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Friends of the Bannockburn Bush


National Tree Day Sunday July 31
Look for a report on this big event in the September edition.
We are aiming to plant 400 Yellow gums and other species in the sections recently purged of Sugar Gums.

 

Yellow Gum Festival No 19 and a bit of history; the other Battle of Bannockburn in 1997.
It’s now nineteen years since the management of Barwon Water (mostly now moved on) strongly supported by Golden Plains Council (some lingering on) decided that a beautiful stand of Yellow Gums, now protected under the FFG Act, would be a great place to build a set of sewage treatment ponds. They claimed that the paddock to the north, where the extension ponds are now placed was not suitable for pond construction and among the trees was the ‘place to be’.  

Frank de Stefano was the chair of Barwon Water at the time and only had time for one meeting with the Bannockburn Yellow Gum Action Group to discuss the location site. We came away from that meeting stunned by his indifference and determination to proceed with this project. Frank, Jeff Kennett, the Premier at the time along with the Minister for Conservation and Land Management refused to listen to reason regarding the ecological significance of the site and forged ahead with the “Yellow Gum Destruction Trail”. 

A crew of loggers were rushed in at dawn on August 19 and within a few hours the Yellow Gum Slaughter was well under way. 

A team of blockaders from the Otways Logging campaign of OREN (Otway Ranges Environment Network) moved their important work to Bannockburn and set about passive prevention of further destruction. They were very effective and the blockade was well supported by the more environmentally aware members of the local community. 

It took a massive overkill of police to break the blockade and complete the devastation. At one stage there were 24 Police vehicles, complete with catering and toilet buses standing up bravely to half a dozen little old ladies swinging handbags and several lightly clad, dreadlocked younger ladies. The blockaders reasoned that if the Otways chainsaw crews were in Bannockburn that was where they were most needed. 

One impressive team member, Jimi Norman, planned carefully and put his body and life on the line every day, often needing treatment for bashings he had received ‘accidentally’ while being unchained and dragged out of a magnificent tree so it could be felled safely. Sadly, I learned on July 25th that Jimi had passed away the previous week at home of cancer despite the love and care of his equally wonderful partner Jade.

There is also a very funny side to this saga. During the Yellow Gum campaign, some people associated with another campaign in Melbourne produced a set of small stickers, Barwon Slaughter, and Barwon Water Frankly Foul. After two former Golden Plains officers handed Barwon Water’s lawyers a copy of a flyer that linked our group to the stickers, Frank took umbrage and set about suing us for defamation. The case became famous as a SLAPP suit, Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation  and it dragged out for many months (as it was meant to do), keeping us from being constructive environmental campaigners.

Eventually we settled at mediation and had to pay Frank (or rather his expensive Harwood Andrews lawyers) $10,000 and sign a document stating that he was NOT foul after all, he was a good bloke and well suited to heading up Barwon Water. Within 12 months of receiving this payout it was found that Frank had embezzled nearly $9 million from his accountancy firm to feed his gambling habit at Crown casino. He had been in the local press pushing for a casino in Geelong. After a protracted trial, Frank was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in jail. We reckon he should have done the time replanting trees in Bannockburn.

You can follow this story in the pages of this great newsletter, on the website although editorial policy made it hard to print the full story. See www.bannews.com.au. If the archive does not go back far enough I can provide the originals. Our small band of Friends has been through some interesting times in the interests of local conservation.

So, the 19th Yellow Gum Festival celebrated the role of the surviving winter flowering Yellow Gums in providing nectar for birds like the Swift parrot which flies all the way from Tasmania to feed. We enjoyed a chat and a meal of pumpkin soup, damper and snags and were very pleasantly surprised to see a flock of about 8 Swift parrot fly over our reveg site. We then planted out another 40 Yellow and Manna gums in an area beside the fenced reveg site where thoughtless drivers have driven over the understory plants without any thought to the damage they are causing. We cleaned up their empty oil containers, empty hydroponic fertilizer containers and empty energy drink containers and set about preparing the planting site for Sunday July 31. 

Melbourne Yellow Gum Distribution

Eucalyptus leucoxylon sub species bellarinensis. Bellarine Yellow Gum
While our local Yellow Gum, E. leucoxylon subsp connata, is named the Melbourne Yellow gum and extends in a band from Skipton through Meredith and Anakie and north of Melbourne to around Craigieburn, the Bellarine sub species is found only on a small area of the Bellarine Peninsula. By coincidence I have spent the last week planting bellarinensis in a small remnant near the Barwon Heads airport. The previous landowners had completely destroyed the entire understorey through cattle grazing and weed invasion. Fortunately the new owner is much more responsible and with guidance from Graeme Stockton of the Geelong Indigenous Nursery is helping the site to recover through weed control and revegetation. While we were planting the trees, although suffering canopy die-back, were alive with noisy Rainbow Lorikeets enjoying the nectar from the winter flowers.

Bellarine Yellow Gum

Rubbish Dumping.
Rubbish dumping has declined a bit over winter but we have still had a few cases of building and garden waste last month. Garden waste is a real problem as it spreads weeds, causing serious damage which is almost impossible to repair. 

Soil Dumps on Harvey Road. Not in our backyard please GPS.
Unfortunately not much progress seems to have been made by the Council in removing the ugly soil dumps along Harvey road lately.

Spring (11 – 13 November) on the Victorian Volcanic Plain: Native Grasslands, Stony Rises, Seasonal Wetlands and Salt Lakes.
See last month’s newsletter for details of this tour. Registrations are coming in quickly.

If you are free on the weekend of 11-13 November and fancy an interesting natural history weekend, please contact Stuart (stuartmccallum@wetnet.com.au) to register your interest. 

Firewood Collection.
You are still not permitted to collect firewood from the Bannockburn Bush. Some individuals and the Scouts have been issued with permits that allow them to collect from specific area to assist in management, either clearing for replanting, OHS or managing coppice.

If you need firewood, contact Bryan Cartledge 0412 746 868 who delivers Sustainable Sugar Gum harvested legitimately from the Bannockburn Bush plantations. Royalties flow back into maintaining the bush.

Coming Events:
Friday August 19,  Felling day observance at Stephens Rd Bushland at sunset.
Sunday August 28, working bee, 10am to 3pm.

Stuart McCallum
Friends of Bannockburn Bush

Dwarf Greenhoods


Planted Out Track