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Environmentalists make a move after 50 years

Part of the wetlands at the Stricklands’ Bittern property.

Stephen Taylor steve@mpnews.com.au AN afternoon tea for Peter and Kathie Strickland at Balnarring Hall in midMarch was an “acknowledgment of their considerable contribution to the local environmental and art communities”. The couple, active members of community groups and environment organisations, are leaving their Beattie Av, Bittern, home and moving to Queensland to be near their children after more than 50 years on the Mornington Peninsula. The farewell was attended by friends and representatives of these groups. “[Kathie and Peter] have made many friends and been inspirational with their sense of commitment and can-do attitude and, importantly, they have always delighted in sharing their knowledge and mentoring others,” farewell organiser Annette Bunyevich said. “This can be seen in their passion for the environment, particularly in maintaining its integrity, and promoting the planting of indigenous species. “They have been involved in the establishment and nurturing of the Balbirooroo Wetlands at Balnarring, which is a treasure for the community and, especially, for pupils at Balnarring Primary school for whom it is

‘Locals know best’

From the heart: The Stricklands present a painting of the Balbirooroo Wetlands to Shanti, the Balnarring Environmental Action Team captain, to be forwarded to Balnarring Primary School at assembly.

a wonderland of experiences and learning.” Ms Bunyevich said the school motto, Where Nature Meets Nurture, underscores the school’s role as a Sustainability School. “The wetlands, after years of hard work by many people, have developed into the wonderful oasis,” she said. “Peter’s detailed botanical illustrations of its flora and fauna are placed along the Wetlands walk, as are drawings by Nambooka about their Koori

story. “Peter and Kathie were involved from the early days, donating indigenous plants from their Kareelah Nursery and rolling up their sleeves at community plantings and working bees. “Their love of nature is reflected in Peter’s wonderful paintings of the peninsula and of many other breathtaking places around Australia.” Mr Strickland was the foundation art teacher at Woodleigh School.


ARTIST and author Peter Strickland, who along with his wife Kathie has put together a series of books on indigenous plants, said the Mornington Peninsula had to decide whether it was going to be just a playground for Melbourne or an entity in its own right. “We face lots of problems regarding population expansion, such as farmland, hotels and resorts and transport versus virgin bush,” he said. “We have got to be more selfcentred and do what suits us, such as deciding whether we want to develop the port of Hastings or have Western Port as a relaxation area.” Mr Strickland said the peninsula “had been lucky”. “We have lots of little parks and reserves and a foreshore that is a gem of the highest order, yet we are allowing big buildings to be built right up to the beach.” He said “huge holiday weekenders” were being built at Somers and Balnarring, adding pressure to services and reducing access to the few small car parks.

“Some long-range planning will have to take place or we will be left with a hotchpotch. Someone will have to put their foot down.” Mr Strickland praised the role of local environment experts whose views should be taken into account when governments plan major projects. “It infuriates me when councils hire outof-town consultants when they should be taking notice of local experts who live here, work here and know the area backwards,” he said. The couple say they are not politically aligned, although their frequent well-reasoned letters to the editor are, naturally, for such an environmentally-focused couple, soft-Left. They enjoy the work of their Probus club and will miss their many friends. “I am very keen on painting and will continue painting,” Mr Strickland said. Their new home is at Palmwoods, inland from Maroochydore, which is closer to two of their children: Helen, a potter and environmentalist, and Pedr, an electrician. A third child, David, lives in Canada.

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