Landcare lifeline secured

SWCC has received a funding boost from the Australian Government to continue its work protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

Following a one-year commercial tender process, SWCC has been selected to deliver the Regional Land Partnerships (RLP) program in the region under the broader National Landcare Program.

This successful outcome will enable SWCC to continue working in partnership with the community and Noongar custodians to restore agricultural land, waterways, flora and fauna from Binningup in the north, to Walpole in the south and Dumbleyung in the east.

The RLP program marks a significant change from the former grant-based environmental funding model to a competitive, commercial contract arrangement delivering on a fee-for-service basis.

SWCC has been contracted to deliver the following environmental services in the South West Management Unit:

• Creating safe havens for the Western Ringtail Possum and other priority, nationally-listed threatened species in the South West. A five-year project, SWCC will work with delivery partners to stop the tide of extinction and create safe havens for the iconic Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) found only in the south west of Western Australia. The project will also benefit four other species listed in the Threatened Species Strategy including the Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), the Chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii), the Woylie (Bettongia penicillate ogilbyi) and the Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellate).

• Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator (RALF) position. This is a five-year contract in which a RALF will increase awareness and adoption of land management practices that improve and protect the condition of soil, biodiversity and vegetation. The RALF will also work with farmers to increase the capacity of agricultural systems to adapt to climate change.

• South West wetlands of international importance. A one-year contract, SWCC and its delivery partners will focus on restoring the condition of, and reducing threats to, the internationally-significant Vasse Wonnerup Wetlands, Lake Toolibin and Lake Muir.

• Managing vegetation on farm targeting pollinators and farm resilience. A one-year contract, SWCC and its delivery partners will work with farmers to increase their awareness of the benefits of revegetating degraded land through demonstration sites and provide support for revegetation work across the region.

• Smart Farm Grant project. Nutrient availability in soils is recognised as a key constraint to profitable farming. Farmers typically do not test enough variables, e.g. micronutrients, subsoil pH, compaction or soil biology so this project will provide them with a cost/benefit analysis of testing all key variables under a range of conditions and soil types, to ultimately optimise productivity. In addition, the project will also examine the level of nitrogen fixation by legumes and how it can be improved.

SWCC chief executive officer Steve Ewings said he was confident the community would adapt to the new commercial operating conditions and continue to maximise opportunities to enact powerful conservation and sustainable agricultural actions across the region.

As a result of the new RLP priorities, Mr Ewings said the organisation had consolidated its team of 13 staff into its Bunbury office and closed its Dunsborough, Bridgetown and Narrogin offices.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the Australian Government to deliver services that achieve long-term benefits for agriculture, the natural environment and our communities in the South West,” he said.

“We will work hard to adapt and deliver quality services, while being open to emerging business opportunities.”

Mr Ewings also thanked the South West Landcare community for its ongoing support and input throughout the commercial tender process.

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