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Local landholders go native for a better environment

Planting native shelterbelts on farmland makes sense and offers advantages to landowners. Landcare champion and cattle breeder Susan Anderson believes the most obvious is in creating a microclimate in each paddock.

The Bunyip Highland Cattle breeder and dairy farmer claims anecdotal evidence from farmers shows that well protected pastures can be up to four degrees warmer in winter and correspondingly cooler in summer.  

“Trees provide shade in the summer and a well-constructed windbreak, where the foliage starts at ground level, protects from both hot and cold winds and from frost,” Susan Anderson said.

Susan Anderson also stands by the role of Landcare groups to help improve rural environments and says Landcare volunteers in the Bunyip and Cardinia area have made considerable improvements to local properties.

“Since May 2005 we have fenced over 30 new paddocks and in the process have built in about eight kilometres of 10 metre wide shelterbelts with the help of Landcare volunteers.  Landcare grants provided over $30,000 towards the costs of posts and wire, plus 3,500 plants with tree guards, mats and stakes,” she explained.

Another 2,000 trees will be planted before the end of the year at the Anderson’s 242ha property, which bounds the Bunyip River. “Trees are the obvious answer in the battle against the effects of changing and extreme weather patterns. They also improve the value and aesthetics of your property.”

Landcare is looking for ‘switched on’ people like Susan Anderson who want to improve the condition of their land, or volunteer with others by contributing their time to Landcare work.

Julie Weatherhead, coordinator for Western Port Catchment Landcare Network (WPCLN), agrees with Anderson and says that while working to improve land quality is a big focus, involvement in Landcare can be lot more than activity on the ground to rural communities.

“By participating in Landcare activities people can make new friends, learn new things, and make a real difference to the place where they live,” she said.

Anderson is also a founding member of Bunyip Landcare is a volunteer at the Cardinia Environment Coalition Nursery and has successfully, through Landcare funding, transformed the former degraded and windswept property into contained paddocks “with a better microclimate in each paddock, encouraging animal activity and attracting birds and wildlife.”

From her experience, Susan Anderson says there are compelling reasons to plant natives. They include:
* Protected paddocks can grow up to 30% more grass;
* 50% of clovers are pollinated by native insects, which only live in native trees;
* Deciduous trees are dormant in winter and take up water during the critical summer period;
* Trees soak up excess water; a five-year-old eucalypt can absorb up to 1000 litres a day in times of flood;
* Native trees attract native birds, such as ibis, 100 of which can eat 25,000 pest insects, like cockchafers, in a day;
* The deep roots of native trees access minerals and trace elements, which are transferred to the topsoil as the leaves fall;
* Native trees increase beneficial soil fungi, which allow grasses to unlock minerals in the soil;
* Native animals need corridors of native vegetation to survive in farmland; and
* Cypress trees tend to make soils more acidic and are very popular fox habitat.  Golden Cypress can cause spontaneous abortion in cattle.

Susan Anderson, is also embarking on another project with support through Melbourne Water to plant 500 plants with fencing to enhance Bunyip River embankment and create wetlands and a public walkway with signage.

The PPWCMAs Western Port and Dandenong Landcare Coordinator Sarah Canham says the work of the many different stakeholders, landholders and Landcare groups is vital in making a difference to our environment.

“It takes the efforts of many people to make changes to our environment and for some, this task may seem insurmountable. The reality is that the achievements of Landcare in the last 20 years have proven to be significant and the individuals within Landcare groups can be pleased they are making a difference, for example on landholdings such as Susan Anderson’s”, she said.
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Additional information for a more detailed story

The Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority (PPWCMA) and Westernport Catchment Landcare Network are working together to support the growth of Landcare in the Bunyip and Cardinia Creek Catchment area.

“Landcare Groups provide opportunities for local volunteers and landholders to share ideas, information and experiences, and work together to achieve better environmental and community outcomes for the greater good of the region,” said Sarah Canham, the PPWCMAs Western Port and Dandenong Landcare Coordinator.

Western Port Catchment Landcare Network (WPCLN), working in the Cardinia & Bunyip catchments have, since 1999, achieved the following results:
* Planted 400 hectares using native plants;
* Protected and planted out 40 kilometres of waterways by fencing of rivers and streams from stock;
* Planted 30ha of direct seeded shelterbelts;
* Protected and improved the condition of 500 hectares of native vegetation;
* Planted 1,000,000 indigenous plants overall into 600 projects on private land; and
* Held numerous field days, events and training sessions to educate others on ways they can make a difference through Landcare.

Release Date21 September 2007
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