A lifetime of caring for the land

Some people just know what they are meant to do, right from the word go.

Ian Cornthwaite started his first plant nursery when he was nine years old and by the age of 14, he was selling plants to passers-by and had a nursery sign on the roadside shed.

With initial help from his parents, Mr Cornthwaite started a full-time nursery at the age of 21.

“Right from my primary school days I was passionate about protecting the bush. I used to refuse to hoe out the Mountain Ash seedlings when helping my father with weeding on the farm,” Mr Cornthwaite says.

It is no surprise then, that Mr Cornthwaite and his wife Gay have been members of the Allambee Community Landcare Group since its inception about 20 years ago, and are also members of the Mount Worth Landcare Group.

“Ian was raised here and has lived on the property, or nearby, for 51 of his 55 years,” Mrs Cornthwaite explains.

“We helped initiate our Landcare Group in response to unreasonable logging practices among old-growth Mountain Ash forest at Allambee Reserve, and also to bring locals together with the aim of promoting environmental awareness, weed control, sustainable farming practices, and to help provide a social connect.”

Over the years, the couple has been part of numerous local Landcare projects, principally via South Gippsland Landcare Network, and have been involved in community projects, such as the Possum Hollow tennis courts rehabilitation and Mount Worth walking track repairs.

“We have provided more than two million trees and understorey to projects overseen by organisations such as the Landcare networks, catchment management authorities, Greening Australia, Melbourne Water, Gippslandcare, shires, businesses and private landholders,” Mr Cornthwaite says.

“We are both passionate and determined conservationists and are continuing in our long-term project of fencing off and regenerating all of our gully catchments, swampy areas, landslips and partially forested areas – about 50 acres in total.

“We have planted about 50,000 trees and understorey to date and have plans to create more strategic fencelines and incorporate additional shelterbelts as well.”

“The future of environmental awareness will continue to grow due to necessity. It does not take a genius to realise that the environmental stresses the billions of humans on this earth create are serious and have long-lasting and increasing effects,” Mr Cornthwaite says.

“This should be part of Landcare’s aims,” Mrs Cornthwaite says.

“To cry out loudly about unsustainable beliefs and practices, as well as to make a vigorous case for increased government funding and forward planning, and to put all of this into on-ground action.”

On 30 April Ian and Gay Cornthwaite were 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.

The Landcare Green Carpet Awards are funded through the Victorian Government’s Regional Landcare Program.