Creek restoration continues
During the Goldrush, Birch’s Creek was one of many thriving waterways in the area. Historical records talk about Murray cod regularly being caught, and platypuses in abundance.
Blackfish and Macquarie perch were also prolific, and the creek was a popular walking and picnic spot.
However, mining, farming, river regulation and introduced weeds such as willows have impacted heavily on the health of Birch’s Creek, including around the township of Smeaton.
For almost 20 years, local residents, community groups, landholders and Landcare networks have been working hard to improve the health of their local waterway.
“The locals really do love their creek and have put in a lot of time and effort to repair the damage of the past,” North Central Catchment Management Authority Project Manager Greg Barber said.
“There are great results downstream of Smeaton with farmers and community groups working to remove willows on both sides of the creek in many areas. Recently we have started working with farmers upstream of Smeaton to achieve the same great results there too”.
“Willows were introduced in the 1900s and have had a negative impact on waterways across the country. They divert flows, exacerbate erosion and flooding, they drink a lot of water compared to native trees, and they reduce the natural aquatic and riverside habitat values of animals like blackfish and platypuses.
“In areas like Smeaton, they have become so thick that they also restrict the community’s access to the creek and stop things like walking tracks and picnic areas being built.”
That is certainly the case upstream of Smeaton, with wall-to-wall willows and other woody weeds gaining community attention.
“We have spoken with the Friends of Smeaton group, local Landcare networks, the Smeaton CFA and other community members and there is strong community support to begin repairing small sections of the creek upstream of the town,” Mr Barber said.
“Work is planned to start soon on removing a small 220-metre section of willows on crown land near the historic Anderson’s Mill.
“This will be the first step in a community plan to reinvigorate the mill area and turn it into an exciting asset for the whole town.
“The community wants to build walking tracks along the creek and return native vegetation to what will be a very picturesque spot. Removing willows will also benefit the blackfish and the platypus in the river, and help increase native fish populations in Birch’s Creek.
“We don’t expect to see Murray cod back in the local waterways anytime soon, but you never know.
“We are working closely with some locals who have some concerns about removing the willows, and we will continue to stay in touch with them throughout the process.”
The revegetation of the area is something the wider Smeaton community is keen to see happen as soon as possible.
“Mulch and timber from the removed willows will be provided to Smeaton locals and opportunities for community tree planting days have already been discussed,” Mr Barber said.
“Revegetation with native trees and shrubs will begin in spring, with follow up planting in 2018 if required.”
The improvement works are part of the State Government’s Regional Riparian Action Plan which is a key feature of its $222 million investment over the next four years to improve the health of waterways and catchments.