In August 2013 they had a guest speaker, Ben Zeeman, who is studying botany at Latrobe, working on a study of long-term vegetation changes at the Ocean Grove re-serve. This so impressed the committee they awarded the year’s research grant to him. He has been invited to speak to the group about his research again on 11 March this year: Vegetation Dynamics of a Long Unburned Coastal Woodland. Changes 1971 to 2012. Are there any other groups offering research grants?

ReefLife Survey of Australia’s reef fish

nautical mile circuit of Australia, out to a maximum of 400 nautical miles from shore. Some reefs are fairly healthy, especially those off the northwest coast, but bleaching of corals is a big problem at all other reef sites. The study has major implications for the management of our marine national parks. The former Labor government created a multitude of new marine parks all around our coast, which the current government proposes to repeal. The photo shows highlighted sites included in the survey of Australian reefs, part of a much larger world survey of reef health. See their website at

The world study included work off the American coasts, Europe, Africa and around the Pacific and Indian oceans, the Red Sea and Japan.

Extreme hot days in Australia The Age had a story on 4 March on a State of the Climate report by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO on the number of days per year of extreme heat in the century since 1910, with a most interesting chart that I have reproduced in a spreadsheet as shown in the next column. It shows the number of days in the top 1% of the temperature range. There were 372 days in this category over the century, only 3 days between 1910 and 1920, and 28 of them in one year, in 2010, as many as in the first 40 years of this series. The number of years to achieve each extra 20% of the 372 days’ total has been rapidly shrinking. Year achieved Years to

20% 1960 50

40% 1984 24

60% 1995 11

80% 2004 9

100% 2010 6

From a story by Andrew Darby in The Age, 21 Feb 2014 A group of divers working with the ReefLife Survey Found -ation has been surveying coral reefs all around the world for some years, and have completed a survey of the entire Australian coast including 700 reef sites, finishing in Hobart mid-Feb. One of their findings was the near-disappearance of the major large predatory species, from big fish to lobsters. Over-fishing is part of the story, invasive species such as Crown of Thorns sea-stars is another part, and serious pollution of waters around big cities is another. Prof. Graham Edgar used his 14-metre catamaran as a dive platform, taking 75 divers on a 12,000

! In 2008 Prof. Ross Garnaut’s big report on climate change and its mitigation in Australia had a table on the number of o days expected to be above 35 C each year in each capital city over the century. Here are the figures for Melbourne and Darwin:

Current 2030 2070 2100 Melbourne 9 12 21 27 Darwin NT 9 36 221 312 Melbourne seems to have got there 90 years early with 28 days in the top 1% of the range in 2010. Don’t move to Darwin, it will be uninhabitable by century’s end, if not long before. The big issue for us is: what will this continuing rise in temperature do the flora and fauna in our parks?

Deer cull to reduce damage to parks Three parks east of Melbourne are being severely damaged by Fallow and Sambar deer, 220 of which are to be culled by 54 hunters supervised by Parks Vic. according to a story in The Age on 5 March by Darren Gray. The deer are in Sherbrooke, Yellingbo and Warramate Hills Conservation Reserve. The deer have been damaging waterways and their practice of wallowing in dust has turned some areas into mud-baths. The damage threatens some native fauna, including the lyrebird in Sherbrooke and Leadbeater’s Possum further north. The deer moved into these parks in recent years, escaping areas where bushfires has removed their food supply, and are present in small numbers, which are seen as controllable. Sensor cameras have detected deer moving past them and surveys by parks staff has revealed effects of antler rubbing on trees, mud-wallows, trampling and tree–browsing. They have no predators in Australia and populations increase rapidly as they breed. The parks will be closed to the public on days when hunters are at work. [Ed.: The deer are new to these three parks, but well established in quite a large number of other national and state parks. It would be nice if similar programs were undertaken in all parks where deer are damaging ecosystems]

Joiners vs individualists: the problem of recruitment & shrinking membership A story in The Age on 15 March about the declining membership and influence of the Victorian Employers’ and Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) and it’s new CEO Mark Stone (ex Parks Victoria) has a short extract from a recent book Disconnected by ALP MP Andrew Leigh, shadow assistant treasurer which has much relevance to what’s happening in conservation volunteering: Globally, and especially in the West, people are far less active in large collective organisations than in previous generations. Andrew Leigh is the federal shadow assistant treasurer and a former economics professor. In 2010 he published Disconnected, a book that looked at the decline of community engagement in Australia. His work was modelled on a similar tome, Bowling Alone by US academ-

ic Robert Putnam, regarded as a landmark study in the decline of social capital in the US. Leigh says large institutions, once the heart of civil society, are shrinking almost everywhere. ''You see that with political parties regardless of their ideology. Political party membership is down about two-thirds. Church-going has halved since the 1950s. Union membership has halved since the early 1980s.'' Mass organisations such as Scouts, Guides, Rotary and Lions are all down, says Leigh, who cites long working hours, car commuting, television and the internet as contributors to declining engagement in community activity. He says this ''tectonic shift'' has undermined representative bodies and risked pushing many into a ''death spiral'' of declining relevance. [Ed.: I have been hearing for many years about the problem of ageing membership of Friends groups, of the steady shrinking of working bee attendance. It is far from being restricted to conservation, and is a big problem throughout our society. If anybody has any ideas on how to deal with it, write something for this newsletter, please]

FriendsNET 87 May 2014  
FriendsNET 87 May 2014  

FriendsNet newsletter Number 87 May 2014 - Newsletter of the Victorian Environment Friends Network