Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

How much fire is enough?

Posted on 10 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

In the second talk in its Education Program for 2011 the Connecting Country project is hosting a free information night on Thursday 25 August at Campbell’s Creek Community Centre. The management of Box-Ironbark forests through controlled fire will be the topic of conversation.

Fire can be used to reduce fuel hazard, and it can also be used to promote biodiversity. But what is the ‘natural’ fire regime in Box-Ironbark forests? How much fire can Box-Ironbark forests tolerate and how much burning should or could we be doing there?

Connecting Country project manager Chris Timewell said the night will be an opportunity for the community to hear and discuss the management of Box-Ironbark forests using fire.

Guest speaker, Dr Arn Tolsma, a senior scientist in Community  Ecology at the Arthur Rylah Institute, has a particular knowledge of forests and woodlands in our region. In 2007 Arn co-authored a research paper for the North Central CMA on fire ecology and management .

“One of the main problems that natural resource managers face is balancing the needs or wishes for a controlled fire regime with the needs of our native plants and animals,’ he said this week. “If management burns are too frequent, there is a risk of long term decline in some native species, and deterioration of soil quality. On the other hand, there is also the risk of losing species if burns are not frequent enough.”

“We are starting to get a better understanding of the way Aborigines used fire in this region. Most Box-Ironbark species not to need fire to regenerate, but we still need to do more research into how much fire is appropriate.”

So how much fire is enough? To find out, turn up to the Campbell’s Creek Community Centre on Thursday August 25. A free light supper made from locally sourced produce will be served from 6.30pm, and the talk will go from 7 to 9 pm.  Bookings can be made by contacting Chris on 5472 1594 or  (Also keep the evening of 8 September free in your diary for the third and final talk in the 2011 Education program).

This free event is part of Connecting Country’s Yellow Box Woodland project.  The project is being undertaken in partnership with the North Central CMA and is co-funded by the federal Caring for our Country program and the State Natural Resource Investment Program.


Correction of date for CFNC talk

Posted on 8 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club meeting will be held on Friday 12 August, not 13 August as stated in a previous email. Craig Grabham will be giving a presentation on bats in Victoria and around the Castlemaine area. Click here for more details.

Also a reminder that Megan Wong will be giving a presentation entitled  ‘Untangling the soil food web’ this Thursday 11 August at the Newstead Community Centre. This will be a very intriguing journey into life in our soil. Click here for more details.


All about Bats

Posted on 7 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

At the next Castlemaine Field Naturalist Club meeting Craig Grabham will discuss what bats are, their ecology, and bat diversity in Victoria and around the Castlemaine area. The role of bats in the broader ecosystem and why they are important to us will then be covered followed by a summary of the various survey methods used to survey bats. To conclude the evening, people will be able to use the Anabat detector and other survey equipment.

The presentation will take place on 12 August at the Uniting Church Hall (enter from Lyttleton Street). Starting time is 7.30 pm. All welcome.

Photos by Craig Grabham



How Life in the Earth Supports Life on Earth

Posted on 5 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

Newstead Landcare Group’s August presentation ‘Untangling the soil food web’ will be a very intriguing journey into life in our soil. Megan Wong, researching for a PhD in soil ecology, will introduce soil microflora (bacteria and fungi) and microfauna (eg nematodes and springtails), which are important and fascinating creatures that go largely unnoticed. Microscopic creatures that make up the soil food web, and how they all work together to support life on earth will be discussed. Megan will touch briefly upon her current plant-microbe research in the Northern Plains Grasslands of Victoria.

The talk will be from 8-9 pm on Thursday 11 August at Newstead Community Centre. All are welcome to attend. Gold coin donations would be appreciated. The presentation will be followed by a brief business meeting.


Bridal Creeper

Posted on 5 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

Volunteers are out and about spraying Bridal Creeper in the Newstead area. If you need help dealing with this weed or know of some that needs some work, please call Patrick from Newstead Landcare Group on 5476 2755.

Bridal Creeper is a climbing weed with glossy bright green leaves. Its seeds are spread by birds and the weed is capable of growing in high quality native bush, smothering native vegetation and eventually killing it.

Infestation of Bridal Creeper. Photo: Bryan McMullan, April 2011


Innovative Farming Forum in Kerang

Posted on 5 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

The North Central CMA are inviting the community to attend the Innovative Farming Forum on 17 August 2011 at the Kerang Valley Resort. The Forum is designed for those farmers who are already, or are considering:

  •  irrigating less
  • changing their land and water use, or
  • unsure about their options with a variable climate and availability of water for irrigation.

The forum will provide an opportunity to:

  • hear from farmers who have successfully changed their land use
  • hear from key note speakers regarding sustainable land practice options on farming land where irrigation has been significantly reduced, or ceased completely
  • network with farmers and others to share experiences, lessons and advice; and
  • learn more about the Innovative Farming program and associated projects

For catering purposes please RSVP to North Central CMA on 5448 7124 or by Friday 11 August


2011 Landcare Volunteering Survey

Posted on 3 August, 2011 by Connecting Country

Landcare Australia Limited is seeking to gain an understanding of the operating environment of the Landcare movement and its needs by surveying people who are actively involved in their local Landcare group. If you play an active role in the Landcare movement, you may like to complete the following survey which should take no more than 10-15 minutes.

Everyone who fully completes the survey will go into a draw to receive one of 20 grants worth $500 for their group.

The survey closes at 11.59pm (EST) on Sunday, August 7th 2011

The survey can be completed on the Landcare Australia web site: or by clicking this link:

The survey results may be made public to help raise awareness of the Landcare movement and the vital role it plays in repairing and protecting Australia’s biodiversity and the uptake of sustainable production practices. However, your individual identity will remain anonymous.


July edition of Groundcover

Posted on 29 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The latest edition of the North Central CMA publication Groundcover can be downloaded here.



Posted on 27 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee and Parks Victoria will hold their next community field day on Sunday 31 July starting at 10.30 pm.  The field day will be held in Cooks Lane, which is off the Baringhup Road near its intersection with the Bridgewater – Maldon Road.  The route to the site will be well signposted from the intersection.

The field day is an opportunity to enjoy some time outdoors while helping to eradicate Wheel Cactus from our district.  No experience is necessary and everyone concerned with the natural environment is most welcome.  Dress for the occasion in warm clothes and sturdy footwear.  The day will conclude at about 1 pm with a free sausage sizzle and cuppa.

Wheel Cactus community field days are monthly events and take place on the last Sunday of each month.


Bridal Creeper Field Day Report

Posted on 20 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

‘Stop the spread’ was the catch cry at the Bridal Creeper Field day organized by Ian Grenda and the Nuggetty Landcare Group and held on Sunday 10 July. A Weed of National Significance (forever more known as a WONS!) Bridal Creeper is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spreading, and its environmental and economic impacts.

Ian, Janis and Jane took the troopers through an area where various control methods were being trialled and talked about how a site assessment was vital in choosing the most appropriate control method.  The use of biological controls of rust fungus and leaf hoppers would help to weaken the plants and prevent flowering and seeding, and would suit areas that were difficult to access, had large infestations and perhaps difficult for the land managers to tackle.  Hand weeding would be okay to stop the spread but when you see the prolific corms that all need to be treated this method would suit perhaps new plants or areas where native plants were present.  Spraying methods were also discussed along with scrunching and gloving!

After a warming BBQ and lots of ideas, people headed off with bags containing rust spore or leaf hopper infested Bridal Creeper ready to spread the helpers and help stop the spread of this creepy plant.  A great session and thanks to Nuggetty!

Click here to see the Project Brief and here for Field Notes on data and photo monitoring.

For further information, email Ian Grenda ( or Janis Stewart (


Connecting Country 5-year Planning – Further Feedback Sought

Posted on 14 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

On the 27 June 2011, 20 enthusiastic community members from all across the shire braved the cold conditions to join Connecting Country at our quarterly Reference Group meeting.  After receiving an update on the progress of the current project, the attendees split into small groups to talk about possible answers to six important questions.  Each question centred on the themes of how Connecting Country is going at the moment, and what we should be aiming to achieve over the next 2-5 years.  Geoff Park and Krista Patterson-Majoor, our facilitators for the evening, helped keep the discussions focussed with a strictly enforced 6 minutes and 30 seconds per question!  Conversations continued afterwards at a more leisurely pace over coffee, sandwiches, cakes and other goodies.

A summary of the responses to each question can be viewed by clicking here.  The responses were insightful, wide-ranging and challenging.  Importantly, there was a consensus that Connecting Country does have a valuable ongoing role in the local area.  This meeting was an important first step in clarifying what that future role may be.

However, we are also very aware that the attendees represented a relatively small proportion of the overall community who has an interest in Connecting Country.  Therefore, we’re opening up the discussion to other thoughts, ideas and suggestions.  Or perhaps you may wish to elaborate, modify or challenge one or more of the responses already raised.  We would welcome your feedback either directly through email: or by filling out the form attached .  This form can then either be emailed or posted back to us here.  If you could have your responses back by 31 July, this would be greatly appreciated.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Expedition Pass


Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations

Posted on 13 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

Sustainability Victoria is currently providing grants under its program, Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations (GVESHO). Grants may be used to assist with salaries and salary on-costs for executive and administrative staff; office accommodation rental; electricity, gas, phone and other similar charges; essential office supplies and equipment; staff and volunteer training; photocopying and printing costs; and travel costs incurred on behalf of the organisation.

Grants are only for administration and equipment, not for specific programs, can be multi year (up to 3) and require a 50% cash or in kind contribution. More information can be found by clicking here or you can contact Janet Phillips from Sustainability Victoria on 0400 050 399 (mobile); (03) 5470 6525 (phone) or


Three Fascinating Field Trips

Posted on 13 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

This year’s Connecting Country Education Program treated participants to three fascinating field trips around Mount Alexander Shire.

In May, Phil Dyson from the North Central Catchment Management (CMA) provided an insight to how landscapes are formed with his geology and soils tour. From the anticlinal fold in Lyttleton St in Castlemaine to the top of Mt Alexander, we learnt about the main rock types in the Mount Alexander Shire landscape and how these were formed.  We observed how geology, soils and vegetation interact to produce differing impacts on land use.

Phil Dyson points out interesting landscape features from the top of Mt Alexander.

‘The bush is more than just bush’ was the theme of our Yellow Box Woodland tour with Paul Foreman (Bush Heritage) and Ian Higgins (North Central CMA) in June.  At an idyllic woodland site tucked away in the Irishtown forest, we learnt how to recognize different vegetation communities and habitat characteristics. Ian and Paul highlighted that the disturbance history of local vegetation communities is different, which means some are more rare and more damaged than others.

Paul Foreman assists participants with completing a vegetation assessment.

Elaine Bayes (BRIT TAFE and Department of Sustainability and Environment) and Damien Cook (Australian Ecosystems) inspired all participants by their knowledge of, and passion for, waterways and wetlands, our final field trip. We followed the Loddon River from Glenluce to Newstead learning how to assess waterways and observing how land use changes as you move downstream. At the Moolort Wetlands we saw the abundance of birds, and other aquatic plants and animals, that have been thriving over the past few months after these areas filled with water for the first time in over a decade.

Damien Cook highlights the wetting and drying cycle at the Moolort Wetlands.

Connecting Country would like to send a huge thanks to all participants, our wonderful presenters, and, especially, to Deirdre Slattery who developed the program.

This year’s education program is not over! We have two more free evening talks on the bill. Arn Tolsma from the Arthur Rylah Institute will talk about the role of fire in Box Ironbark Forests on the 25th of August. The history of Forest Creek and its impact on the landscape will be explored by Robyn Ballinger on the 8th of September. These events will be held at the Campbell’s Creek Community Centre and kick off at 6.30pm with soup provided by the Growing Abundance Project. Click here for further information.


‘Vital Signs’: Training in Communication and Group Skills

Posted on 13 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) is conducting a communication and group skills program, Vital Signs, in July and August. The program  aims to ‘support community workers and volunteers by increasing their communication and interpersonal skills and providing mentoring and support to assist them in their work within the community’. Click here for more information.


2011 Landcare Awards

Posted on 8 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Long Service Honour Roll has been set up by Victorian Landcare to mark the 25th anniversary of Landcare. If you wish to nominate someone for the Long Service Honour Roll there is now a short form that allows groups and networks to bypass the official 2011 Landcare Awards form. A word version of the form has been set up for electronic completion (the preferred option). A pdf version is also available.

A few things to remember about the Long Service Honour Roll are:

  • there are no second chances! – the honour roll provides a once only opportunity for groups and networks to acknowledge the work of their longest serving and most committed members
  • to nominate someone for the Honour Roll, groups should fill in the nomination form above. This form is for nominations for the Victorian Honour Roll ONLY. The form is also on the Landcare Awards website
  • all nominations for the Long Service Award will be included on the 2011 Victorian Landcare Long Service Honour Roll
  • nominations for all 2011 Victorian Landcare Awards and the honour roll will be accepted until Friday 22 July 2011.

This is a great opportunity and it is easy to nominate!  Connecting Country support this initiative, and consider it to be a great way of acknowledging those dedicated locals who have made outstanding contributions to Landcare in the local area.  We hope that all local Landcare groups will consider nominating those members who meet the criteria to the listed on the roll.

Nominations for 2011 Landcare Awards have been extended until 22 July 2011. State winners will become nominees in the biennial national Landcare awards 2012. For more information visit and/or view this media release.



10 July – Planting on the Loddon River

Posted on 5 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

Newstead Landcare Group’s second planting for 2011 will be by the Loddon River at Newstead. It will take place this Sunday 10 July at 9.30 am. The group is planning to put in more shrubs and sedges on “the Island” about 600m upstream from the bridge. As the road may be boggy and rough, you may want to park in Layard Street near the ford and walk downstream. Bring some gloves and a mug for morning tea. Buckets, hammers and digging implements would also be useful.

If you would like more information, contact Patrick Kavanagh on 54 762 755. All are welcome.


Funding for Gorse Control

Posted on 5 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce 2011/12 Community Support Grants Project is now open for business. The VGT is now accepting project proposals from community-based organisations with a view to providing funds where these help to implement the Victorian Gorse Control Strategy, align to project guidelines and demonstrate a commitment to achieving long-term gorse control.

All of the required information can be found here.

Proposals will be accepted by the VGT up until the 5th of August 2011.



Reminder about Upcoming Events

Posted on 4 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

This is a reminder about four events that you may be interested in attending over the next week:

Friday 8 July
Euan Moore will speak on Birding in Sri Lanka at this month’s Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club meeting. Starting time is 7.30 pm and the venue is the Uniting Church Hall (enter from Lyttleton Street). All welcome.

Saturday 9 July
As part of their Small Conservation Reserves Survey, the Castlemaine Field Naturalists have organised an excursion to the Walmer South Nature Conservation Reserve. The group will depart from the carpark opposite the motel in Duke St, Castlemaine at 1.30 pm sharp.

Sunday 10 July
The Nuggetty Land Protection Group is inviting interested community members to attend a workshop on Bridal Creeper. The workshop will be held at the Bridal Creeper Trial site which is located immediately behind the Maldon cemetery in the Maldon Historic Reserve. It will take place between 11.00am and 12.30pm and finish with a free sausage sizzle and cupper. For more information click here.

Monday 11 July
The Friends of the Box-Ironbark AGM will be held at the Continuing Education building, Templeton St, Castlemaine. Starting time is 7.30 pm. The guest speaker will be Damian Wells, CEO of the North Central Catchment Management Authority and he will speak on Catchment Management and the Floods.


Wheel Cactus Mapping – First Prize-winner announced

Posted on 1 July, 2011 by Connecting Country

In mid-May, Connecting Country launched an appeal for observations of Wheel Cactus to be lodged onto the Community Interactive Mapping Portal. A total of 13 locations for this noxious weed were lodged onto the mapper during the months of May and June.  The majority of sightings were within the area bound by Joyces Creek, Baringhup and Maldon, with outliers occurring in Castlemaine, Maryborough and to the north near Bradford.

One of the Wheel Cactus submitters, Andrew Dimsey, has been randomly chosen as a prize winner to receive the book by Chris Tzaros, Wildlife of the Box Ironbark Region.  Congratulations Andrew and many thanks to everyone who has begun the process of submitting Wheel Cactus observations from across the region.

We are still appealing for more Wheel Cactus observations, and more prizes will be awarded each month.  Have you seen Wheel Cactus infestations in your local area that could be lodged?  Or perhaps you’ve seen a new outbreak a long way from home.  Assist in the efforts to control this growing menace by lodging your observation onto the mapping portal.  If you’re unsure how to use the mapping system, there is a help guide on the web-page, or please feel free to drop into the Connecting Country office in Castlemaine for a quick tutorial (Office 14 and 15, 233b Barker St, Castlemaine – above the Good Table restaurant.  Best to call us first if you’re coming into Castlemaine specifically for this tutorial.).

Further information on Connecting Country’s Wheel Cactus mapping project can be found by clicking here.

Wheel Cactus from the Tarrengower area (Photo from DPI).




June edition of Groundcover

Posted on 21 June, 2011 by Connecting Country

The latest edition of the North Central CMA publication Groundcover can be downloaded here.