Getting the Project Started
The first step in the process of establishing the Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach was to ensure departmental co-operation and funding. Once these aspects of the program were established, a community consultation officer (Fern Hames, DSE, Native Fish Strategy Co-ordinator for Victoria) then identified relevant stakeholders for the Reach, and invited all relevant land-owners, other key community groups and relevant government agencies to a community meeting. This meeting (Tatong, August 2007) involved a workshop to identify the values and issues held for Hollands Creek, determine whether local stakeholders were supportive of the concept and keen to participate in the project, and discuss ways in which people could become involved.
The objectives of the community workshop were as follows:
- To develop a shared understanding of the Demonstration Reach concept
- To develop a shared understanding of the current state of the Upper Hollands Creek
- To develop a shared understanding of value of the Upper Hollands Creek to the local community and to the broader catchment
- To identify key issues impacting on the health of the Upper Hollands Creek
- To identify potential opportunities for community involvement and contribution to the recommended works plan.
Participants discussed their connection with the creek and the particular aspects of the Hollands Creek they most enjoyed and valued. Community values and a number of issues potentially impacting on the health of the creek were discussed at length in reference to the Demonstration Reach and beyond (Table X).
· Swimming and recreation
· Picnics and BBQ’s
· Historical significance
· Family History and Memories
· Stock Water
· Domestic Water
· Bird and Animal Life
· Enjoy the Environment
· Ecological Significance
· Pines and pine harvesting and transport
· Paterson’s Curse
· St Johns Wort
· Stock Access – erosion and pollution
· Water Quality – Turbidity
· Gravel Trucks
· Excessive pumping of water for domestic gardens and large scale dairy
· Increased number of subdivisions.
The workshop concluded with an agreement to proceed with the Demonstration Reach project, and development of a common shared vision of a” healthy Hollands Creek, supporting healthy biodiversity”. The workshop discussed of future processes required to successfully implement the Demonstration Reach project.
Setting up the project
To begin the project, desktop and field assessments were made to provide context and identify natural assets, condition and threats within the Reach. Several reports were produced, providing an introduction to the Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach (HCDR), and documenting the significance of the creek and the general aims of the current project.
Link Raymond, S., Kearnes, J., Macdonald, A., Hames, F., and Lyon, J. (2007) Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach: Background and Recommendations. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Link Raymond, S., Lyon, J., and Hames, F. (2008). Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach: 2007/08. Summary document. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Melbourne, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Heidelberg, Victoria.
The background assessment documents also presented a Monitoring Plan together with Rehabilitation Recommendations for the Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach. The priority recommendations are provided below:
Priority Recommendations from Raymond et al (2007)
Re-establishing instream large woody debris
Recreation of pool/riffle habitats
Assessment of flow regulation
Fencing out riparian zones
Restoration of riparian vegetation
Eradication of invasive willows and other exotic riparian species
Implement the Recreational Fishing Strategy and expand fisheries enforcement
Assessment of the effectiveness of fish passage facilities on Hollands Creek
Provisions of alternative stock watering arrangements
Implementation of management strategies for native fish species (Macquarie perch )
Possible genetic monitoring of Macquarie perch in Hollands Creek
Provision of education Materials
Assessment of fish populations in the lower Hollands Creek and their contribution to sustaining native fish demo reach area
Provision of adequate signage
Stocking and monitoring of native fish species (Macquarie perch )
It was important to note that there was a range of activities being undertaken within the Hollands Creek catchment. Some directly targeting the aims of the Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach, other which contribute to the overall condition of the catchment (see Figure XX)
Figure xx – Projects being undertaken within Hollands Creek catchment.
Community Engagement (during the project)
Community meetings were held at Tatong initially on a regular basis (with good numbers in the initiation years). These meetings became more irregular and with varied attendance by the community.
The meetings, however enabled participants to indicate their willingness to be involved in the Demonstration Reach project, discuss the range of stakeholders required to form a Community Reference Committee for the project and the role of such a committee, discuss the monitoring and site assessments and results, explore emerging issues (such as flood recovery), hear from guest speakers, develop signage and other communication tools, , and plan events such as on site Field Days.
The first of several on site Field Days on 1st December 2007 attracted 43 local people and involved presentations by Waterwatch, the MDBC Native Fish Strategy Co-ordinator, a stream ‘bug ecologist’, Taungurung storytelling, children’s fish games and craft activities, an electrofishing demonstration in the creek and a shared BBQ lunch.
The Hollands Creek Demonstration Reach was also visited by Members of a range of Demonstration Reach Projects from around the Murray-Darling Basin during a field visit as part of a national Workshop held in Wangaratta in May 2012.
At a field day in 2010, community members participating in the Demonstration Reach project were interviewed for a Murray-Darling Basin Authority Native Fish Strategy oral history project called ‘Talking Fish’. The resulting stories were woven into radio programs, a booklet, and a website ( http://www.fishhabitatnetwork.com.au/pdfs/goulburn FINAL 25 Oct.pdf).
Information - Signage
Signage was developed with partner agencies and the Community Reference Committee and installed at key public access sites along the Reach. These signs were developed in collaboration with the local history society, and include information about the Demonstration Reach on one side, and historic information about the district’s association with Ned Kelly on the other side.
Information - Fact Sheets and media
Community Reference Committee members provided information on the project, including Fact Sheets, fridge magnets, and relevant publications at the monthly Tatong Village Market. Demonstration Reach Bulletins with information about project survey results were also posted in the local Tatong Tavern. The local community newsletter (the “ Tatong Tattler”) published regular notification of project meetings and updates, and the regional newspaper (the “Benalla Ensign”) also published news items.
Assessing Community Attitudes and Understanding
Social Study 2010
In March 2010, the Goulburn Broken CMA engaged Bartley Consulting to undertake a social survey of the local community and other stakeholders to explore public opinion on certain issues and activities being undertaken in relation to the Holland's Creek Demonstration Reach.
The information from the survey was then to assist in the future design and planning of works associated with the program.
Overall 78% of survey participants indicated that they make some use of Holland's Creek; 17% indicated that they do not use Holland's Creek at all.
- The main uses were swimming, relaxation, fishing and watching birdlife.
The most important features of Holland's Creek identified by survey participants were:
- Aesthetics (identified by 51% of survey participants as very important).
- Ecological significance (46% very important).
- Birds and wildlife (44% very important).
Overall, 95% of survey participants indicated that Holland's Creek was at least somewhat important and 51% indicated that it was very important to them.
Overall survey participants believe that the top priority for Holland's Creek is to eradicate blackberries and remove other weeds – 32% of survey participants mentioned this as their top priority and 46% mentioned it as one of their three priorities.
The main threats to the health of Holland's Creek identified by survey participants were:
- Lack of water and consequently lack of flowing water.
- Water quality.
- Invasion of weeds.
Social Study 2013
A further social study was undertaken in 2013 with the aim of assessing trends in community attitues. While the information collected was valuable there were some limitations in interpreting changes in community attitures and if the community had enhaced their knowledge on stream health, native fish and Demonstration Reaches.
In summary the following conclusions were made:
The Creek is important, if not central, to many people’s lives. A self-driven community of interest would have the greatest chance for sustainable success, rather than one driven by outside agencies. Agencies would still play a critical support role.
- There is almost unanimous agreement that Macquarie perch and trout can thrive simultaneously in a healthy Creek.
- People often did not regard the HCDR project and other government funded projects as different and also did not differentiate between government agencies. People usually referred to individuals who worked for agencies rather than the agencies themselves. Agency staff with local knowledge are highly regarded by community members.
- Survey results of the Creek perceived importance are generally consistent with those for “uses” and “importance” in the 2010 survey
- The issues of concern by the lovcal community differ little between 2010 and 2013
- 47% of survey respondents stated that the HCDR project was significant in promoting a whole-of-community approach to management of Hollands Creek.
- Developing a community-driven approach to management of Hollands Creek would:
- require significant investment in communicating and consulting the diverse Hollands Creek community of interest
- require the Hollands Creek community of interest to specify how it would like government agencies to support it
- The HCDR Community Reference Group, with the support of the Goulburn Broken CMA, is probably best placed to initially explore possibilities for a community-driven approach with the broader community.