There is a lot of love for the Gippsland Lakes in their surrounding communities. A significant percentage of the local population have chosen to live where they do because of the proximity to the Lakes and all they offer.
But how can residents nurture an active relationship with the Lakes and assist with their protection and sustainability? There is a collection of groups deeply committed to looking after the health of the land surrounding the Lakes, its flora and fauna, and they provide exciting opportunities for the community to get involved.
The not for profit Care Group network comprises Landcare, Trust For Nature, Greening Australia Gippsland, Fishcare, BirdLife East Gippsland and Gippsland Plains and East Gippsland Rainforest Conservation Management Networks.
For the past five years the network has benefited from more than $1.1 million in funding from the State Government, empowering it to achieve significant results on a wide range of projects.
“The Care Group network has collaborated brilliantly to achieve great conservation wins, make significant ecological discoveries and both educate and involve the community in the ongoing welfare of the area,” Angus Hume, co-chair of the Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee, says.
“With the work that the network has done and continues to do, we can feel confident that the Care groups, their staff and volunteers, are giving the ecosystems around the Gippsland Lakes the best chance of rehabilitation and success.”
And they are also delivering information about the ecological importance of the Lakes. Surveys conducted by BirdLife East Gippsland discovered previously unknown populations of birds, including Latham’s Snipe (Japanese migratory), Sharp-tailed Sand-piper (Russian migratory) and Black Shouldered Kite, along with more than 10 nationally listed Growling Grass Frogs.
“A focus on the restoration of significant vegetation led to the discovery of a site of ecological significance where Littoral and Warm Temperate rainforest communities overlap,” Network Coordinator for the East Gippsland Landcare Network, Natalie Jenkins, says.
“Furthermore, a project managed by Trust for Nature saw the threatened Purple Diuris orchid propagated and planted out, achieving a huge increase in the number of plants from 80 to 800.”
Importantly, the project has engaged approximately 4,000 people – from school children to all ages in the broader community, a vital outcome when striving to protect the Gippsland Lakes into the future.
“BirdLife East Gippsland has increased the number of people completing bird surveys, we have worked with farmers looking to protect and incorporate wetlands areas on their land, and people living in urban residential blocks who still want to contribute to the environment.
“And we have got school kids involved in conservation actively learning about soils, flora, fauna and water. We’re getting them interested and involved at an early age so they are more likely to come back to it later in life,” Mrs Jenkins says.
“Because the Care Groups operate with a large volunteer base, we worked out that with the contribution of volunteer’s in-kind time, valued at $30 an hour, for every dollar we got from the State Government funding, we were able to contribute 70 cents, and that really makes those dollars stretch.
“That means because of the amazing work our volunteers do, we can achieve 70 per cent more than we would do otherwise,” Mrs Jenkins adds.
“And when volunteers take ownership of a project, they bring enthusiasm and good will. They want to see the project do well and achieve strong outcomes. That’s a huge benefit with massive flow on effects because the community benefits as the volunteers take their learnings and apply their new skills in different regions and projects.
“We have volunteer groups that are basically experts in their own right when it comes to rainforest restoration or river bank restoration and that’s huge because they can then go out into the community, identify problem areas and start their own projects.
“And when the works are community owned, they can be managed for the long term, rather than three years while a specific pot of funding holds out.”
If you would like to volunteer with the Care Group network on one of their many projects, contact the East Gippsland Landcare Network on 03 5152 0600 to register your interest.