Local, Independant and Effective

Hansard, June 2, Landcare 25th anniversary and Govt funding

Posted June 03, 2014


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (13:20):  Minister and colleagues, it is not only what you do; it is how you do it that impacts on effective intervention. I rise today to speak to the motion celebrating the 25th anniversary of Landcare and to discuss the changes to Landcare funding announced in the 2014-15 budget. I am moved to speak today in order to raise the question: how will the government ensure that those dedicated to Landcare remain engaged in caring for land and environment across Australia as the government implements its new environmental policy?

Over the last 25 years Landcare has achieved incredible outcomes for our farmers, our farmland, our forests, our rivers, our coasts and our native vegetation and wildlife and, in turn, the quality of life right across Australia. Indi, my electorate, has a strong history of involvement in Landcare, and I would like to acknowledge, and say thank you for, all this work.

In fact, some of the earliest environmental groups which developed into Landcare groups emerged in Indi some 30 to 35 years ago in Kiewa, Springhurst, Byawatha Hills, Upper Murray and Burgoigee Creek. These groups started as tree-planting groups. In my own community of Indigo Valley, in 1986 I was part of a pioneer movement that established one of the first actual Landcare groups in north-east Victoria.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and say thank you for the terrific work done by all volunteers in the Landcare movement. Thank you and well done. There are now 75 Landcare groups, including special-issue groups, right across Indi. These groups have done work on hundreds of projects, including tree and understorey planting, management of salinity and soil control, rabbit control, erosion, seed collection, planning wildlife corridors and coordinating weed control, including weeds of national significance.

While the environmental benefits of Landcare are obvious, the social benefits are also particularly important for rural and regional Australia. Landcare is an incredible movement of volunteers, providing opportunities for all people in the community to be engaged in social, economic and environmental work of great value. Getting communities involved in environmental issues sees the participants donate not only their time but their money and resources.

Estimates from Landcare groups in Indi indicate that up to $8 of value both in time and in money and resources is contributed by participants for every dollar of government funding. Landcare has provided an opportunity for communities to take care of the environment that they live in while also encouraging them and providing them with a stable program to donate their money to environmental management.

I do believe that it is important that government has an opportunity to implement new programs to improve the environment we live in. While I support Landcare, I also believe that much has to be done to improve the efficiency of Landcare programs. Programs such as the Green Army, which the Minister for the Environment has just mentioned, and the tree-planting program obviously provide avenues to ensure that land management and sustainability programs can continue.

And this is where my real concern emerges. The government changes to Landcare will impact on many small volunteer Landcare groups. This will have an impact on many communities and their confidence in volunteering. As in most things in life, it is not just what you do but how you do it that has an impact on the final result.

This is particularly the case with community groups who depend on volunteer effort. My questions to the government are how will the government ensure that the Landcare volunteers and the resources that they donate to environmental programs continue to be involved in these new programs? How is the government consulting with the community about how it wants these new environmental programs to be implemented?

Communities know what is best for the land. Ask them what needs to be done. Involve them in the process. Make sure that all interested community groups and stakeholders are involved in the big changes that the government is planning. It would be a sad day indeed if, on this 25th anniversary, we saw widespread disengagement from volunteering in environment groups for the want of a focus on the how as well as the what.

Debate adjourned.

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