Wybejong Park, Macedon Ranges Protection Advisory Committee and Protecting Our Small Settlement
What I love about working in Wybejong Park is that landscape management is possible. From
the culling of weeds to imagining planted vistas, it’s all possible because of collective labour.
When you have weeds on your private property, it’s up to you to deal with them. In Wybejong it’s
up to us, the team of worker bees.
At our January working bee, 7 of us cut and painted willow regrowth, dug out thistles, landscaped
under the new sign construction, brush cut the entrance hill to Riddell, brush cut the creek path
and under the picnic benches, weeded and pruned the car park garden, removed graffiti from a park bench and plotted and planned future endeavours at morning tea.
Wybejong Park is a small section of a wildlife corridor, the local section of the bio-link connecting the grasslands and the Maribyrnong River to the Macedon Range. The Echidna and Wallaby you see under the bluestone arch are the same ones you see at Smiths Nursery. The Woolly Tea-Tree near the bridge is the same as those upstream. As well as going out with our dicky knees, bad backs, diggers and rakes, looking after the environment requires us all to respond to what planning authorities are doing.
In 2016, the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, appointed the Macedon Ranges Protection Advisory Committee to consult, hear submissions and prepare a report on how the Macedon Ranges should be protected. The Advisory Committee found Macedon Ranges Shire warranted protection with legislation and a Localised Planning Statement. Policy from Statement of Planning Policy No 8 has been the basis of planning in Macedon Ranges for over 40 years, and has made protection of Macedon Ranges’ water catchments, and its role as a State-significant location for leisure activities and nature conservation, the number one priority for decisions and actions.
In early 2017, the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, came to Gisborne and announced he accepted all of the Advisory Committee’s recommendations. Shortly after, the newly elected Macedon Ranges Shire councillors resolved to accept, and robustly implement, the Advisory Committee’s recommendations.
However the proposed Localised Planning Statement is worse than the status quo. It turns our small settlements into growth towns, diminishes heritage and environment values by singling out only State and National significance, and even removes existing policy protections from towns, rural land and environment.
In Riddells Creek, which only last year had 130ha rezoned for future residential development, another 120ha south of the railway line is added to the town (that’s an additional 250ha in total), for a town which grew by 38 people a year over the last 5 years
Lerps …. and the Greening of Riddell AGM
Do your eucalyptus trees look sick and have big brown patches on the leaves? Some of my gum trees and some in Wybejong Park are seriously infected. The culprit is Nymph Psyllids, Cardiaspina spp, which excrete honeydew that crystallises as a protective cover over the sap sucking psyllid.
The intricate shell-like or lacy Lerps can be seen with magnification.
Climate influences these population explosions, occurring after unusually wet or dry conditions. This form of stress improves the nutritional content of the foliage. On my block, it seems to be the hybrid Eucalypts and the river red gums which are suffering from serious Lerp attack.
Eucalypts usually recover when the Lerp population recedes but the infestation can lead to other insect attacks and sooty mould.
Insectivorous birds can be attracted by providing safe nesting sites and by planting Grevillea and Hakea under story. Honeyeaters love sugary, starchy Lerps, a year round resource that inspires territorial fights between big and little birds.
The Greening of Riddell Annual General Meeting was held last month. We reviewed our management of Wybejong Park and the creek side walking path, discussed past and future grant opportunities, and elected a new committee and office bearers.
Karl, our Waterwatch expert, reported no outstanding issues with any of his regular monthly testing of Riddells Creek water. He sends his water quality readings to the Melbourne Water database on electrical conductivity, pH, turbidity, air and water temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphate and ammonium. We are looking for a student to learn from and assist Karl. Contact us, (0418559640) if you are interested in learning the science behind data collection and monitoring the waterway environment.
Those of us who look after Wybejong Park are often called “Greenies”. But who are we really? Regular participants include a tool and die maker, an electrical industry employee, an environment workers’ trainer, a primary school teacher, four retired teachers, an engineer, a painter, a former VicRoads employee, an IT businessman, and a journalist, – a cross section of the community!
At our Saturday 4th November working bee, we will go on a. Meet the Creek walk upstream to Smiths Nursery after morning tea. Join us, morning tea is at 11 am at the car park opposite the road/rail bridge.
It’s Time to Dead Head your Aggies (Agapanthus).
Like many Riddell gardeners I grow Agapanthus for their great mauve-blue flowers in summer. But I also know that their seeds pop up in native reserves like Wybejong Park. It’s time to cut the seed heads off and put them in your fireplace, especially if you border an indigenous plant area.
At our April working bee in Wybejong, Heather weeded around the western steps, John removed tree guards in the top paddock, Robin continued grinding and rust proofing the quarry steps, Doug brought the “Furphy” and watered the brachychitons, Jenny weeded around new plants, Fergus, Julie and Lyn dealt with weeds and staked and sprayed our May planting site.
As you drive over the creek on the road bridge, Phragmites australis the big reedy plants are doing a useful job. They slow down floods, clean the water, provide habitat and stop erosion. We try to cut them to the ground every few years as they grow back small, green and lush. We can also get to the blackberry, gorse, willow twig and elm sucker growth in their midst. This is a whether job rather than a weather job, whether we have a strong volunteer who can do this arduous cull.
The Victorian Government’s Macedon Ranges Protection Committee is currently making decisions about planning issues that will affect Riddells Creek. The Riddells Creek Structure Plan meetings and the Supermarket issue showed that people here are passionate about how their town should grow. We have a new council who will listen. Take every opportunity to have your say.
Come and help monitor the creek health through Water Watch
When: 10 am, Saturday 6th May (Planting at 9am)
Where: On Riddells Creek, at the end of River Gum Road,
at the other end of Wybejong Park to the car park opposite the bridge.
As Ross says in the Riddells Creek Landcare column in this March edition of Riddells Roundup –
Early March sees a big event in rabbit control—1000 doses of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus K5 were released at roughly the same time across Australia.
Greening of Riddell supports Landcare’s concern about rabbits. The property west of Wybejong Park is pockmarked with rabbit diggings, creating soil wash aways in the last few heavy rain events.
Here is some history to shine a light on the rabbit problem.
In 1859, approximately seven rabbits were released at ‘Barwon Park’ near Geelong. Just seven years later, 14,253 rabbits were shot on Barwon Park.
By 1875, the rabbit was well established in the western districts of Victoria, in South Australia at the southern end of the Flinders Ranges and around Sydney.
By 1879, the South Australian and Victorian infestations had merged covering the area from Spencer Gulf to north-eastern Victoria.
By the 1920s, rabbits had colonised most of the southern half of Australia and were present in extremely high numbers. The rate of rabbit invasion varied from 10-15 kilometres per year in wet forested country to over 100 kilometres per year in the range lands. The invasion of the rabbit was the fastest of any colonising mammal anywhere in the world.
The impact of rabbits on the Australian environment has been disastrous. Rabbits have significantly altered the botanical composition of extensive areas of natural habitat.
Rabbits are prolific breeders, able to produce numerous litters per year. Two rabbits can breed to over 180 rabbits in just 18 months!
Rabbits are stimulated to breed by the presence of nutritious green growth. This usually occurs during the wetter months but can include wet summers.
Survival of young is substantially increased when rabbits have safe harbour, especially breeding burrows and warrens. The destruction of warrens is the key to achieving long-term rabbit control.
One rabbit is one too many. Leaving a pair of rabbits or just one burrow will lead to re-infestation.
Rabbit control is most cost-effective, now, in late summer and early autumn as breeding has generally ceased in the rabbit population.
If the Chinese can eradicate flies, surely we can beat rabbits!
Walkers in Wybejong Park have been cooling down next to a gurgling stream, green grass and flourishing bush plants. Such a treat in January! The Parks Victoria logo Healthy Parks Healthy People should add Happy Dogs.
At our last working bee three volunteers cut and poisoned the gorse regrowth on our south side frontage off River Gum Road. This included gorse around an elm tree with a honey bee hive in its base by a volunteer in her bee suit in 36 degree heat! Also paths were mowed, plants watered and weeded, then we lingered over morning tea at the picnic bench in the shade of the elms and oaks.
We have been advised by Melbourne Water that our grant applications for 2017 were successful. We will get $1000 for fees and subscriptions, website update and administrative costs. And $1260 for weed control and creek side plants for the south side River Gum Road frontage, and for repainting, de-rusting and graffiti tag removal on the quarry steps.
We employed a local excavator contractor to extend the concrete pipe near the Somerville Lane entrance to the Park. The drain was cleaned up and it functioned well in the Big Downpour in early January. Now, at the end of the laneway, the CFA and other big vehicles can turn left into the Park without having to do a complicated turn.
Greening of Riddell working bees are held on the first Saturday of the month, from 9:30 am till lunch time with a morning tea break. I’m always amazed at how much a small group of people can accomplish. Feel free to come and join us.
If you wish to contact Greening of Riddell, our email address is email@example.com and our postal address is PO Box 142, Riddells Creek, Victoria, 3431
By Lyn Hovey
My rain gauge indicated that we had received about 20mm prior to our June working bee in Wybejong Park. It was great planting and weeding weather: a bit cold and drizzly and soggy as we were near the creek, a bit like playing mud pies in childhood.
Doug got the Deutscher going and mowed the hill near the road, Robin burnt off a pile of dead trees, and Tim, Jan, Heather and Lyn got three boxes of plants in the ground before morning tea. We usually have morning tea at a picnic bench near the car park, an area known as the “Green Patch” by local old timers.
But our morning tea was interrupted this month by people with cameras arriving at the car park with news that the steam train was about to go past. Some of us got some good photos of it chugging up the hill – a sight the Green Patch has witnessed for over 150 years.
We planted Nodding Saltbush (a ground cover with a red edible berry), the Common Everlasting, the Cut-Leaf Daisy and Spiny-Headed Mat-Rush Lomandras , which holds the soil and acts as a unifying design plant when planted in masses.
Nature does it so well, for example at Conglomerate Gully.
We are unhappy that the disused toilet block has been targeted by graffitists putting their tags on the brick wall. We have put in a submission to the Macedon Ranges Shire Council Draft Budget asking them to put funds into restoring the toilet facilities.
In early 2013 we were pleased that Council were willing to install a Modus toilet building with a storage shed attached, and a small tank to aid Park maintenance. Council acknowledged there is a need for this public toilet and consulted widely to design one that suited our needs.
Funds were allocated in 2013 by Macedon Shire Council, however when the Shire went to build the structure they discovered that they did not actually own the small parcel of land that the toilets are situated on.
The government department that does manage the land was happy for the toilet to be replaced, but in the meantime the allocated funds went elsewhere.
So now we are waiting, legs crossed..waiting..stuck in a bureaucratic holding pattern!
Greening of Riddell is now scheduling its major planting day for the year in Wybejong Park in Autumn.
We used to plant in spring, but with the changing weather patterns we find that planting in autumn after the advent of some rain, while the ground is still warm, gives the plants a while to settle in before our basalt clay hardens in summer.
We will still need to water the plants in for their first summer, but after that they are at the mercy of what the seasons deliver.
At our May working bee five Greening of Riddell volunteers planted two boxes of under-story and ground cover plants west of the quarry steps. We had previously sprayed out the Phalaris – an introduced clumping grass which is galloping across the park and out-competing our native grasses. We planted Gynatrix pulchella, a tall willowy shrub which has small cream flowers in spring, highly fragrant particularly in the evening. Also Indigofera australis , with blue-green leaves and mauve flowers is a favourite as it grows well on our rocky escarpment. It flowers in spring bringing delight to humans and bees, especially when planted in masses. These plants require stakes and guards to protect them from the wallabys.
In between we planted Brachyscome multifida, the cut-leafed daisy, a mauve or lilac suckering perennial with a compact growth habit, and Chrysocephalum apiculatum – the common everlasting which has grey woolly foliage and terminal clusters of golden flower heads. Both of these plants rejuvenate after pruning.
We put in numerous Lomandra longifolia, a spiny- headed mat-rush which forms a tussock and is a great plant to hold the soil with its extensive fibrous roots. We often use it to hold creek banks from erosion as it is a common plant on escarpments and in riparian (creek side) zones.
As is usual at our working bees we enjoyed a delicious home-baked morning tea accompanied by lots of gas-bagging!
We still have three boxes of plants to go in the ground, so helpers are always welcome.
The Greening of Riddell Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday 19 June at 2pm, at the Riddells Creek Neighbourhood House. Everyone is welcome to attend.
By Maree Scale
Happy New Year to you all. Let’s hope that 2016 brings us more rain than last year!
Though it’s the holidays for many, our group still works down at the creek in January to maintain it. Eight volunteers worked on the three ‘Ws’ – weeding, watering and whipper snipping, as well as mowing and mulching.
If you find time to walk along the creek you might see where we’ve been working. Unfortunately at this time the creek was not running freely but there were still enough water puddles to keep some frogs, insects and other critters happy.
If you are looking for a new area to volunteer your time to and give back to the community in some way, working with Greening of Riddell locals may be something you’d like. There are no membership or commitment requirements. You can come on the first Saturday of each month for a couple of hours, or just come along if you have any spare time to help. If you need any safety gear (eg for mowing, brushcutting, etc) we can provide you with some. Our usual tasks involve general maintenance and some planting. We would welcome any new faces!
In the past we have had a chocolate wallaby hop by and visit us, checking on our working bee achievements.
This time the overseer was a wombling echidna! I’m not sure if it was Edwina or Edwin, but it was lovely to see that the environment down at the creek is attractive to our native inhabitants.
At our next working bee is on Saturday 6 February.
Riddells Creek Waterwatch: July to November 2015
Water Flows and Levels
Water flow rates have been declining since October 2015, prior to the first decent rainfall for months in November. Water has been continually freely flowing, albeit slowly over the spillway.
Water levels had been at between 160mm and 200mm at the spillway gauge between July and September, but have since fallen to 100mm at the start of November just before rainfall.
Rainfall has been poor up until early November. The health of the creek appears to be good with an abundance of frog activity and aquatic plants noticeable. Minimal pollution turns up in the creek and the small amounts that do are quickly cleaned up by locals and Greening of Riddell volunteers.
Dissolved Oxygen Levels
Dissolved Oxygen is the small amount of oxygen gas dissolved in the water. It is essential for the respiration of fish, aquatic animals, micro-organisms and plants. To maintain a healthy and diverse aquatic ecosystem, the dissolved oxygen must be maintained at high levels to support the more sensitive species. Light and temperature affect dissolved oxygen levels.
In Riddells Creek, dissolved oxygen levels have remained consistent with previous years for the months of July to September 2015 . Dissolved oxygen levels have been higher for the months of October to November compared to previous years. Measured levels have been between 85-120% saturation of oxygen.
Electrical conductivity is the amount of dissolved salts in the water. These salts enter the waterway through runoff from rock and soils in the catchment. The soils and geology of the waterways catchment normally determine salinity, however human activities can drastically increase salinity levels. Variations in conductivity may also be the result of ground water seepage, industrial and agricultural effluent, storm water run off, land clearing and sewage effluent.
In Riddells Creek, electrical conductivity levels have remained consistent with previous years for the months of July to November 2015. Measured levels have been between 370-750μS/cm.
A car crash through the western railing of the Carre-Riddell Bridge at Riddells Creek at the start of November does not appear to have had a negative impact on the creek due to pollution.
In addition to the monthly Waterwatch measurements in Riddells Creek, a team of Melbourne University students have been regularly taking oestrogen level sampling in the creek. This sampling takes place at many locations with an emphasis on monitoring and comparison at both above and below waste water treat