A Place for Wildflowers

Posted: September 15, 2013 in Biodiversity, Poems

A place for wildflowers
Sandwiched in time
Between row of houses
Following train lines

A place for wildflowers
Along the side of the road
In between canola fields
Nature out for show

A place for wildflowers
With no where left to hide
Fragments isolated
Through space and time

While it would be lovely if everyone cared about trees, and frogs, and bandicoots, and grasslands. Lets be honest they don’t, and short of grabbing them by the ears and taking them outside in spring, they probably won’t. However we can still achieve our goals by focusing our arguments on theirs?

Cost savings…. You don’t have to pay for offsets

Time savings…. You won’t need to wait for a permit if you avoid

Selling points…. You will have a point of difference for your development

Business ethics…. Don’t you have a corporate environmental policy?

Adding value…. Keeping your trees means you’ll have lower landscaping costs.

Do you have any other values for the retention of conservation that aren’t for its own sake?

So, do you want to start a new friends group or do you want to grow an existing one?

Here are some new ideas and some recycled ones to grow your network of friends.

1) Learn to succeed – there are heaps of successful friends groups already in existence. Volunteer at them, attend a few meetings,  attend a few field days, learn what makes them tick and learn the pitfalls they had to overcome.

2) Learn from failures – Talk to your local council’s environment department. They will be able to point you in the right direction to talk to failing or retired friends groups. What went wrong? Usually it’s failure to adapt, personality issues, poor management, dictatorships, too much talk – not enough action, poor financial management, ageing.  Make sure your group doesn’t go down that well trodden path.

3) Connect with university students. Create a small short term project that a uni student can do over the summer break, for a third year project or for their honours year.  A small amount of funding can help attract a students (e.g. petrol money).  Once you have the student connected, give them ownership and responsibility.  Let them run workshops or field days so they can share what they have learnt though the project or during uni with your group.

4) Connect with local walking groups. Contact local community health groups and offer to take their existing groups on ‘nature walks’. Once people know you or someone in your group they may be more likely to attend your meetings or workshops.

5) Run Mum and Bub sessions. Take them on walks, bird watching, get them to  collect seeds, prick out seedlings, hand weed. There are heaps of stuff Mums (and Dads) can do with Bubs in tow in short, no-risk bursts. Your local Council will help you connect to this resource.

6) Do fun stuff.  Bird watching, illustration, painting, flower pressing, seed collection, fauna surveys – not everyone wants to plant trees and pull weeds.

7) Keep up to date with ecological restoration methods! You Must! No questions – keep up to date, trial things, be free, know your good areas and bad areas, let people go a bit crazy. Sometimes  new methods in restoration don’t necessarily come from ‘researches’ – they come from friends group. Obviously don’t go crazy in your best areas but all sites have crappy bits.  Trial, experiment, keep fresh and have fun.

8) Leave your baggage at the door – Do not bombard new people with all your baggage, Council bashing, DSE bashing, Parks Vic bashing, complaining about other members who are not there, complaining about funding or management, bagging out different friends groups.  No one wants to hear it and it just leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths.  You want to make people leave feeling they can make a difference and their involvement will help their local environment.

So, how have you grown friends? Let us know if you have any other methods that succeed or failed in attracting new people.

This article is a companion to the Friends of Friends article encouraging young professionals and uni students to join friends groups.

Location: Gordons Road, South Morang

Wildflowers at Lakes Nature Reserve

Another great example of Plains Grassy Woodland can be found at this small reserve of about 9 hectares, not far from Quarry Hills Park and also managed by the City of Whittlesea. 

Dominated by Kangaroo Grass, it is also habitat for the endangered Matted Flax-lily, Milkmaids, Chocolate Lilies, Woodruffs and you may even find an orchid or two.  Take lots of photos, but remember to leave all native plants and animals alone. 

This ecological community is listed as critically endangered under federal legislation and it’s only by appreciating and respecting it that we’ll have it in the future.

One of Quarry Hill Park’s shelters and lookout

Location:  Gravlier Way, South Morang

The entrance to the Quarry Hills Park is hidden away at the end of Gravlier Way, but far from small, this park will eventually frame three sides of the suburb of South Morang. 

Field of Chocolate Lilies

Owned by the City of Whittlesea, it was created by the acquisition of hillside land during the residential development of the area.

It contains very nice patches of native grasslands, including one very large collection of beautiful Chocolate Lilies (Arthropodium strictum).  Other wildflowers include the Common Everlasting, Common Rice Flower, Milkmaids and Sheep’s Burr.  Council seems to have put a lot of effort into restoration of this park, with plenty of planting and weed control being conducted recently.   

Walking/mountain biking trails are available and offer stunning views of the Victorian Volcanic Plains and the city.  Three sculptural shelters and lookouts are also available for shade or to get away from rain.

Wildlife is abundant and it would be difficult to walk anywhere in the park without spotting a mob of kangaroos.

Well worth a visit.  Just make sure to take a wind jacket!

Unfortunately, the park doesn’t currently have a friends group, but Conservation Volunteers work there from time to time.

Victoria is the most cleared state in Australia and the release of the Review of Victoria’s native vegetation clearing regulations is doing its best to guarantee that Victoria remains at the top of this un-prestigious ladder.

This document, released last month, aims to review the efficiency of the native vegetation regulations (the Native Vegetation Framework) and proposes four reforms to “improve” it.

Although at first glance, it might seem that this paper is fairly benign, the details seem to show a much different picture.  The following points had us very worried:

Reducing Regulatory Burden

Even according to the document itself, the Native Vegetation Framework has failed to deliver its Net Gain Target over the past 10 years.  

Reforming the legislation to reduce the time frame for making decisions (particularly if it’s by failing to conduct proper assessments on what vegetation is there in the first place) will NOT improve the net gain. It will only make it easier for proponents to destroy everything rather than being innovative and thinking creatively about ways to incorporate biodiversity on their design. 

Use of Modelled Data 

Modelled data is a best guess analysis of what vegetation exists in an area, based mostly on aerial imaging.  It does not require a qualified person to go to a site and see with their own eyes what is there. 

While this method is useful for a pre-assessment of some vegetation types (mainly ones with lots of trees) it is very poor at identifying grassland areas which are seasonally variable.

Relying on this system to make a full judgement of what can be removed will see our most precious communities destroyed for good.

Incorporating Risk

The document proposes to assess vegetation removal based on its contribution to biodiversity and low risk applications will be dealt with more swiftly than high risk ones.  It is unclear what they mean by this or how they know what vegetation contributes to what biodiversity when assessments of whole areas are not done appropriately. 

Offsetting Rules

The document outlines some problems with the offsetting system, including the lack of offsets and the variable price it may have.

The offsetting system is based on supply and demand.  Of course proponents are less likely to find offsets on Plains Grassland.  There’s barely any left!  In our view, if there isn’t an offset available, or if the price of the offset is so great that a proponent can’t afford it, this should be an encouragement for them to leave such a precious system alone!

It is not the role of a regulatory department to change the rules so that developers can look for different types of offsets if the ones they removed have gone extinct forever.  The role of the regulatory department is to ensure that these systems remain in existence, even if it means stopping proponents!

Offsetting systems MUST be market controlled, not government subsidised!

Although the Native Vegetation Framework un-doubtfully has had its issues over the past decade, if the vegetation regulations are to be improved, they must put protecting biodiversity at their forefront. 

Otherwise, we’re really creating a paper on the economic benefit of native vegetation removal to government and developers, rather than the environmental benefit of vegetation to humanity.

After a much anticipated wait, the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has finally released their review of Victoria’s native vegetation policies for clearing native vegetation.

We are currently reviewing the document ourselves and will post our comments on this website in the next few days. 

We encourage everyone to waste no time in having a look and preparing a submission to the state government – with our Plains Grasslands and Plains Grassy Woodlands nearing complete annihilation, this might be our last chance to save these communities!!!

The consultation paper can be found at:


Submissions can be sent to nativevegetation.review@dse.vic.gov.au by 19 October 2012.

A Time to Dance

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Poems

by David Beyer

No one has change for the earth’s despair
Throw away your plastic, without a care

Wipe your ass with a few extra sheets
Flush 20 litres, then add a few repeats
No time to leave our automobiles at home
We travel in luxury with our global roam
Let’s clear some trees for a plantation
Have a few kids, forget over population
What’s this nonsense about fools gold?
Temperatures are up, oceans not so cold!

I don’t mind wearing extra sun screen
Or swimming in a slightly polluted stream

Is it my conscience, making an assumption
That I am suffering from mass consumption
Doctors say these are all curable conditions
But now I’m accustomed to gas emissions

Leave me alone, I’m using solar panels
It helps with cable TV and 100 channels

But that doesn’t meet all of my needs
I have a garden full of exotic weeds

It’s out there that my feral cat likes to play
All it eats, a small native bird each day

Don’t be judgmental, we all have to eat
We need more cows, some extra meat

I care about the environment, I really do
I’ve always held such a strong world view

But problems we have, are bigger than me
I didn’t put the sewer outlet into the sea

I didn’t ask for electricity that’s coal fired
Or inefficient appliances not required

I’m only human, I’m not made of stone
How can I refuse such a competitive loan

People measure me, on how I succeed
So I have to buy shit, that I may not need

I’m commanded to spend all of my cash
On goods that just end up in the trash

Hey, I sort through my rubbish, I do my bit
I gather it all up and sent it on to the tip

It’s all biodegradable give a billion years
Whatever’s left, we can call souvenirs

I have a big house, big car and huge debt
So don’t blame me if I happen to forget

That everything I do has some impact
Actions effect tomorrow, it’s not abstract

Our wants command an open cut mine
When what we need is an open mind

We continue to put chemicals in the soil
Laughing as we bring the earth to a boil

Most of us contribute to the earth’s demise
All the while, claiming that we are wise

Getting caught up in our own virtual reality
Not realizing our own deranged mentality

Turn a blind eye to massive deforestation
Claim it will be solved through reincarnation

It’s never been about calling yourself green
We’re talking about something obscene

Our lives, our futures are being carbon traded
As the environment is being slowly degraded

Humans conduct themselves with awful distinction
Perhaps we should fast track our own extinction

Governments granting immunity
Another lost opportunity
Not a care in the community
It’s the perfect time to dance

Under the the new federal Strategic Impact Assessments, approvals for impacts to threatened species and communities and all Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) are now allowed to be granted in a ‘strategic way’.

This means that in Melbourne’s new urban growth areas, the federal and state governments consider all MNES as a whole, decides what can be kept and what can be removed and developers can move along with their development undeterred by delays in environmental approvals.
There are some clear advantages of looking at impacts on a landscape scale instead of a project by project basis these include:

  • clear ‘goal posts’ or requirements for protection of MNES are set up-front, at the planning stage.
  • greater certainty to local communities and developers over future development.
  • coordinated establishment and management of offsets.
  • flexible timeframes to better meet planning processes.

Which all sounds fantastic in theory… BUT there are also some significant assumptions that are used when using this approach:

1) That we can offset clearance of endangered species and communities

  • Tell me:  How we can recreate grasslands with over 150 species with links to fungi, invertebrates, orchids, when we don’t even know what is in the ones we are removing?
  • Being able to clear a third of something, does not make the two thirds that remains any LESS endangered!
  • This process offsets into (what will eventually be) Crown land – which has NO title and therefore no means of true means of on-title protection (AKA allowing Cattle Grazing and Logging in National Parks).
  • Transferring freehold land to the worst land manager in the state (the state government) is not going to magically improve its quality.

2) That small conservation reserves have no value

3) That conservation values in freehold ownership degrade over time

  • This is a major assumption in the Melbourne Strategic Impacts Assessment – obviously no one had heard of public funding to assist landholders manage their vegetation… or Trust for Nature… or publicly acquiring conservation land without having to enable wholesale clearance… Show me the studies, show me the research which supports this major assumption AT ALL.

4) That we can afford the removal of more endangered species

  • They are ENDANGERED for a reason… we have removed most of it already. If we only have 1-5% of native grasslands left that means YOU have 95% to develop to the cows come home. Leave the little that is left alone.
  • Instead of using clearance to fund conservation assets we should actually value them and fund them appropriately through other means.

5) That owning land gives you the right to make ridiculous sums of money from it regardless of the impact you cause

  • Developers often have the mentality – “but for me to  protect that tree it will mean we will have one less house lot to sell which will mean that our Net Developable Land will drop, which will mean we will lose money”. Suburban housing should not be designed on the cheapest solutions for an immediate problem – we should be aiming to build strong resilient human and natural communities for the future… not stack-em-in stack-em-up-cheap schemes that will turn into the Ghettos of 2030.

6) They they can be accurately implemented and truly strategic approach when other political factors come into play

  • Departments with priorities other than environmental protection are often commissioning ecological assessments which are not best practice by the industries standards.  Reports which fed into the strategic assessment have blatant errors, such as “grasslands” with 400 year old River Red Gums and innacurate data for roadside vegetation (because they could not gain access perhaps???)…

What can you do….

  • Contact your local council and state government departments and tell them you think urban biodiversity is important.
  • In Victoria – Keep up to date with all the Precinct Structure Plans (PSP) and Native Vegetation Precinct Plans (NVPP) that are coming on board on the GAA’s website and make sure you lodge submissions against them.
  • In Victoria – If an NVPP is already granting the removal of vegetation you would love to see retained, you can contact the landholder or developer and tell them why you think that they should be good corporate citizens and protect it.
  • Make sure that the federal government does not wind back environmental approval further.

ImageEnd of Winter and early Spring is a time for Wattles! Lots of Wattles!

It’s a great time to learn some new plant ID skills.  Acacias are very easily identifyable when in flower, which makes them a great place to start if you want to learn some botany.

If you are in Victoria, the book “Native Trees and Shrubs of South-Eastern Australia” by Leon Costermans has a great key for this genus.

It is also a great time to see Hardenbergias – our “native wisterias”.  This is an amazingly ornamental plant and if you have a fence or trellice you should give them a go as they are easily available from Garden Centres (although we recommend a specialist indigenous nursery as these will draw from the gene pool of your local area).

Also in flower is Pimelea humilis (Common Rice Flower), Drosera peltata (Pale Sundew), Chrisocephalum apiculatum (Common Everlasting), Wurmbea dioica (Common Early Nancy) and if you are really lucky, you might even find a Pterostylis sp (Greenhood Orchid)! 

In the next couple of months, many more plants will start to flower.  October and November are the best time of the year to see wildflowers, so charge up your camera and get out there!  ImageImage


Aside  —  Posted: September 2, 2012 in Gardening
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