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  • Writer's pictureMillpost Merino

Save the Village Green

If you are wondering how Millpost has fared as we move into spring, the rainfall figures tell the tale; 130 mls for August, a total of 231mls for winter. Compared to the three previous dry winters, this one has been gloriously wet. It's not a return to “normal” because we left normal behind a long time ago. But it gives us some hope that a lot of our animal and plant species have had a chance to recover from the dire conditions of the drought.

Gumboots being sucked off your feet in the muddy yards and utes being bogged in the paddocks are problems we wanted to have! Not to mention washing draped around the heaters at night and emergency trips to get firewood before the rain comes.

A bit of snow fell; we had a max. temp of 5 degrees C one day. When the soil is saturated it's usually a great opportunity for weeding but when your hands are freezing inside your thickest gardening gloves and your nose doesn't feel like it belongs to you any more, it's time to resort to indoor jobs.

It was a tough time for parents of littlies, who are desperate to get outside no matter the temperature. Leo refused to wear his boots one chilly day and ended up with chilblains.

But now the grass is really putting on a turn of speed, while the early blossom on almonds, apricots, plums and peaches/nectarines is a delight, the wattles too. Spring winds are drying out the muddy sheep and cattle yards, and the washing as well!

Roy already has some very cute lambs in his small mob. The rest of the Millpost ewes are settled into their lambing paddocks and we eagerly await the arrival of the '20 drop.

By a cruel twist of fate, David and I have been distracted from the joys of a verdant spring by the turmoil in our local town of Bungendore. Council contractors have gone on a rampage. We've seen the destruction of some of the few remaining “wild” places in what was once a quiet country village. “Lost in the shadows of tar and cement”, as the old song goes.

The words of another old song, Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, ( pave paradise, put up a parking lot) couldn't have been more apt to describe one of the battles we are waging. Council has earmarked a lovely established garden containing a mature fruit and nut orchard and some charming buildings as the site for a concrete carpark.

Three months of meetings, of lobbying councillors and council staff, of petitions, surveys, information stalls, banners, and all the usual elements of the classic protest campaign, have bought our sturdy band of protesters some time. Our belief is that, if retained, the garden will provide an attractive green space (think somewhere to drink a takeaway coffee in these COVID times, think markets, picnics, “weddings, parties, anything”!) in the very centre of the business district, while linking the three shopping precincts of the town with shady green walkways.

After 3 years of drought culminating in the environmental - and, for Bungendore, economic - catastrophe of the bushfires, the writing is on the wall: climate policy must be at the centre of government decision-making processes. Adaptation must happen now, and what better way to start than with appreciation that trees and gardens do a much better job of mitigating heat and glare, and absorbing runoff from rain, than hard, heat-storing surfaces.

Encouraging pedestrian and cycling traffic while de-prioritising cars wherever possible is an essential strategy for reducing carbon footprint and for improving public health.

The removal of hundreds of deciduous trees that for decades formed a thicket along Turallo Creek to the north-west of the town, blitzed a biodiversity hotspot. Deciduous trees like elms and willows do not burn with the ferocity of our native fire-loving species, so it was also a natural firebreak. The rationale given by council went along the lines of “it's not a problem because they will be replaced by hundreds of native trees.” But those trees will take decades to grow to a size where they can provide the quality of shelter and habitat that was afforded by the trees they will replace, if they are fortunate enough to survive whatever climatic challenges the coming years throw at them.

Then there was the huge clump of elm trees, some at least 50 years old, that was bulldozed to make way for a new road, but not till our barricades had been removed and we protestors had been threatened with arrest.

Semantics have played a big part in these battles. What we would call beautiful mature trees are described by council staff as woody weeds and suckers. The old garden we are trying to save was called a wasteland by a councillor.

Some good news: on Sunday August 30th a group of a dozen adults and 6 kids came to Millpost for a COVID-restriction-friendly day of tree planting along our nice wet swale (pictured above), during which 300 trees and poplar cuttings were planted and mulched, and another 300 previously-planted trees got mulched. It was a sunny, warmish, blustery spring day, the trees were planted into deliciously wet soil, and “A good time was had by all and we went home tired but happy.”

Judith Turley 12/09/2020


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