On 30 April, the Flooding Creek Landcare Group will be recognised as part of the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority’s Green Carpet Landcare Awards.
The Landcare Green Carpet Awards are held every two years to honour and celebrate local Landcare legends who have led the way in improving Gippsland’s environment. This year’s Green Carpet also coincides with the celebration of 30 years of Landcare in Victoria.
According to Flooding Creek Landcare Group inaugural members, Deb and Bryan Ray during the 1990s Flooding Creek had become little more than a drain or a ‘free tip’.
“Parts of the Creek were pretty feral, there was no vegetation at all. You had all the effluent from the saleyards being pumped into the Creek…you had carcasses, bags of offal, household stormwater and overflow from septic systems. All sorts of horrible stuff.”
Not surprisingly, when Deb and Bryan heard that a meeting was being held to discuss the formation of a Landcare Group to work around Flooding Creek, they not only attended but became key figures in the group’s work over the next 10 years.
The group rehabilitated several high-profile sites on public land. Notably, around the western entrance to town, the Powder Magazine near Lake Guyatt, Ross Street, near the Sale Catholic College sports ground and Sale Water Treatment Plant and opposite the Sale Livestock Exchange.
The group’s work wasn’t always welcomed and there was suspicion in some quarters of their motives.
“There was one incident where we had planted all these trees in an area that was totally denuded. We went back a couple of weeks later and someone had gone through and pulled all the trees out!”
Deb believes that having notable local people as members and advocates of the Landcare message helped bring the community around to view its local waterway through different eyes.
“I think a lot of what the group did was about education…We had a lot of people involved in this group. (Councillor) John Jago, (former Mayor) Peter Synan. The people who are respected within their community that, I think, normalised what we were doing.”
While Flooding Creek Landcare is currently dormant, both Bryan and Deb say there is still work to be done.
“There is a plan for the Creek, turning it into more of a recreational area by putting a path along it as well as footbridges to link up with the new developments near the racecourse. There is still more to be done,” says Bryan.
So, looking back, what were the group’s major successes? Planting an area of Creek bank? Fencing off a section of the waterway? Improving the liveability of the town through its work around Lake Guyatt?
“I think we changed attitudes. Hopefully we helped stop people thinking that the Creek was somewhere they could just dump whatever they wanted to, whether that be effluent or rubbish or carcasses. It changed people’s thinking that the Creek isn’t just a drain,” says Deb.
For those who today take a walk around the western side of Sale, their thoughts might be taken up by the new footpaths, by the respect given to the waterway and the general cleanliness of the area they are walking through. It is unlikely they will think the area is polluted or being used as a drain or dumping ground.
Perhaps this should be added to the successes of the Flooding Creek Landcare Group, it changed a town and how it relates to the waterway that gave it its original name: Flooding Creek.
The Landcare Green Carpet event is funded by the State Government’s Regional Landcare Program.