22 July 2015
Volunteers of all ages gathered in the sunshine at Rowsley on Sunday for the 10th annual Grow West community planting day, planting around 5,000 seedlings to help a family restore vegetation on their cattle, sheep and goat farm. About 200 people dug in and planted native species to help restore degraded land and replace shrubs and trees to improve biodiversity links. The Grow West program has provided more than 1 million trees over 10 years, focusing on the upper Werribee catchment, west of Melbourne, creating vegetation corridors to connect reserves including the Brisbane Ranges National Park to Werribee Gorge State Park through to Lerderderg State Park, with land works on more than 100 private properties over that period. Emma Muir, Grow West planting day coordinator thanked the volunteers for their help with this ongoing program. “I’m proud to be part of such an important environmental project, helping the community with on-ground works that will deliver the Grow West vision: 10,000 hectares revegetated that links the Lerderderg State Park to Werribee Gorge and to the Brisbane Ranges National Park,” she said. On Sunday, the focus was on John and Tristia Lakey’s 105 hectare property in Rowsley, 66km west of Melbourne, close to the Werribee Gorge State Park. The Lakeys purchased the property in 2012, knowing they had a major restoration project on their hands. “We were in search of a property that needed some TLC and was an ideal location to develop our farm business,” John said. “Our niece and her family have bought the farm next door and jointly we are running Saler cattle, Ryeland sheep and Boer goats, which are being sold directly to Melbourne restaurants as sustainable meat.” Their whole-farm approach is restoring the non-arable areas of the property, fencing waterways and planting strategic wind breaks, which benefits not only the environment, but also the farm’s productivity. “We’re working to make our property as environmentally and productively sustainable as possible,” John said. “Through Grow West, we’ve been supported in tackling the weeks and pest animals and to plant native trees to help repair the degraded areas, turning them into habitat for wildlife and providing a more manageable landscape in which to farm.” “Landholders can struggle taking on big projects. Having so many volunteers from all across Melbourne come and get stuck into planting 5,000 trees is fantastic and truly appreciated,” John said. “We would encourage farmers and land managers everywhere to think about the future they want from their properties and for their children, and to look at projects like Grow West to help them.“ The species selected for planting on Sunday included Fragrant Saltbush, Tree Violet, Kangaroo Apple, Cassinia, Golden Wattle, Blackwood, Black Wattle, Red Box, Yellow Box, Red Gum, Yellow Gum and Drooping Sheoak. John Cutler, Grow West chairman, said the program’s popularity and longevity was a mark of its success and sustainability. “I see it as being inter-generational, I see it as being here for the next 50 years,” he said. Port Phillip & Westernport Catchment Management Authority’s Grow West coordinator, Helena Lindorff has been with the program since its inception and praised the transformation of the region, which has seen more than 100 landholders and thousands of volunteers involved with remarkable results. Grow West conducted its community planting days in partnership with Victorian National Parks Association, local landholders and the Friends of Werribee Gorge and Long Forest Mallee. For more information on how to get involved in future initiatives either as a volunteer or landholder, see www.growwest.com.au.