My routine blog is now about to be replaced by the CfES Facebook page – I have finally got the hang of how that technology works and this technology seems almost old hat by comparison.
The CfES Facebook page is up and running and we have been ‘populating’ it with the public consultation work of the office for a while now so it will be business as usual. We also use the CfES Facebook page to provide up dates on the work of other organisations including CSIRO, NCCARF, VCCAR etc, so if you haven’t checked it out please do…
So, here is the news for November….
Our usual array of meetings and discussions took place.
You will have probably already seen the photos and observations from the Victorian and Australian Environmental Educators’ Associations annual conference on the CfES Facebook page.
The conference was a resounding success. It was paperless and it ran multiple parallel sessions, the dinner was a great place to relax and many people were celebrated for their commitment to environmental education over decades. Newer members were also welcomed and congratulated on their work.
A panel which I chaired provided great scope for people to talk about the national curriculum, the work being done across states, the local work of particular schools who know how community development works, and, finally, the floor came alive with responses and observations which continued well after the panel session finished. Well done VAEE and AAEE…
Earlier this month I presented on the work of this Office to the EPA Chairman’s executive forum, handing over some of the last of the Many Publics reports and talking about how we worked to draw people into a continuing discussion with this Office about the State of the Environment Report…
NetBalance and ARUP spent time talking to us about the work we all do in the environmental arena, about auditing, community and engineering and the considerable benefits of multidisciplinary approaches. During this month I was also fortunate to meet with the architect who has been project manager of some of the housing which has been designed to meet community needs in the Northern territory which provided an opportunity to discuss evaluation of projects and cross cultural engagement issues about housing and design.
Earlier conversations had with the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA continued when we talked about their report and reporting ethos. Like a number of CMAs across the state the PPWPCMA is really actively working on ways to involve a broad and highly diverse public in water conservation. We talked about the ways in which we can use technology to greater effect in the work we all do and about how paper reports are almost already artefacts save for those which should be circulated to people who still have poor access to internet services.
I have been pleased to continue to work on the development of the charter in the National Rural Law and Justice Alliance which is building a broad spectrum constituency across the country – website under development.
It has been good to build on some of the other relationships we have been cultivating for the Office and our work over time, including with the Green Sages of the Council on the Ageing here in Victoria. This relationship prompted an invitation to close the Evergreen Photographic Exhibition for Seniors’ Week, and the winning photo is currently on our facebook site. It wasn’t just for seniors though, and one of the finalists was a young school girl whose photo showed the work being done by Landcare along the coast, work in which she and her family are involved.
I was delighted to be invited to the Local Sustainability Accord’s meeting, also attended by the parliamentary secretary Donna Petrovich even though it was the last meeting of some of the members whose friendship, guidance and simple collegiality I have enjoyed in my time as the Commissioner. Thanks Janet Bolitho and Mike Hill Stalwarts of environmental sustainability efforts!
As these meeting rounds continued the team here worked on the foundation papers, the audit and the state of the environment report all of which are coming together as I write.
And then I took a week’s leave.
I wouldn’t usually involve you in my holidays – like the child returning to school after the holiday break being asked to write the essay about “my holidays” - but here is the travelogue, simply because when you travel and consider the environment, its ecosystem services are everywhere…..
It is difficult to actually appreciate the great depth of environmental services until you simply take the time to do so. Clean air, clear water, recreation, cultural appreciation, even some native bees returning to their hive – ecosystem services…everywhere….
So, we started in Gippsland at the Strzeleckis and moved east, north and then south.
We were really fortunate to be invited to visit Dave Sutton at his revegetation plot in the Strzelecki Ranges.
This block of land was a bare patch of earth complete with landslips when Dave bought it and started to return it to its local EVC.
Dave has planted local species across the whole steep sloping area and now has swamp wallabies
and at least 2 koalas in residence. He has worked with his neighbour to completely revegetate a land slip site which they share.
Over two hours we walked and talked. As we tramped back up the hill from the creek we stopped to listen to the giant earthworms underfoot as they slurped up and down their holes. They never come to the surface… the sound they make is like a wet-socked foot in a gumboot, it is clearly noticeable and pretty amusing. Wombats are not taking a lot of notice of Dave’s fences.
What he has done in a few short years is truly remarkable, a testament to a person’s commitment and the support of friends, and local others in organisations, including local seed prevenancers and Landcare.
Due to the work we did last year in the Gippsland region in consulting with people and the Monash University Churchill campus we have been able to link Dave with a researcher about the Strzelecki koala population.
At least as interesting as all this is, Dave is also working with CSIRO to determine the carbon sequestration value of his wet forest plot and it seems to be excellent – tests are being done and records being kept. Dave’s work will be cited in the years to come as the first trial of carbon in the region for this EVC…
We also got to examine the Strezlecki eucalypt which (surprisingly given its name) is only found in the Strezlecki Ranges!
After leaving Dave’s place we toured down the Gippsland coast. We stopped at the Rhyll Ramsar wetlands, observing bird populations for whom that wetlands is a powerful draw, naturally. The mangroves on the north side of the town are being augmented by plantings up the slopes and the interpretation boards tell the story of the site’s importance. The sun was shining on us on this occasion, birds were flocking in droves out on the sand bar and it was interesting to take in the narrative about the old fort precinct.
From there we visited Fish Creek (the route to Wilson’s Promontory National Park) noted the yellow tailed black cockatoos and photographed at least one waratah photo before driving away from Waratah Beach and up to Corner Inlet (where some great work is being done to involve the public in the management of that most interesting ecosystem) and Port Franklin.
There, those unpretentious ecosystems, the mangroves, provide the ecosystem service of habitat to a fishery which thousands of Victorians enjoy both socially and from the point of view of their diet.
Heading out of Port Franklin you can drive into the small town of Toora and note the wind turbines on the hill behind the town as people go about their business, undisturbed, in the town, producing wind energy all day long.
The wind turbines are still visible at the Agnes Falls which is just back in the hinterland. There, in a catchment which provides the drinking water for locals, a hollow in a eucalypt provided a home for native bees, intent on providing us with the ecosystem service of pollination…
From there we headed down to Robertsons beach and Manns beach and the Tarraville Landcare site which Kayla Groombridge (formerly Young Landcarer of the Year) showed us when we visited the Gippsland region in 2011. Kayla’s efforts in generating enthusiasm for the plantings at this site are reflected in the Many Publics report on the day she took us there when the rain and wind nearly blew us off our feet. This time the weather was fine and the plantings are at least a metre higher than when she and her Landcare group put them in. (Sorry Kayla my photo this time didn’t come out but what a great effort – people had stopped to eat their lunches there and there was no rubbish – your goal has been met).
We then turned back onto and then off the highway again and headed down to Woodside beach and the Seaspray beach. A large caravan park is being built at Seaspray back on the flat behind the primary dune which will require a good deal of Landcare before it is as inviting as some of the other caravan parks along that stretch of the coast.
A banksia forest runs along the back of the primary dune from there to Honeysuckle and Golden Beach.
Back on the highway and off to Sale the wetlands park is a retreat which people appear to really value. The pavement contains mosaics of poetry about bugs and bees reflecting the voices of local people, and some of them are really entertaining.
Maffra has a great second hand book shop with lots of local history and a reasonable environment section. The town itself has a terrific gem display which tells the mineralogy story of a good deal of the country and which was a collection donated by a local resident. A wide main street provides shade and shelter for those going about their business, an ecosystem service which we will come to value all the more as we confront climate change and the heat island effect.
Driving out of Maffra through Lakes Entrance we headed down to Cape Conran Coastal Park and got there too late in the evening to find a cabin or put out the swag so went back to stay at Marlo where we had been in 2011 with Jeanette White and the Rural Women Leading Change. The back reaches of the Marlo beach are a wonderful place for pelicans and other waders and water birds. The next morning fishing people were already out early enjoying the day, the beach, the fish, the recreational ecosystem services.
We came back from Marlo to Orbost along the Snowy River photo which is being revegetated by local Landcare and the Moogji Aboriginal Corporation (again this group appears in the Many Publics report).
Orbost is a place I know from my time as a young lawyer with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the river flat remains the same (of course) but the town now has a commitment to an interesting timber appreciation exhibition which wasn’t open on the day we were there.
Driving out of Orbost west to Croagingalong National Park we turned into the Cabbage Tree Creek to have a look at the cabbage trees which have been conserved since a decision of the Shire in 1886. These are the most southerly stand of this odd ‘tree’ and their preservation is a testament to early non-Indigenous commitment to the oddness and interest of our environment.
Bemm River and Cann River were passed en route to Malacoota and Bastion Point (about which there continues to be community and developer conflict about the boat ramp/jetty) photos before we headed out to Towamba. This road brings you to a place called “New Buildings” and the New Buildings bridge is under reconstruction. Variability in engineering techniques can be found along the road at another, quite small bridge at a clear creek crossing.
The Big Jack Mountain Road takes you past an old single roofed cottage and an old coach house, both in varying states of disrepair, built in days when we used our resources to build our shelters. Shingles roofed buildings are now increasingly rare, and the skill used to cut the shingles is probably next to lost?
Before entering the Kosciuszko National Park we stopped at Cooma and observed the way in which the Cooma Monero Secondary College represented the park.
Finally we traveled through the Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, stopped to look at the Old Kiandra goldfields and court and chalet building photos and headed past the Paddy’s River falls photo and home to Euroa. Again the ecosystem services of nature were impressed upon us: the water fall was in full flourish, we stayed and built a small fire and barbequed some food. A currawong hung about the campsite hoping for the chop bones….
Back at work.