2022 NSW STATE BUDGET. WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE STATE ENVIRONMENT AND COMMUNITIES

The NSW State Budget has turned its environmental focus on biodiversity this year, with more than $2 billion invested in programs focusing on protection, conservation and natural capital investment.

Handed down on Tuesday 21st June, the Department of Environment and Heritage announced ‘biodiversity being a….clear focus in the 2022-23 NSW Budget, with major investments in ground-breaking programs that support landholders to protect and conserve their land.’

NSW CEO, Turlough Guerin, said he welcomed further investment in the environment and community sector.

“The NSW Landcare community, and all our communities, have rallied in an incredible way over the past year in response to COVID-19, bushfires and now floods hitting our regions.

“It’s led to much loss, but an investment into biodiversity, rewarding land owners for sustainable land management and identifying the benefits of investing in building a more sustainable future is very welcome. It will better support our Landcarers to get on with the job of ensuring that our communities and environments thrive,” Mr Guerin said.

Big winners this year are $106.7 million investment in the Biodiversity Credits Supply Fund, and $206.2 million over 10 years to enhance the State’s natural capital by rewarding farmers who opt-in to a Sustainable Farming accreditation program.

In the conservation sector, large scale lobbying and warnings from environmentalists regarding their potential extinction, have created a koala focus with the NSW Government committing to $145.9 million to continue to deliver the NSW Koala Strategy.  This strategy is targeted at conservation actions with the long-term goal of doubling koala numbers in New South Wales by 2050. This is on top of the $50 million the Federal Government allocated to support the species in its most recent budget

Landcare NSW project partner, Saving Our Species, secured $60 million to continue the Saving our Species program which aims to support and restore identified threatened species from extinction (part of the existing $75 million recurrent expenses over five years announced in 2021).

Other highlights include:

  1. $24.2 million for essential environmental monitoring for air quality forecasting and alerts, and to expand water quality monitoring to more swim sites across New South Wales.
  2. $163.9 million in 2022-23 to bolster the State’s response and readiness capability to future biosecurity incursions, including enhanced response targeting endemic species.
  3. $182.0 million to deliver the 10-year NSW Government Marine Estate Management Strategy to improve water quality, estuary health and other biodiversity and environmental metrics.
  4. $163.9 million in 2022-23 to bolster the State’s response and readiness capability to future biosecurity incursions, including enhanced response targeting endemic species.
  5. $17.1 million to continue the Farm Business Resilience Program and Rural Financial Counselling Service, which provides farmers with the skills and knowledge they need to build resilience to future droughts and natural disasters.
  6. $222.1 million over four years for the National Parks and Wildlife Service across the State, to support the following investments benefiting regional communities: – the new Arc Rainforest Centre and Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk to showcase the ancient World Heritage rainforests of the Dorrigo escarpment – the establishment of a Reserve and Activation Fund to fill critical gaps in the national parks estate and to enhance regional tourism and economic benefits
  7. $32.9 million to boost the State’s early detection and response to biosecurity threats on Lord Howe Island and protect the Island’s World Heritage ecological values.
  8. $286.2 million over four years to implement the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 and NSW Plastics Action Plan
  9. Continued delivery of the $49.4 million Gardens of Stone Walk near Lithgow to showcase the State’s diverse natural and cultural heritage assets.
  10. $148.4 million over two years to manage the clean-up and removal of flood and storm-related damage, debris and green waste from the 2022 floods
  11. $93.7 million over eight years for a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy to develop risk assessments, action plans and other capabilities needed to address the physical risks arising from climate change
  12. $19.8 million for Water Strategy Initiatives to address floodplain management, First Nations access and a groundwater framework.

For full budget papers click here https://www.budget.nsw.gov.au/budget-papers

Landcare NSW and COVID-19, October 2021

A roadmap for easing COVID-19 restrictions has been released by the NSW Government. 

Restrictions have recently been eased and will be further eased when the 80% double-dose vaccination target is reached.

Find out about the path forward for all NSW here: Easing restrictions at 80% full vaccination | NSW Government 

To help you to make informed decisions that affect your Landcare group and its activities, or to just keep updated, please see below to get the most current information. 

Should you have situation specific queries or need advice on developing your COVID Policy for events/field days/etc. we strongly urge you to contact Service NSW who are available 24/7 on 13 77 88 as they will have the most relevant information on hand and will help to guide you through the process. 

USEFUL LINKS: 

Please remember, these change day-to-day, and by LGA, and the information Landcare NSW has comes from these websites so if unsure please go directly to the Service NSW website. 

COVID-19 SAFETY PLANS: 

Your COVID-19 Safety Plan, may also need to be updated and  must address the matters required by the approved COVID-19 Safety Checklist. 

The plans set out what businesses and organisations need to do to fulfil their obligations under public health orders and minimise risk of transmission of COVID-19  

Complete the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan for your industry. You need to keep a copy of your plan and provide it when asked to an authorised person. 

For more information and guidance: 

Enigmatic Penrith Platypus Found in Western Sydney

Landcarers in the Mulgoa Valley safeguarding the future of a recently discovered population of platypus have secured Landcare funding to mitigate the impacts of Black Summer fires on the rare species.

With $55,000 from the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants, Mulgoa Landcare – based outside Penrith – will embark on regeneration and restoration work along Schoolhouse Creek and Mulgoa Creek to secure the area against current and future fire impacts, while monitoring water quality and educating nearby communities in protecting the species.

“Over the years, there has been anecdotal stories but with the urban development in the area we just weren’t sure. When we found out there was evidence of platypus in the creeks we were thrilled,” said Mulgoa Landcare Coordinator Lisa Harrold.

By using Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling, the group has found indications of Platypus presence along Mulgoa, Schoolhouse and Jerry’s Creeks.

“Drought, followed by bushfire and flooding have led to large scale impacts on platypi populations.

“Platypus are often referred to as ‘indicator species’ – a bit like the ‘canary in the coalmine’ and urban sprawl has significantly impacted waterways and the health of platypus habitat

“A recent study indicates there has been an 18% decline in populations of the iconic species in fire affected areas in the nine months following the bushfires. Add the additional stress of ash in waterways followed by pollutants and sediment in the flooding, and Platypi have had a great deal to contend with.

“Platypi are hardy creatures, but their food source is not. Water invertbrates are incredibly sensitive to water quality so the work being done by Mulgoa Landcare and our greater network and funded by the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants is crucial in supporting their habitat and survival.”

With extensive revegetation and restoration works along riverbanks and landscapes being undertaken over the past 25 years and more to come Lisa says funding, focus and community support are essential in supporting local platypus populations.

“Platypus are declining, and we need to do something about threats to the species before it is too late. The Penrith Platypus Project will help monitor local platypi and commence habitat restoration to secure this population and understand their habitat needs, not just at a local level, but also against current large scale environmental impacts elsewhere. It’s a big task but if you don’t start then you’ll never see improvements.”

Landcare NSW Chair, Stephanie Cameron said the project, funded through the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Fund will ensure that the newly identified platypus populations in Penrith can be supported into the future.

This grants program is jointly managed by Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network, delivered in conjunction with the relevant State and Territory Landcare organisations.

The Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery project has been supported by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Program for Wildlife and their Habitat.

Habitat Hops creating connections into the future

Habitat connectivity and high on-farm productivity can often be at odds but one Landcare group in southern NSW is ensuring that landholders guide the way for the ‘habitat hops’ across their landscape, big or small, to ensure that farms remain financially viable and environmentally sustainable.

Although in its early stages, the Burrinjuck to Bango Habitat Hops Project, funded through the Environmental Trust, is connecting different members of the community to connect habitat corridors across their region.

From small ‘blockies’ to larger landholders, the project stretches from Bango Nature Reserve to the Burrinjuck Dam, connecting crucial habitat corridors for threatened flora and fauna species.

Project Coordinator and Bowning-Bookham Landcare member, Ms Elizabeth Goodfellow, says the project’s main focus is about supporting the local ecological communities including the endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodland.

“The Box Gum Grassy Woodland is spread across a large area of NSW but is highly fragmented. With the support of this project, we’ve put in 10,000 tubestock on 30 tree plots in between Burrinjuck and Bango across 12 different properties to help support this ecosystem,” says Elizabeth.

Planted just before and during the recent drought, Elizabeth said the project’s success lay in landholders having an unique plan for each property and a plant survival rate of 80% or more in spite of the drought.

“Each property that worked in the project came up with a plan of where they wanted to do tree planting and what funding and support would help implement the plan. It definitely wasn’t without its challenges, but we tried to make it as easy as possible.

“The benefit of this project is it is a lot more flexible in what you can do on-farm. We can support anything from simply fencing of paddock trees as well as small lots to shelter belts hundreds of metres long, these are are all part of it. Comparatively, a lot of the other projects require big areas to be included in your tree plots. So, by making this a bit more flexible regarding size we’ve been able to make sure we get both that on-farm productivity as well as the environmental benefits.

“The funding, provided by the Environmental Trust, helped move the project from ‘nice thing to do’ to being ‘doable’”.

While investing in lizards, bugs and birds may not seem to have a big imprint in the everyday fabric of our lives and farms, these all play a crucial role in supporting the overall health of our environment and subsequently our individual health and wellbeing.

“Biodiversity is the variety of all living things; the different plants, animals and microorganisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form. So, by creating these habitat connections, we are creating a stronger, more resilient bio-diverse environment. This leads to happier and healthier farms. Productivity goes up, water quality improves, beneficial species return, this all leads to greater health in the landscape.

“While in the short term we are counting the numbers of tube stock on the ground, we are also growing a community of people who are interested in looking after the environment together and making sure that we have a healthy landscape that is going to be looking after us well into the future.”

One of the biggest flow-on effects, Elizabeth says, is the increased involvement of individual landholders connecting with local Landcare through the project.

“(The project) has helped a whole bunch of new people into our Landcare group. We gained new people who saw the benefits for their properties in being involved in this project and hopefully they will be involved in other projects into the future as well,” says Elizabeth.

With another 3 years of funding secured to ensure the project continues, the future is looking bright and working towards a time where participants and community members will be able to once more stand on Bookham Hill and see habitat hops stretching across the landscape.

Landcarers asked to report frog deaths in eastern Australia

Photo courtesy of Sophie Hendry – Brown Skin L. Caerula

Since June 2021, people have been coming across sick and dead frogs in eastern Australia from Rockhampton south, through eastern NSW and down to Victoria. A number of species have been affected including the Green Tree Frog and Peron’s Tree Frog, both species that are commonly seen close to or in our homes.

Initially, it was surmised that this was a result of the cold snap at the start of winter and frogs were succumbing to another wave of the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus which has been the cause of frogs deaths and extinctions around the globe since the 1970s. However, with reports of deaths still coming in scientists have realised this outbreak has the potential to severely affect frog numbers around eastern Australia and are investigating further. Outbreaks of similar magnitudes to what we may be seeing have previously altered food webs permanently in other parts of the world, impacting reptile and bird populations through loss of prey.

The Australian Museum and Australian Registry of Wildlife Health are leading the investigation with help from vets, regionally based amphibian researchers and frog-lovers around Australia. However, they are calling upon help from all Australians to report frog deaths, and uncover the cause.

There are two ways you can assist these efforts. If you see a dead frog, then you should report it. You can send information on dead frogs to the national citizen science project FrogID (run by the Australian Museum) using the email calls@frogid.net.au. Include details of the location and any photos that you have. If possible, please bag the specimen and freeze it, and let the Australian museum know in your email. When lock downs ease, the team hopes to organise collection of these for microbial autopsies to be performed, to better understand the cause of these deaths. Sick frogs should be taken to your local vet. Signs of sickness include being slow to move, thin, and having discoloured skin (lighter or darker than usual). Some frogs have been observed with red bellies, red feet and sloughed skins. Remember it’s always important to wear disposable nitrile or latex gloves when handling frogs regardless of their health.

Another way people can greatly contribute to the investigation is to get outside and record healthy frog calls throughout spring. We are lucky to have over 240 different frog species in Australia all playing an important role in the ecosystem.  Frogs are also important environmental indicators, providing humans with messages about the state of our water, habitat and even our soil quality.

As we move into Spring and the weather warms up it’s important to know where we still have healthy and diverse populations of frogs. The easiest way for Landcarers to contribute to this knowledge is using the Australian Museum’s FrogID app https://www.frogid.net.au/ . This great app has information about all of Australia’s frogs in it.  Using the app, you can record your local frog calls, and upload them to be identified by a frog expert. The records will be saved in a national database, and you will receive an email identifying the frogs you have heard.  It’s also heaps of fun.

Dr Alexandra Knight, Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie.  aknight@csu.edu.au

August Update – The Governance Project: Connecting Up Landcare

Landcare NSW is currently undertaking a Governance Project to review the governance system and ‘connect up’ the many elements that make up the Landcare NSW community.

Work began in late 2020 with extensive research to understand the current system and identify areas for reform. There has been in depth discussion with the Council of Landcare NSW and engagement with the Landcare community via online regional workshops. There is broad-based support for the project all across the State.

Landcare NSW thanks the regional leaders who have engaged in the process so far for their valuable feedback and insights. In response to members feedback, the propositions for change have evolved to ensure the system is co-designed with input from the Landcare community.

Engagement will continue in the coming months with a second round of regional consultations led by Landcare NSW Chair Steph Cameron to ensure everyone feels comfortable moving forward and to work through the remaining issues with a couple of regions.

The project is being facilitated by Randall Pearce of Think Insight Advice. Randall consults to not-for-profit organisations across Australia and has worked with Landcare NSW since 2014.

All feedback is welcome and we encourage all Landcarers, especially those on committees and in leadership roles, to engage with this project. If you have questions or comments, please contact administration@landcarensw.org.au

Landcare NSW and COVID-19, August 2021

The current situation with COVID-19 is rapidly changing and as such government and industry advice about, and in response to, the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing as new information becomes available.

To help you with both organisation, community, business and personal decisions, or to just keep updated, please see below to get the most current information.

Should you have situation specific queries we strongly urge you to contact Service NSW who are available 24/7 on 13 77 88 as they will have the most relevant information on hand and will help you guide you through the process.

However, with current Stay At Home Public Health Orders in place, you must stay home and only leave your home if you have a reasonable excuse (see Rules below and what is a ‘reasonable excuse’).

  • If you must leave home, stay within your local area. Do not travel outside your local area if you can avoid it.
  • Limit your physical contact with people you do not live with. See the restrictions for visitors to a residence here
  • You must carry a face mask with you at all times and wear a face mask when required when you leave your home.

Please remember, these change day-to-day, and the information Landcare NSW has is informed by these websites so if unsure please go directly to NSW Government website

COVID-19 Rules

Learn about the rules and restrictions in NSW and what you can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19 here

Exempted Gatherings

Places that fall under ‘exempted gatherings’ must follow the relevant rules including:
– the wearing of face masks
– having a COVID-19 safety plan and
– mandatory electronic check-in (QR codes).

General Information

2021 COVID-19 Support Package

The NSW Government will provide financial assistance, support measures and tax relief to help businesses and people across the state impacted by the current COVID-19 restrictions.

Businesses, sole traders and small not-for-profits

The new small business support payment will support up to an estimated 500,000 entities employing more than 3 million people.

More here

Regional stay at home rules

Viewing the map

  • Enter an address to check whether it is in a local government area where the stay at home rules apply.
  • Click on the map for a link to the rules that apply to a local government area.
COVID-19 Safety Plans

Your COVID-19 Safety Plan must address the matters required by the approved COVID-19 Safety Checklist.

The plans set out what businesses and organisations need to do to fulfil their obligations under public health orders and minimise risk of transmission of COVID-19 on their premises.

Complete the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan for your industry. You need to keep a copy of your plan and provide it when asked to an authorised person.

Rules and restrictions for the regional and rural affected areas in NSW where stay at home rules are in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

For more information click here

Or here

Working and Businesses

Fairwork

Visit this site to see information that covers workplace laws, obligations and entitlements for:

  • employers and employees affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • employers and employees who previously participated in the JobKeeper scheme (qualifying employers, legacy employers and eligible employees)
  • employers and employees covered by awards varied by the Fair Work Commission during coronavirus (such as the Vehicle Award).

More here

Working from home

Employers must allow an employee to work from home if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

If you cannot work from home and you go to your workplace, you must wear a face mask (unless an exemption applies).

Full details here

Mandatory electronic check-in (QR codes)

Check in is required by staff and customers when they enter certain premises. This covers all industries bar providing emergency services, by vehicle if you do not leave your vehicle, if you are under 18 years of age and it is not possible to register your contact details, to exercise law enforcement, intelligence or national security functions on behalf of a NSW Government or Australian Government agency, a health or medical facility (other than a pharmacy) as a patient or a farm. Activities on farm we suggest still having a sign in register.

Information regarding QR codes here

COVID-19 Safe outdoor gatherings

An outdoor public gathering is a COVID-19 safe outdoor gathering if the organiser

  • has and complies with a COVID-19 Safety Plan that addresses the matters required by the approved COVID-19 safety checklist and
  • keeps a copy of the COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • makes a copy of the COVID-19 Safety Plan available to an authorised officer or a police officer as requested.

For more about the requirements for a COVID-19 Safety Plan – outdoor events click here

Additional Information

MEDIA RELEASE: NSW LANDCARE PROJECTS GAIN FUNDING THROUGH LANDCARE LED BUSHFIRE RECOVERY FUND

Training communities to monitor and recover critical mangrove habitat on the South Coast, developing habitat for Greater Gliders on the North Coast, and supporting ecologically isolated remnant vegetation in the alps of NSW are among the successful projects funded in NSW.

These projects are just some of the 111 funded projects spread out across Australia as part of the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants Program. Of the projects funded in NSW, 77% are projects being delivered by member groups of Landcare NSW.

The Program is a $14 million Federal Government commitment to deliver on-ground activities to aid in the recovery of native wildlife and habitat in seven regions severely impacted by the Black Summer bushfires.

Landcare NSW CEO, Dr Adrian Zammit, said the funding will build on the successful projects already occurring across NSW and Australia to support fire affected communities.

“We have seen incredible work being delivered by our NSW Landcare community supporting their local environments in response to the catastrophic fires of 2019 and 2020. The funding will ensure that community-led environmental activities will be delivered in the most vulnerable bushfire-impacted regions. From revegetation and regeneration projects to data collection and community engagement, the diversity of these projects will ensure the impacted communities have the support they need to rebuild and recover,” said Dr Zammit.

The projects the grants will fund are diverse and range from projects monitoring platypus in Penrith, construction and installation of nest boxes for wildlife, supporting landowners to work together on neighbouring properties to control foxes and replant native vegetation as well as funding to repair waterways and build seed collection in fire affected regions.

One successful project is the North Coast Regional Landcare’s work with a series of Indigenous-led workshops to be supported on bushfire recovery with co-design and involvement from Landcare and Indigenous stakeholders.

North Coast Regional Landcare Network Chair, Jim Kinkead, says he welcomes the funding which will build on the existing work the region has undertaken in the past 18 months.

“Our region lost thousands of hectares of biodiversity in the bushfires and so many of our projects and the work we have undertaken was destroyed, so funding such as this is a crucial part of our recovery and rehabilitation works.

“The projects that all Landcare and community groups are delivering is fantastic and incredible to see,” Mr Kinkead said.

Other projects include funding to OzFish Unlimited to work in the conservation and repair of riparian areas along the Nymboida River – home to Platypus and critical habitat for threatened Eastern Freshwater Cod furthering the ongoing partnership between Landcare NSW and OzFish Unlimited.

This grants program is jointly managed by Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network, delivered in conjunction with the relevant State and Territory Landcare organisations.

The Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery project has been supported by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Program for Wildlife and their Habitat.

A list of the 111 Landcare grant projects can be found at http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/bushfire-recovery/activities-and-outcomes

(To access the list scroll down to Landcare Australia bushfire recovery grants program, and click on the arrow next to ‘Approved Projects’ title and a drop down list will appear.)

THE PLATYPUS: WHY ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST ICONIC ANIMAL IS BEING SUPPORTED BY NSW LANDCARERS

In the dappled sunlight beneath shady trees the platypus moves gently through the water. With only a few minutes of oxygen, it closes its eyes, ears and nostrils when foraging underwater and uses its bill, equipped with receptors sensitive to pressure, and with electro-receptors, to find invertebrates for food.

One of Australia’s more elusive species, and most definitely one of its most unique, the platypus occurs in freshwater systems from tropical rainforest lowlands and plateaus of far northern Queensland to cold, high altitudes of Tasmania and the Australian Alps.

With such a diverse range of ecosystems to choose from you’d be pressed to assume that this unique animal lived in abundance however this is far from the truth.

An assessment released by University of NSW scientists and conservation groups in 2020, found the areas where platypus live across eastern Australia has shrunk by 22 per cent over the past 30 years.

Add additional challenges such as the Black Summer bushfires that caused the biology of waterways to shrink in response to the mass movement of ash, preceded by years of drought, and this shy mammal is significantly impacted.

But behind every challenge are countless volunteers and scientists monitoring and supporting its survival into the future.

In the Sydney Basin, Cattai Hills Environmental Network (CHEN) Project Officer Danielle Packer says their work engaging with landholders and community groups will help to better understand platypus who live in urban areas and help to mitigate the pressure caused to waterways with urban expansion.

“Our project is quite new, but we know that there is a small population of platypus in the Hills Shire in the Cattai and Little Cattai Creek Catchments, and we’ve found that they (the platypus) were positive in more urban areas rather than in rural areas.

“There’s lot of questions there and we need to do more research as to why that is and how the platypuses are surviving in response to a lot of urban development and agricultural farming causing severe habitat degradation”.

Danielle said the project began when platypus expert, Dr Michelle Ryan, from Western Sydney University, and the Chair of CHEN Sue Martin joined forces to find out if there were platypi in the catchment.

“(We) undertook a research project using eDNA (eDNA is short for Environmental DNA) and Dr Ryan and Sue, and the volunteers undertook water sampling at 18 sites across the Cattai and Little Cattai Creek Catchments. When we got results back…9 out of the 18 sites were positive which created a great deal of excitement in the Hills Shire community,” says Danielle.

And the groundswell movement is gaining momentum, with new Landcare groups forming in support of local platypi, their health, and their habitat.

“A lot of what we are trying to do is to educate landholders and communities to get them aware that they may have platypus in their nearby waterways and what they can do to help.”

Working with school children to educate them on supporting the platypus

“We have had a lot of schools come on board and we are working with the Hills Shire Council to undertake future planning for the health of the waterways and the platypus.

“(These groups will help us) assess how the Greater Sydney platypus are adapting to these extreme natural events as they become more common. They are a big threat for platypus as they do get impacted by drought. They rely on water availability and small pools for habitat, so things like weirs and dams significantly impact them. It creates issues as if there’s a lack of water, it will increase their rate of being killed as the platypus will need to go on land more (to find new homes) where there are predators.

Danielle says platypus can serve as an indicator species of waterway health as they are usually the first to return to waterways after water quality rehabilitation and conservation efforts have been established.

“These issues are not just about the platypus. They are about a whole ecosystem that is under threat and how the platypus can ‘help’ look after all parts of the ecosystem by bringing community awareness through their unique profile”.

The Southern Highland Landcare Network (SHLN) are as equally passionate with member of the SHLN Platypus Group Clive West, calling the platypus the ‘canary in the mine’ of the waterways.

“One of the things that worries us is water quality, because platypus are kind of like the canary in the mine. With all the bushfires last year we were worried, but our local population is still standing up, but one of the things we’ve noticed further upstream is the impact agriculture has on water quality. Particularly when cattle have been allowed to go into the river. It has caused several kilometres of just mud and poor water quality so there’s no habitat for the platypus so…we’ve been working to revegetate the banks of the river with local landholders,” says Clive.

Danielle agrees, saying if agricultural activities are not done sustainably, platypus populations and water quality will continue to be severely impacted.

Erosion of Banks leads to large silt deposition affecting water quality and health of waterways

“Platypi are pretty hardy, but their food source and homes are easily affected by even small changes in water quality. So, for example, if there’s no fences along the creek, livestock are defecating in the water, their hooves are creating erosion degrading the bank so platypus can’t create their burrows in the bank. Fertilisers and pesticides are running into the creek affecting water health and therefore affecting water bug diversity (platypi’s main food source). So if agricultural landscapes aren’t looked after properly, if they’re not fenced off or there’s not much riparian vegetation then platypus won’t be able to live there.

However, both reiterate that education is the key.

“Education plays a big role. Platypi are a bit like the koala. They are an iconic species and people are inherently interested in them because they’re pretty strange creatures and if people know how vulnerable they are then you’ll get funding and support for them. It’s so important to get public support for them,” says Clive

Lidded yabby traps are a death trap for the platypus

“(Simple things that we never think of such as) lidded yappy traps are a death trap for the platypus. Once the platypus goes in they only have a couple of minutes to live, because they can’t get out to breathe. But our group advocated for them to be banned by making contact with our local MP (Greens Member Cate Faehrmann, MP) and alerted her to this because we have been trying to get them banned. Cate talked to the Minister for the Agriculture, Adam Marshall who was very supportive and within days we had a compete ban on them! That was us agitating for just one change so we need the public to be agitating for protection.

“But people can help by learning. By being involved. By spreading the word that there’s a need for protection! They are an iconic species and they need to be protected and it (absolutely) comes down to education and awareness that there is a need for increased protection and extending the habitat and protecting the waterways. The benefit goes beyond the platypus.

“Our big challenge will be climate change and more extreme weather events. We know that we have seen on average two to three platypuses each time we do a survey because we have people up and down the river we can make sure that it’s not the same platypus travelling up and down the river.

“So when we found one dead platypus from the recent serious floods, it was terrible. The sheer volume and ferocity of water is deadly for them

“I definitely think people being involved in community groups like Landcare, taking part in platypus surveys, if they live along the riverbank that is degraded making sure they revegetate it. All those things can, and do, make an impact. But I think there is a need generally for the average person to be aware of the issues facing us. Things like climate change and taking care of the environment. We need to raise awareness more generally that you need to have – an appreciation of the world – that is beyond the money side of things.

“To be honest, it’s sad that not until koalas were critically endangered did people properly sit up and say ‘oh well we better do something about this’. Platypus need that support and a similar sort of push and awareness of their threats.

Danielle agrees, saying support by all members of the community will ensure they survive and thrive across all of Australia.

“They are such a fascinating and unique creature! They are an egg laying mammal, and they can even glow in the dark! It is such a shame to just let them slide away when they are such a unique Australian icon. They are beautiful and I want to look after them.

“It is important to remember though, that these issues we are facing are not just about the platypus, it is about the ecosystems they are a part of that are under serious threat from human activities It is more important than ever that we look after our waterways so that all parts of the ecosystem are protected. The more people who are passionate about the platypus the better!” said Danielle.

Cultural immersion for Greater Sydney Landcare – Learning about the history and traditions of our First Nations peoples

Recently, the Greater Sydney Regional Landcare Coordinator used a “Working Together” small grant to fund a cultural immersion day, facilitated by Den Barber from Yarrabin Cultural Connections.

Held in the lower Hunter Valley, the day included visiting and interpreting several Aboriginal sites, a smoking ceremony and a dance performance.

It was a popular and successful event, said Greater Sydney Regional Landcare Coordinator, Madeline Florin with 29 people attending with a waiting list.

“There was plenty of discussion that was both informative and, at times, challenging. All who participated found it valuable with about half the participants taking something away that they could use with their own Landcare group.

“A moment of communal comprehension and understanding was when our group was unexpectedly denied entry to a site we had planned to visit. This was confronting and provided a moment of reflection on the fact that many Aboriginal people are not able to access their Country.

“This opportunity was great in that our Landcarers across Greater Sydney are working with varying degrees of knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture, history and land management techniques and there is a need and thirst amongst the Landcare and Bushcare communities to learn and better understand Aboriginal culture. This will promote more respectful and culturally sensitive engagement from the Landcare and Bushcare community.

Madeleine said each participant learnt a great deal and the day’s impact was personal with different reflections from different participants.

“It made everyone think more deeply about the day and we can all take something unique away from it. The co-presenters of Den and Aboriginal Landcare Coordinator from the Cooks River Alliance, Ciaron Dunn, helped give different perspectives, knowledge and views.

This day was just the beginning of a learning journey and many participants reported that they will go away and continue learning.

The “Working Together” Aboriginal Communities Engagement Program is an initiative made possible by the NSW Landcare Program. A collaboration of Local Land Services NSW and Landcare NSW Inc. supported by the NSW Government.