Staying relevant for the community

On 30 April, the Three Creeks 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.

One of the greatest challenges for Landcare groups during a time of increased competition for community support and funding and the chronically time-poor state of potential members is maintaining relevance.

Three  Creeks Landcare Group has developed a strategy to do just that – provide value for members – new and ongoing – and welcome, encourage and assist newcomers to the district in their adoption of good land management practices.

Located in Bass Coast, the Three Creeks Landcare Group operates in a precinct that is attracting a high proportion of new landowners, mainly due to its proximity to Melbourne.

Many new members have not owned land beyond a suburban block before, and Landcare has a role to play as a highly accessible resource.

Current Treasurer of Three Creeks, Roger Lee, found this out when he made the move from Melbourne to the Bass Coast, and joined up with Landcare six years ago.

“I retired from the corporate environment and bought a farm here,” he says.

“We began as novices on the farm, but we wanted to employ good land management practices from the start – as landowners and being responsible for 100 acres of the environment – so we became linked in with Landcare early on.

“The area we bought in is quite denuded of trees. We quickly learnt that it’s good practice to plant out the banks of rivers and creeks.

“We’ve done three major plantings now, and are attracting wildlife and birdlife – it’s starting to pay dividends.”

The Lees have become more involved with the Landcare group, with Mr Lee taking on the role of Treasurer, then President, and Treasurer again. He is also on the Board of the Bass Coast Landcare Network.

“As President, I gave quite a bit of thought to what strategies we could employ to stay relevant as an organisation, build our membership and get more new blood in,” Mr Lee says.

“We adopted the approach of adding value to being a member of Three Creeks, so it’s about more than just planting trees.”

Members are able to make free loans of equipment owned by the Three Creeks Landcare Group, including a 400 litre weed spray unit, myna bird traps and a wildlife monitoring camera. And a new partnership with the Melaleuca Nursery at Inverloch means all new and ongoing members in 2017 receive a voucher for 10 free tubestock native trees.

“Three Creeks Landcare is in an area that’s attracting lots of new property owners like ourselves,” Mr Lee says.

“We try to monitor new arrivals in the district and do a letter box drop to encourage them to consider good land management practices and engage with Landcare to learn about what those practices are.

“One of the key roles of Landcare is to be a disseminator of information and to pass on skills, and that is particularly relevant in this region.”

Attracting new blood to the organisation is also vital to keep Landcare groups going, growing and in maintaining their relevance as initiative-showing organisations, Mr Lee says.

The Landcare Green Carpet event is funded by the State Government’s Regional Landcare Program.

Roger Lee Treasurer of Three Creeks Landcare Group