Creek Destruction rears its Ugly Head in Braidwood– Peter Marshall’s letter to the Editor

South East Local Land Services officers recently began cutting down and piling up riparian willow trees from a section of Monkittee Creek, on private land, just outside of Braidwood township.

This is exactly the kind of behaviour that Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group was formed to protest. This second wave of environmental vandalism currently gripping our government agencies is no different to the deforestation incentives of the 1800’s. In the very near future it will be looked upon with intense shame and regret by anyone with an environmental conscience. I’ll provide a bit more background and context on this particular project in the near future. For now, here are three hasty photos to give some perspective of the destruction site, and a copy of Peter Marshall’s excellent letter from the Braidwood Times this week. More to follow on this.

DSCF2422

Little River Road approaching Monkittee Creek bridge. Only the upstream willows (to the left) remaining.

DSCF2439

Immediately upstream of the bridge. A riparian willow corridor, surrounding a stabilised and shaded series of pools.

DSCF2452

Immediately downstream of the bridge. The previous riparian corridor habitat now lying in piles waiting to be incinerated.

Dear Editor,

Was it Einstein who said that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result? On that measure LLS has become completely unhinged out on the Little River Road.

There one can see the stumps of big old willows. Those trees were habitat for birds, bats, frogs and fish. Now they are  poisoned, downed and stacked for burning. The Monkittee Creek banks  lie completely exposed to the next downpour. Once protective willow root plates are rotting and whole chunks of bank will fall into the stream. Timber is not being used as revetments to protect new plantings. It will be burned to contribute greenhouse gasses, all the wildlife that has taken refuge under the piles will be burnt to death.

No doubt LLS are working on a press release. It will be the standard discredited Listicle. “Five Reasons Why Willows Are Such A Demon Weed That They Must Be Destroyed At Any Environmental And Dollar Cost!!” “Willows Cause Erosion!!” “Willows Cause Floods.” The same old strident simplistic generalisations.

The evidence is plain at sites around the shire that ripping out ecostructures wholesale just results in warmed deoxygenated water, failed plantings, ivy and privet infestation and reactivated  erosion.  Not to mention a total waste of public money. Did I hear $60 thousand for this latest outrage ? How much money has been allocated for the years of management now needed to restabilise the site? The same amount of labour and skilled excavator time could have seen the shire build  hectares of world class wetland.

A mining company or individual exposing vulnerable ground to sediment wash and erosion would have attracted the council compliance officers and EPA within days. By what bylaw is LLS exempt from such attention?

A group of scientists from around the world are convening in Braidwood early May to complete a book on the peculiar Australian institution of the Willow War. The above project will provide terrific photo ops for such a  book. Braidwood will be famous, for the wrong reasons. No doubt the Willow Warriors (a term proudly used in USLC newsletter) will be delighted to be interviewed for an international readership.

Anyone who wishes to contribute may contact this writer and will be
introduced to the researchers.

Yours, Peter Marshall

18 responses to “Creek Destruction rears its Ugly Head in Braidwood– Peter Marshall’s letter to the Editor

  1. Condolences from your friends in California. Pictures of stumps of blameless trees are all too familiar to us here. Ironically, our tree stumps are the remains of your eucalyptus trees. Your devastation is the mirror image of ours, but equally senseless.

  2. Do the Local Land Services provide a public list of their planned willow eradication sites? Do they notify land owners of proposed ‘projects’ to be carried out on their properties? If so I’m all for turning up armed with placards and cameras. The silence around this issue is deafening.

    • Hi there Ms Lee!

      No, no list or notification is provided to the public, however this work can only be performed with the approval of the landholder. How the agreement with the landholder is reached is generally pretty arbitrary. In some cases the LLS might advertise for expressions of interest for funds to tackle a certain type of “problem”, but often it’s just word of mouth. The landholder is given plenty of incentive along the lines of, “you let us do ‘x’ here and you will get ‘x’ and ‘x'”. Most conventional farmers are happy to give up a 70-100 year old riparian tree corridor for a bit of free fencing and a stream crossing, often some free herbicides are included too.

      In this case, I’ve heard the trigger was that there was an actively-eroding head cut (very, very, bloody unlikely, given all of the willow trees) somewhere along this section of creek. On this basis the LLS officer involved would have designed a “project” to tick as many boxes as possible. Engineering something that is meant to deal with a supposed head cut would be one box; they’ve put in a rock-lined vehicle crossing, which would tick another box; they will probably fence either side of the creek (another box); and incidentally removing some “invasive species” would tick another box and keep head office happy.

      Destruction of ‘x’ number of kilometres of willow trees is the kind of statistic that gets trotted out by ministers when talking up their dwindling support for environmental programs. Projects like this (unlike our non-destructive volunteer efforts down on the Braidwood Common) keep big taxpayer dollars flowing and local LLS officers looking busy and in work. To be fair to the local individual involved, they take their orders from the Goulburn office and sh*t always flows downstream.

      So, on the very shaky basis that there was a small amount of erosion somewhere along this section of creek, every tree on this person’s property has been destroyed courtesy of the taxpayer and our government. The landowner mightn’t care about the trees at all (and, some would argue, that’s their prerogative) but the days when governments were supposed to be subsidising deforestation of Australian riparian zones is long gone. These funds are intended to support environmental land repair!! There’s no legal requirement for any landholder to remove willows like this. According to Palerang Council Salix fragilis (crack willow) are ‘class 4’ weeds, which means you can’t propagate or sell them, but that’s it, there is no obligation for anyone to ever remove them.

      The best thing is to make some noise. People can write to the local SELLS office in Braidwood and ask that their correspondence is forwarded to the responsible managers: South East Local Land Services PO Box 9 Braidwood NSW 2622

  3. A strange way to go about stabilising an actively eroding gully head .
    The trees were poisoned some time before cutting down .
    Aside of the legality of using herbicides in a stream line this tactic is the perfect way to ensure massive stream bank erosion .
    It takes five years or so for the poisoned root plate to rot and lose mechanical bonding with soil . Then we will see giant chunks of bank fall into the water during high stream flows .
    Too true ,this vandalism warrants plenty of noise . Extra letters all the way up above the LLS managers in Braidwood or their supervisors ( in Goulburn ? ) .
    Can FCNNLC please provide addresses of the relevant politicians , State and Federal , EPA , Water Resources etc
    Does LLS sit under the same command as the people who are threatening Mrs Davy of Bungendore ? Am intrigued to know how a gov. body can justify sanctioning her for stopping erosion while they spend public money to promote erosion at Monkittee Creek .

    Thanks
    PM

  4. Dear All ,

    Just got a copy of todays Braidwood Times . Recommended reading .

    Annie Duke took the time to write a lucid open letter about the shocking Monkittee Creek Erosion escalation Project .

    An officer of the LLS replied with complete contempt for the environment , science and the public . He seems to think we are stupid enough to accept baseless assertions pretending to be fact .

    EG
    -Willows cause erosion .
    -Willows cause incision in cow paddocks ( thanks Ben )
    -Willows cause ponding ,which is bad
    -Removing willows causes a chain of ponds , which is good
    -fallen willow branches ( bad ) cannot be removed by picking them up ( forming a circle and singing around a bonfire? ) but must be removed by spending $60 ,000 .
    -Removing willows causes the control of Chilean Needle Grass.
    -Driving tracked vehicles , trucks and utes around the site for a week does not then spread Chilean Needle Grass seed all over the shire.
    -Removing adult trees helps stop severe head cuts ( including ones which aren’t there )
    -The LLS does not have a brief to remove willows but it did it anyway .
    -2,000 native plants which have not yet been planted can stop the massive erosion which will happen in next weeks rain storms .
    -3,000 native plants which have not been planted in another property will intercept the sediment ( good ) mobilised by next weeks rain on the site where willows were holding sediment in place ( bad ) .

    In fairness he got a few things right . He said it is shady under trees and spelled his own name correctly .

    An utter disgrace , and not over yet.

    Regards

    PM

  5. Missed a few .

    -If your flood gate isn’t dealing with floods you don’t have to fix it .
    Just ask the government to give you money to cut down some trees .

    Which leads us to ‘Targeted Tree Planting to Combat Flooding ‘
    Uni of Southampton 11th March 2016

    PM

  6. Pingback: Braidwood Willow Destruction: an open letter to South East Local Land Services | Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare

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  8. Thanks Peter for cheering me up with a bit of humour – “In fairness he got a few things right . He said it is shady under trees and spelled his own name correctly .” Definitely no Einstein. My disgust with the human race has abated a little 🙂

  9. Dear Monica ,
    Thanks , but It is getting harder not to cry at institutional stupidity .
    I like the human race , it’s the careerist egotist greenwashers who are a problem around here . They get themselves in a position of power in a command chain then warp thinking so the organisation can justify repeated , and destructive failures .
    Very likely a lot of people in the LLS know that the Monkittee Charlie Foxtrot is stupid and unproductive . Just following orders …

    Recently a neighbour needed to desilt a dam filled by soil washed down an erosion gully . He fixed the gully then scooped silt out of the dam . Rather than just piling the silt he made some fox proof islands , sculpted the dam for a pleasing curvey shape and planted water lilies .

    I count a dozen dams which have been desilted nearby , but only this one was reported to the council and DPI as ‘ causing erosion with no erosion mitigation structures , Followed the whole miserable business of rude and threatening letters from the authorities , arranging meetings with inspectors , wasting time , getting anxious etc .

    Of course the allegations were found to be baseless but the emotional damage was done . It really takes the fun out of it .

    Yet a gov authority can spend our money to make real and long term erosion problems , with no accountability ? Such irony is beyond jokes .

    I see that the luminaries of the Landcare movement neither praised my neighbour for creating magnificent habitat at his own expense , nor have raised objections to the MCF .
    Is that due to moral compromise ( they have been promoting the willow war mindset for years ) or cowardice ( their buddies might stop some grants ) . Or is their organisation also controlled by a few egotist greenwashers ?

    Regards

    PM

  10. Braidwood in general punches above it’s weight in the ‘grant industry’ stakes. The behavior in question is just another example of the funding tail wagging the outcome dog.
    Landcare in general is to close to LLS, and Upper Shoalhaven Landcare in particular is compromised by it’s structure. It aspires to be a representative umbrella organization while functioning as an individual landcare group in it’s own right. In just whose interest it is acting is often unclear to me. It doesn’t have the structure to resist stacked outcomes.

    • As always Rob, you stack those ideas in pretty tightly. I strongly agree that the funding tail too often ‘wags the outcome dog’ as you say. It’s a problem for environmentalism all over the state and beyond. As we’ve seen locally, it can lead to some very poor environmental outcomes from tax dollars marked for environmental benefit. The availability of funding, and the ability of local land management officers to monopolise that funding, often seems to define what is and what isn’t an environmental activity. It might be that the difficulty some ‘alternative’ land management approaches (Permaculture, Natural Sequence Farming, Organics, etc…) have in attracting grant funding is a factor of the inability of existing land management bureaucracies to monopolise those techniques and technologies and provide them in a saleable package. The LLS would be far keener on NSF (for example) if they had a competitive advantage in delivering it.

      Regards, the relationship between the Landcare Council and LLS, I think things are definitely on an improved footing following the appointment of Simone Horne as the new Landcare support officer and a few changes on the executive. Of course such committees have inevitable flaws. Watch this space I guess?

      A couple of important points: 1) although the support officer position is funded via the LLS, all monies come earmarked from the Federal Government level (LLS being state level). 2) Perhaps more interesting, the LLS is currently ending its ‘hosting’ arrangement for the support officer position (it has been providing an office with desk and computer in the LLS office). This means the USLC and its support officer are now looking for rental space away from the current LLS office. What will this mean? Certainly a slightly less cosy relationship between the two. Maybe more opportunity for USLC self-development and community self-education?

  11. Alternative land management approaches as you describe them Ben, Permaculture, Natural Sequence Farming, with the exception of ‘Organics’ are propriety products as I understand them. These products are valued by many in and further afield than Australia. The problem is, taken as a brand they tend to overshadow/edge out recognition of individual initiative; who often draw from across a broad church of ecologically sound thinking including conventional farming wisdom. A good example of ignoring a local individual, with the runs on the board, who promotes nothing more than sound scientific knowledge,commonsense and evidenced outcomes from self funded experimentation, is our own PM. See above… correct me PM if I misrepresent you.
    It would be hard to brand his wisdom as a ‘franchised farming system’ and market it outside Braidwood; but it could be a big drawcard to this town done respectfully.
    The moral to the story! promote the flow of funding to individual effort not farming systems.

    • I can only agree Rob. Not that everyone using the various ‘branded’ systems are ineffective (and there is a great deal to be said for learning what you can from each), but, in the end, it’s only the individuals implementing and maintaining the on-farm system that can ensure whether it’s a success or failure, no matter what flavour they are applying. No doubt PM’s laudable skills and capacities are a result of careful observation, a logical mind, and an extremely well-developed aversion to dogma.

  12. Pingback: Local Land Services Creek Destruction debate continues in Braidwood | Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare

  13. Saying something nice about me ? Be careful , the last warrant officer who did that was court martialed .
    Definitely struggling with dogma today .
    My sweet little permaculture friends ( you know who Miss ) got me riled about the permie obsession with littering the landscape with inexplicable and ridiculously expensive swales .
    I reckon its overthinking urban raised enthusiasts ( not a negative thing ) who haven’t had the chance to train with real world tools and techniques , don’t understand capabilities and are obliged to accept the word of charismatic one trick pony artistes .
    Wore out two sets of tungsten tile Yeomans points last month . Feels good .

    liberationecology.org
    permaculture-dogma-problems .

    Regards
    PM

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