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No fences and no new tracks

There it is, as stark as can be—a single strand of barbed wire, at waist height, steel stakes at intervals, sturdy steel corner posts. Last year, a local contractor improved the rutted Prince of Wales Terrace to make access easier for the new owner of a lot, and then lines of thin plastic rope appeared along the perimeter. Now the fence has landed, with more strands of wire to be added.

The fence won't worry this sugar glider, but roos might not easily see the strand of barbed wire

These are private lots, and property ownership traditionally brings the right to exclude others. That’s the law, but this is the first fence inside Barrm Birrm since 2005, when Riddells Creek Landcare took on protecting this bushland, and very likely the first since the lots were sold close to 50 years ago.

The Shire’s zoning allows camping but not permanent habitation, and requires Council approval of any clearing of vegetation. This fence has been inserted with no clearing, but the big question for the Shire is what it its Council’s vision for this bushland? Riddells Creek Landcare’s vision is of a beautiful place where owners, town residents and visitors enjoy the bush, and look after it. Fences and new tracks don’t fit that vision.

We’re at a turning point for Barrm Birrm. More people from town are walking here. There’s much less rubbish being dumped. The Shire has put gates on the major roads, dramatically reducing movement of vehicles. The tracks are healing up. Old campsites are recovering.

But Riddells is no longer the sleepy rural village of 50 years ago, barely noticed by the big city. People want to escape to the bush, and many have the means to buy that escape. Last year, four lots changed hands: one day, could the hillside be fenced into many small kingdoms?

Removing native vegetation requires a permit, but fences are allowed. A new track that has been made from driving into the lot will now degrade as rains wash away the exposed soil. 100 more lots fenced and 100 new driveways will be a disaster.

The long-term solution is for government to buy the lots, but the short-term solution is for the Council to make no fences and no new tracks a condition of use of this land. What do you think should happen with Barrm Birrm?

A good place to start is to google ‘MRSC Have your say on open space priorities across shire’, and put Barrm Birrm on the agenda.

Ross Colliver President, Riddells Creek Landcare

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