Landcare – benefits the whole community

Martin Slate, an organic beef producer at Fumina South has been involved with Landcare for about 27 years, starting when he became one of the founding members of the Tanjil Valley Landcare Group.

“I thought it would be good to get the community back into looking after the land, because a lot of country in our area had been cleared, and some of the steep sections never should have been,” Mr Slate said.

“It was a case of planting some trees up and trying to restore the land back to what it was. And trying to make things a bit more sustainable. We started out with tree planting projects, planting up erosion areas and along waterways.”

However, Mr Slate said one of the Tanjil Valley Landcare Group’s greatest achievements has been moving away from a focus on projects that centred on individual properties, to ones that have a broader benefit for the entire community.

“We’ve become involved in looking after a walking track around the Blue Rock Lake, at Willow Grove,” he said.

“We have been planting up the native vegetation around the perimeter of the walk, with the aim of attracting more birds and wildlife. And it provides another recreation option. People can go for a walk in an area where they are already swimming, boating and fishing”.

Twenty-seven years on, Mr Slate is the longest serving Landcare member in the Tanjil Valley Group, and still has a strong belief in the organisation.

“Landcare is just the right thing to do, I think,” he said.

“It can only benefit the natural environment. Our wildlife certainly appreciate the planting of native species, and it benefits landholders with shade and shelter, which is good for livestock.

“The plantings also stabilise land that has been cleared in unsuitable areas.”

Mr Slate said Landcare has significant social benefits too: “It brings you together with like-minded people, all who are wanting to leave the place in better condition than it was in when they started out”.

“You go to meetings and listen to stories from the older people about what used to go on, and you are learning about how the land used to be, and what it needs.”

Mr Slate believes Landcare has a good future – as long as it can attract a youthful membership to complement its more experienced members.

“The people who are in Landcare are really good – devoted. But you have trouble getting young people involved, and some of the properties in our area are being bought by absentee landowners who only drop in once in a blue moon,” he said.

“You need that balance of older, experienced members who can share their commitment and knowledge, but who might be getting a bit tired of running the whole show; and younger enthusiastic members who want to get in and get involved and are willing to learn.

“And you need people who are willing to work together as a team – people who will listen to each other and learn from each other.”

On 30 April, Martin Slate was 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.