Local, Independant and Effective

Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group - Alpine environment is in safe hands

Posted March 17, 2016


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (10:06): To the member for Page, I would like to challenge you as to the most beautiful part of the country, because today I am going to be talking about the Ovens Valley. I would particularly like to talk about the Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group. I would read to parliament a letter I received from Paul Hellier. But first off, I would say the Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group began in 1997 with approximately 20 members and by 2001 it had 55 members, rising to over 180 members by 2012. Guest speakers have really increased the attendance at the meetings. In the last two or three years speakers have covered off a wide variety of topics. It is a very active, thriving Landcare group. Around the Upper Ovens Valley there are the two towns of Bright and Myrtleford.

Bright sits on large tracts of Crown land. In most cases the tops of the hills and the ridges are still covered in native, dry, foothill forest vegetation. The Ovens River is the major waterway of the area, and small tributaries from several valleys join it. Bright and its surrounding valleys have a history of goldmining during the 19th century. The resulting soil disturbance allows weeds, such as blackberries, to establish. During the 20th century, the valley floors were farmed intensively as dairy farms or for horticultural crops, such as tobacco and hops. But now apple orchards and beef cattle are found on the higher cleared slopes, and pine plantations have also been established over wide areas. By the beginning of the 21st century the township of Bright was a well-established tourism centre, with approximately one million tourist beds used each year. Forestry, vineyards, apples, tobacco and beef cattle are the major industries.

Paul Hellier, a committee member from the Landcare group, has written to me to outline some of the projects that the group is doing, but he tells me funding is one of their major issues. He says 'the physical boundary of our group's responsibility stretches from Harrietville to Happy Valley the outskirts of Bright', as well as Porepunkah and Myrtleford. He says 'we are a relatively small Landcare group operating in a really large area', and they need to optimise their effectiveness by focusing on particular projects such as willow and blackberry management, native revegetation projects, educational projects. They also work in partnership with the Friends of Germantown Streamside Reserve to build walking tracks; with North East Catchment Management Authority, or NECMA, on their Waterwatch program; Parks Victoria; the pine plantation and various government departments.

This year they are particularly working on the Wandiligong Alpine Park project and the Upper Ovens Valley community awareness group, which has been funded by Victorian Landcare grant, doing Green Army work and various infrastructure work. Paul Hellier particularly asked me to bring to this parliament is the importance of funding. These are community groups, so all these volunteers get in and do an amazing job, but paid support, particularly for administration and project work, makes a huge difference.

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