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Small steps make a difference

Sean McConnell, Riddells resident, has stepped up

When there's so much that needs to be done, how do you decide what you are going to do?

Climate change and the shift to a low carbon way of living means that in any sphere of human living, what I do will be just a small contribution to shifts that need many people joining in. And there are structural changes needed in economies and governance, and that means politics.

But the shift to a different way of thinking is there at every level of scale - personal, local and wider system scale. If you find other people who want that shift, that is thrilling! You can have more impact, and you have company.

We must each value the small steps we take: even small steps take courage.

So what small steps are underway at Riddells Creek Landcare? Here's a wrap at the end of April 2022.

The new RCL website is up. Yay! Check it out - It's a sit for telling stories, and inspiring you to jump in and do your thing, maybe mostly in your life, as well as sometimes in the what we do through Riddells Landcare.

The Shire is listening to Riddells Creek residents. The CEO and senior staff sat down early April with half a dozen residents to listen to what it's been like over the last over the last two decades, working with the Shire. The listening is a good start, and there will be more discussion with Shire management.

The first consultation on the Riddells Creek Movement Study was old school consultation (see An apology in advance), but showed clearly the big shift that's needed: to forums where residents can talk to each other, not just to the Shire, and where we can set up inquiry into the dilemmas we face .

Shire staff are talking to us about Barrm Birrm. There are half a dozen issues on the go with the Shire in relation to managing human activity in Barrm Birrm. The good news is - there's more asking and more listening on the part of Shire staff, and our local group is speaking up more quickly when issues come into focus. For example, after asking us what was needed, the Shire has put BB on their weed contractor's list, specifically the bluebell creeper and gorse on lots owned by Council on the northern end of Barrm Birrm, adjacent to areas Landcare members cleared at the end 2021.

The barbed wire around the fenced lot on Prince of Wales Terrace remains (see No fences and no new tracks). We have heard the Shire has talked to the owner, but we’re yet to see the switch from barbed wire to the unbarbed white strands that roos (and trail bikes and absent-minded walkers!) can easily pick up as they move through the area.

Bushfire risk. In a bushfire, Barrm Birrm might generate a storm of cinders over the houses of Riddells Creek. We need a closer assessment of this risk, but there's no time to waste exploring how fuel reduction could be done. Cool burning looks like an option, to freshen up the ground cover and fauna habitat, and create a patchwork of lower fuel areas across the hillside. Could the Shire do ecological burns on the lots it owns in Barrm Birrm, more than 17, perhaps in collaboration with the Wurundjeri?

Our other emerging issue, alongside the fire threat, is camping. When people buy a lot (and they are buying, see below), they expect to enjoy their property. Human use often has a negative impact on the ecology of Barrm Birrm. Things die. So how much human use is okay, and how do we achieve that?

We need a serious talk between the landholders of Barrm Birrm, Landcare as interim guardian of the area, and the Shire as longer-term custodians of the public good.

The good news is ..... the next generation is joining in! Our Landcare Facilitator Clare Watson has been telling secondary schools and universities about opportunities for environmental work with community groups in the Jacksons Creek EcoNetwork, and we have had out first expressions of interest.

The Alice Miller School (Year 9 I think) will be working in Barrm Birrm Fridays from 6 May, and Sean McConnell, a Masters student at Melbourne University, is helping organise a series of three Sundays for gorse removal in Barrm Birrm. Students from Braemar College are also interested to come regularly for 'environmental volunteering'. Bring it on! Our focus right now is this pretty creek line, which has small gorse plants that can be removed with hand tools, without the use of poisons and without disturbing the grasses.

Threatened grasslands. RCL members have mapped grasslands lost in the last decade, and under threat now. There are gaps in management of land use that allow continued clearing, but how do we highlight this and get a shift to arrangements that do protect threatened ecosystems? Discussion is beginning with the Victorian National Parks Association on a public advocacy campaign to improve the way state and local governments protect biodiversity, with our mapping of grasslands in Macedon Ranges Shire as a case study on what is going on, and of the failure of current arrangements.

Whew! That's a lot! If you want to be part of understanding what's going on in Barrm Birrm, or on the grasslands, and the choices we face, get in touch. This is the decade that matters. We have to learn our way to a viable future, and we can.

As Timothy Morton says: 'We've got this."

Ross Colliver, Riddells Creek Landcare

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