Partnering to improve Foster Creek

When buying a property in the country, it can be hard to work out where to start, but for Chris Miller and his family, the first part of the job was working out which Landcare area he was in.

“We bought this property – 110 acres in the hills of Bena just over four years ago,” said Chris.

“We’d been keen to buy something for a while and this property just grabbed us – it’s one of the tributaries where Foster Creek starts and it’s got beautiful old remnant gum trees – we call it the forest.”

Chris’ first call was to the Bass Coast Landcare Network, where he spoke to Dave Bateman.

“Dave was out here within the week and was really excited about the property and the opportunities it held for us,” continued Chris.

“For me though, the size of the job at hand was stressing me out, almost keeping me up at night.”

Chris is referring to the hawthorns that had completely taken over the tributaries of the Foster Creek. Hawthorns are a noxious weed that can be found in grasslands, farms, woodlands and forests.

Their invasive success is due in part to their tolerance of a wide range of soils and conditions. They are also spread via birds and their ‘suckers’ can be spread by other animals.

“We had so many hawthorns in the creek,” continued Chris. “And they are huge. I have neither the skills nor time to be able to remove them, so receiving a partnership grant made this massive job possible.”

The removal of hawthorns, fencing and revegetating the top of Foster Creek at Chris’ place has been made possible through a partnership between Bass Coast Landcare Network, Greening Australia and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.

The ‘Community Partnerships’ funding, from the Victorian State Government, aims to build on projects like Chris’ where there is a willingness to work together, but not quite enough funding to tackle a big project.

Bass Coast Landcare Network’s Executive General Manager, Dave Bateman, is excited about the partnership project,

“Chris and Michelle’s property has some of the largest Strzelecki gums in our region,” said Dave.

“This makes a great riparian protection project even more special. Working together with Richard Allen from WGCMA and Drew Leipa from Greening Australia has been brilliant. We can achieve far greater outcomes working together rather than in isolation.”

Chris and Michelle are running beef cattle on the property, but Chris says the environmental side of managing a property is just as important.

“We believe we can do this work, create wildlife corridors, improve water quality, provide shade and shelter for our cattle and run a productive property.

“I’m really proud of our farm and how we’re improving it.”

Chris’ next aim is to improve pasture on the property.

“We started with sheds and fencing and then protecting our beautiful remnant trees, removing the hawthorns and revegetating the creek is next. Then I’m keen to really look at how we can improve our pasture.’

Chris has been a regular at regenerative agriculture field days run by the Bass Coast Landcare Network and has also been out to see the SoilKee Renovator in action.

“We’re going to create a ‘fruit salad’ of pasture for our cattle here and I would really love to see what the Soilkee Renovator could do here too. Seeing Neils Olsen’s cattle so excited to get into the paddock was fantastic. The results are amazing.”

For more information on community partnerships and improving your property contact your local Landcare network or visit wgcma.vic.gov.au

Chris Miller standing beside Foster Creek looking at the treated hawthorn