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17 February 2020

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2020.

To everyone around Victoria affected by the recent and ongoing fires, our thoughts are with you.

We appreciate the impacts of these events will continue to be felt over the coming months and that, for many, the hard work of recovery is only just starting.

For those of you thinking about post-fire land management, read on below for some tips and hints from our community partners about managing weeds and rabbits in fire-affected landscapes.

We’re also very pleased to announce some newly funded grants projects being delivered around Victoria, supporting community initiatives in a diverse range of locations and demographics.

And there’s a wide range of upcoming training events, including our highly regarded ‘master class’ on community engagement, as well as courses on rabbit management, weed hygiene and citizen science.

Featured video: a conversation about culture

Victorian Rabbit Action Network mentors and members met with traditional owners in the Mallee to talk about controlling rabbits in culturally significant landscapes.

Watch the video.

New youth projects underway

We’re very pleased to announce the funding of 12 new grants supporting organisations and communities across the state to engage young people in managing invasive species.

The recipients are sharing in a total of about $130,000, following a very competitive expression of interest process, with close to 30 applications submitted.

The grants will fund a wetlands rejuvenation project in Ararat, training in farm weed management around Mansfield, a deer monitoring initiative in Gippsland, and outdoor activities to identify invasive species near Wangaratta and Avoca.

Other initiatives will build awareness of weeds and pests among urban youth, including a weeding festival on Merri Creek, a land management training program for indigenous youth in Dandenong, and invasive species leadership training for young people from Melbourne’s North-East.

The grant program aims to address the under-representation of young people in invasive species management and support succession planning for the inter-generational challenge of managing our landscapes.

For more details on the successful projects, visit our website.

Keen to run your own youth engagement project?

We’ve compiled some tips, tricks and inspiration to get you started.

Image: source - Intrepid Landcare

Save the date: community engagement training

Master Class on Leadership for Community Engagement

27-28 April 2020, North East Victoria

Do you work or volunteer with local communities on a natural resource management issue or invasive species problem? Do you want to lead change in your workplace or community group? Are you looking for inspiration and networks to support your efforts?

The Master Class is a two-day intensive training program for people wanting to lead change on community engagement in invasive species management.

It aims to build the capacity and confidence of volunteers and professionals who work with and for the community.

Applications will open shortly, via this mailing list. Sign up to be notified.

Image: The first master class on community engagement attracted participants from community, government and not-for-profit organisations.

CPMGs delivering new projects

The third and final set of community projects funded through the Weeds and Rabbits Project will be delivered during 2020.

Nine new projects were funded from September 2019, to support community participation, capability and capacity development in weed and rabbit management.

The projects are being delivered by Victoria’s four Community Pest Management Groups (CPMGs) for blackberry, serrated tussock, gorse and rabbits.

Designed by leaders and volunteers from each of the CPMGs, the projects are tailored to the needs of the local communities tackling weeds and rabbits.

Funded projects range in scale from $40,000 to $140,000 and include diverse activities such as:

  • a conference on new and emerging control tools
  • a ‘virtual’ extension officer to support landholder pest control efforts
  • training on rabbit management in culturally sensitive landscapes
  • extension services on serrated tussock control for West Gippsland landholders.

For more details on the new projects, visit our website.

Image: CPMGs will continue delivering community-focused training and capacity building initiatives, like the rabbit management learning networks.

Vale Peter Everist

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Peter Everist, on 18 January 2020.

Peter was an integral member of the Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT) for 14 years, including as Chair for the past 10 years, and provided valuable contributions and dedication throughout his service. 

Over the past three years Peter represented the VGT on the community leadership group as part of the state-wide Weeds and Rabbits Project, supporting significant improvements in how community and state government work together.

Peter was a passionate and generous man and he will be sorely missed. Our condolences are with his family at this time.

Image: Peter Everist (source: VGT).

Save the date: rabbit "bootcamp"

VRAN will be hosting its fourth Rabbit Management Leadership training program in May 2020, and applications will open shortly.
This “bootcamp” on integrated rabbit management will provide 20 community and agency leaders with the chance to learn from the best in the business.

Training and guidance are provided by recognised experts from community, industry and government, and the successful applicants will participate in field trips, classroom-based sessions, and networking activities.

To find out more, visit the VRAN website.

Calculating the benefit of controlling blackberry

A new tool developed by the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce is helping landowners make decisions about blackberry-affected land.

The Agricultural Productivity Tool highlights the economic impact of the weed on agricultural land and enables users to calculate the cost of control.

VBT Chairperson Lyn Coulston says the tool will help people looking to buy, sell or manage blackberry infested land.

“We often get questions, not only from landowners, but also from people wanting to buy properties that are affected by blackberry, who want to know what it will cost and how long it will take to bring land into production,” Lyn said.

Anyone can access the tool and input their property data, to find out how much it will cost to bring land back into production and the corresponding increase in productive capacity.

The Ag Productivity Tool was developed with funding from the Weeds and Rabbits Project.

It is available on the VBT website.

Weed hygiene and citizen science programs

The VSTWP is planning on delivering two series of training programs around Victoria in 2020.

The WeedStop workshop on weed hygiene is a nationally accredited program aiming to increase awareness of how weeds can be spread via contaminated vehicles or machinery and how the risk of this occurring can be minimised.

The target audience is organisations, contractors and land managers responsible for weed control, slashing, and movement of machinery through weed-infested areas.

To register your interest please complete this short survey.

Citizen science workshops, demonstrating the use of the Atlas of Living Australia platform, will provide participants with the skills and knowledge they need to deliver training sessions in their own communities.

These 'train-the-trainer' events are suitable for anyone who works with the community on weed management or citizen science initiatives, including Landcare facilitators, project staff and community leaders.

To register you interest, please complete the online survey.

Image: WeedStop training will include minimising spread of weeds via machinery (source: VSTWP).

Controlling blackberry post fires

The Victorian Blackberry Taskforce (VBT) acknowledges the severe impacts the fires have had on communities and the environment, not only in Victoria but nationally.

Landholders are now dealing with the effects of fire on their properties and assessing the present and future impacts on land and water and how best to manage them into the future.

Previously, the VBT has assisted communities in the aftermath of fire events, specifically 2009, by providing support through community led Blackberry and Woody Weeds groups in Central Gippsland, Mudgegonga and Yarra Ranges.

This support focused on the opportunity for landholders to control blackberry as it recovers and regrows after the fire event. Controlling blackberry at one metre high is much easier and more cost effective than controlling blackberry when it reaches three metres.

Landholders planning to use translocating chemicals as part of their blackberry control program will achieve better results when there is enough growth and leafy area to ensure the chemical can be taken up and absorbed by the plant. At least one metre of hardened regrowth will usually provide enough leaf coverage for chemical uptake to the extensive root system.

For those using non-chemical treatments, the opportunity is there to keep on top of blackberry by regular physical control or the use of non-chemical products such as pine oil.

Further information about post fire blackberry control, including a hard copy of the Blackberry Control Manual, is available from the VBT:

Image: Blackberry regrowth following recent fires in North East Victoria (image: Danielle Cleland).

Managing serrated tussock after wildfire

From the Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP)

A consequence of fire that often goes unnoticed is weed invasion. The introduction and spread of weeds during emergency response and recovery activities is a real possibility as weeds can be inadvertently spread by vehicles, machinery and livestock, and possibly within donated stockfeed.

Serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma) is a weed to watch for, particularly if stockfeed of unknown origins has entered your property.

It grows through the autumn and winter months, with seed development occurring in late spring. Serrated tussock can be easily mistaken for native tussock and a lone serrated tussock plant may easily go unnoticed. Once established, sizable infestations can be difficult to eliminate and costly to control.

Serrated tussock is well adapted to spread after fire, with the established plants recovering after a burn. This can lead to a total dominance of serrated tussock due to the lack of other pasture grasses and competition.

Regular inspections, and treatment or removal of new plants is recommended. Post-fire can be a good opportunity to spot serrated tussock plants, with their characteristic greenness in summer and the lack of other grasses.

Successful treatments can be conducted during this period, which can set landowners up for a better spring and pasture recovery.

Further information can be found on the VSTWP website.

Image: A burnt serrated tussock infestation (source: VSTWP).

Manage your gorse and help firefighters

From the Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT)

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) kicked off a campaign in the lead up to the 2019/2020 bushfire season to educate landowners about the fire danger posed by gorse infestations.

With its high oil content, gorse can ignite from embers well ahead of a bushfire.

It gives off a large amount of radiant heat and creates blockers in the landscape for trucks and firefighters accessing the main fire – especially when it’s been planted in and around stone hedges. Once alight, gorse fires are difficult to bring under control.

The VGT and CFA are urging landowners to control their gorse, as the fire season continues to threaten communities.

Watch this video about the fire risks that gorse creates, and for further enquiries contact the VGT.

Rabbit management post fires

From the Victorian Rabbit Action Network

The conditions in the paddock after a fire can provide an opportunity to target local rabbit populations.

The VRAN team suggest the following plan of attack in fire-affected landscapes:

  • Map rabbit warrens. With the reduced vegetation cover, rabbit warrens may be more visible now. A good first step in your rabbit control program is mapping warrens.
  • Baiting is an essential component of integrated best practice rabbit control, undertaken prior to destroying warrens. But note the following point.
  • Protect native wildlife and domestic animals. Native animals may be using rabbit burrows for shelter, and baiting programs will attract hungry animals. In a burnt landscape, baits may be more attractive to non-target species (domestic and native) than under normal conditions. Carefully consider your bait placement and check the uptake of free feeds prior to laying the treated bait.
  • To identify animals in the treatment area you can simply observe footprints in ash beds or install a remote camera.
  • Destroy warrens. Warrens are key to rabbits being able to re-establish their population post-fire. By ripping or destroying these, it limits their success.
  • Continue to manage woody weeds. This will limit places for rabbits to shelter under.
  • Work with your neighbours. Rabbits won’t stop at your property boundary, so collaboration ‘over the fence’ will ensure your program is more effective.
  • Keep a soft footprint on the landscape. Be careful to avoid further damage to the environment and Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. Obtain the necessary permits and, if you are unsure, seek advice from Agriculture Victoria, DELWP, Aboriginal Victoria or local council.
  • To plant or not to plant. Take a look at this Restoring our landscapes guide as a starting point and seek advice from local experts from Landcare and Catchment Management Authorities.
  • For more tips, take a look at the VRAN rabbit management recipe video.

For further advice on managing rabbits post-fire, contact VRAN Executive Officer, Heidi Kleinert:


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