By Colette Day, Board Member and Chair of Science & Education Committee
We have three new advocacy statements on our website addressing issues of significance.
We believe that there is a need to develop a Strategic Framework for Western Port by the State Government (DEECA). This is a top priority if we are to assure the future of biodiversity and the Reserve ecosystems that support it. With a clear strategy in place, stakeholders will be able to more confidently develop and implement policies and strategies consistent with community expectations for action on climate and environmental protection, while allowing on-going and sustainable development of community infrastructure and amenities. The Biosphere Foundation is keen to be an active participant in the development of any future framework.
There is a proposal to develop a Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal at Hastings. The development of renewable energy is generally supported by the Biosphere Foundation, so too the development of Port of Hastings to facilitate this. We are concerned, however, of the potential impacts on Western Port’s ecosystems by commercial activities such increased shipping traffic. We expect that a robust environmental regulatory process will address these matters as a priority to ensure protection of the environment.
We strongly support the conservation of the remnant woodlands and facilitation of a bio-link through the area known as the Western Port Woodlands. The Western Port Woodlands support flora and fauna of national significance in proximity to internationally significant Western Port. We advocate for robust enforcing of regulations of, environmental responsibilities and fulsome and transparent community engagement by sand quarry leases holders in the area.
As issues arise which effect our Biosphere Reserve, we take Advocacy positions that will be evidence-based, guided by scientific research and expertise from internal and external parties. We seek to protect the conservation areas legally recognised and protected by international and government agreement and law. We will also seek to educate about the practices and benefits of sustainable interaction with the natural environment and commerce within the Biosphere Reserve.
We are currently collecting information on the proposal for the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain development at Hastings and recommend that you check our website for updates. (Link https://www.biosphere.org.au/advocacy/)
Stephen Brend- Project Officer
Recently, we heard an intriguing report of a bandicoot at Woolley Beach. Our first thought was that the animal would be an Agile Antechinus, but it is possible that it was a Long-nosed bandicoot or even maybe, just maybe, a Southern brown bandicoot. After all, the relatively wet summer and mild autumn have produced very favourable conditions for them. If they were to be found, it is likely to be now. It appears that SBB numbers are up in East Gippsland and further to the west.
This makes it an interesting time to be planning to assist their recovery locally, through translocations. Clearly, even though considered small, some populations have recovered naturally. That is good news. However, it does mean that where populations have not recovered, it suggests that too few animals remained for them to bounce back. Perhaps they have vanished entirely. Sadly, this appears to be the case across most of the Biosphere Reserve, the report from Woolley’s Beach notwithstanding.
Our project examining the feasibility of translocating bandicoots is progressing well. Phase 1 concluded that translocation is an appropriate, indeed, recommended conservation tool. Phase 2 considered potential source populations. Here, the biggest issue was genetic diversity; small populations lack genetic diversity which makes them unsuitable for use as ‘founders’ in a new population. To overcome this, captive breeding programs will be initiated with a focus on genetic health. The added advantage of having captive bred individuals available for translocation, is that they can be moved when conditions at the release site are optimal. In a wild-to wild movement, conditions at both sites must be favourable, which makes the whole operation more complex and less certain. Phase 3 is considering potential release sites. This study is still on-going but, hopefully without speaking too soon, Millowl (Phillip Island) is getting a lot of attention….
By Lucy Kyriacou, Project Manager
Term 2 has been a busy time for the Biodiversity in Schools program with the finale of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Climate Action project. The Shire Council provided funding for the 2022/23 financial year to organisations looking to inspire change and actions to reduce impact on the climate. The grant enabled us at the Biosphere Foundation to work across schools to raise awareness about the importance of water conservation from source to sea through Water Stewardship and the power of blue carbon ecosystems to help sequester carbon and sustain local coastal ecology.
Over the course of the project we worked with Tootgarook Primary School, St Mary’s Primary School, Western Port Secondary College, Somers Camp (which included representatives from schools all over Victoria), and Somers Primary. We delivered workshops about migratory shorebirds, including a visit from the incredible Milly Formby on her Wing Threads journey around Australia, ‘art as activism’ workshops with the talented local artist, Kate Gorringe-Smith, Water Stewardship planning at Somers Camp, with Aquatic Ecologist Lance Lloyd, and blue carbon excursions for St Mary’s Primary and Western Port Secondary, including support from the inspirational local ecologist and artist, Gidja Walker and Ranger Arne from the Crib Point Foreshore Committee. A huge thank you to you all for providing the depth and knowledge to deliver such a creative and powerful project.
Term 2 2023 included two workshops at Somers Camp to build on the cumulative work of the visiting schools to create a Water Stewardship plan for the Camp. Students engaged in workshops about migratory shorebirds, the importance of coastal wetlands to support these vulnerable species, and how our actions affect the hydrological catchments that flow into the estuaries and coastal wetland areas. They thought about ways they use water throughout the day and in their lives and how they can do this more mindfully. The Somers Camp campus was explored and ways to improve water conservation considered. Students also learnt how to determine water quality through bug dipping at Coolart Wetlands.
St Mary’s Primary and Western Port Secondary College both investigated blue carbon ecosystems in situ through excursions to Woolley’s Beach Reserve, Crib Point. Guided walks through the bush from The Esplanade to the beach introduced them to the ecological vegetation classifications, including grassy woodland and coastal tea-tree, that make up the natural habitat. All students loved learning about the local carnivorous groundcover, Drosera spp. Upon reaching the beach the students were introduced to mangroves, seagrasses, and saltmarsh and the interconnectivity between these species. Arne and Gidja facilitated activities such as shellfish reef construction, mangrove planting, and invasive weed removal. Students also participated in a global data collection study to ascertain the carbon sequestration and storage capacity of blue carbon ecosystems, known as the ‘teabag study’.
In conclusion, this project has been a huge success and a pleasure to deliver. We hope it has set a good platform to build on for future Climate Action funding into the future. Thank you to Mornington Peninsula Shire Council for making it possible.
By Jo McCoy
I hope some of you have managed to escape to warmer climes in recent times. It’s cool, bleak and dreary as I write. This is my fourth wintertime Chair’s Report – and I know the weather was not a topic of conversation in any the previous issues. By way of a silver lining, I’d like to highlight that it’s in wintertime that our favourite long distance traveller Red, the red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis) finds himself in the Russian Tundra looking for a mate.
For those of you who haven’t yet caught up with our wandering Romeo’s adventures, please have a look at our socials such as Western Port Biosphere | Facebook to see more. He’s becoming quite the star, featuring in all sorts of media of late. Well done to Red’s ‘carer’ Stephen Brend who keeps us all up to date with his progress.
Speaking of our socials, I know many of you have noticed our increased presence across many platforms of late and I also wanted to congratulate Jess Brady who has taken to this space with much enthusiasm and generated some fantastic content. It’s great to see the increased engagement with people across the Reserve on lots of different issues including Plastic Free July, Naidoc Week, and our Koala Awareness Program to name a few.
Strategic Plan 2023-28
I wanted to say thank you to all those members, partners and others who have participated in or contributed to our strategic planning activities over the last few months. The main features of the Plan including the vision, purpose and mission statements along with strategic objectives and principles have been workshopped with the staff and tested through consultation with key stakeholders including our member councils.
The working group has been sifting through all the ideas received before finalising the plan for the next five years. It’s been great to hear that we are on the right track and that our ambitious plans and innovative projects have the support of our stakeholders.
As was highlighted in our various engagement sessions, we have been giving lots of thought to what success looks like – for the Biosphere Reserve and for the Foundation – and to how we measure it. Clearly, while the board and staff are solely responsible for how well the Foundation operates, when it comes to the Reserve, we are just one of many organisations, community groups and individuals who contribute to achieving our desired outcomes. That alone, emphasises the need for us to continue to work with a range of partners to achieve our common goals. The Plan is due to be launched in coming weeks and will have a new look and feel as a result of the branding work which has also been underway for some months.
Reconciliation Action Plan
Another exciting piece of work has been gathering momentum in the background. A small group of staff and directors has commenced work on our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) as part of a four-stage process.
As part of this process, we will be aiming to strengthen our existing relationships with both the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC) and Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association and to forge relationships with other indigenous groups within the Biosphere.
Please feel free to write to me at [email protected] if you have any comments or suggestions for issues or updates that you would like to see included on the website and/or addressed in future editions of Connector.
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Photography credits: J Harrison (eastern curlew).
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