Nick Williams, FOMC President, reflects on 2022

19th January 2023
By Nick Williams


When reflecting on the Committee’s many achievements this year it occurred to me that the benefits of investments in new systems, changes to processes and engagement with government agencies and politicians are beginning to bear fruit and provide tangible benefits to both FoMC and the creek itself.


New Membership System

Member Jungle was introduced in 2021 as our new database and website management system. It has proved to be very efficient, saved heaps of time and allowed easy membership renewals. Most people are now renewing online. Member Jungle also enables us to have rapid communication with our membership which we have used a few times this year to good effect. Many thanks to Bernie, Jane and Monica for continuing to implement the system and explore its functionality. Please don’t blame them if you consider any of the emails spam, as it is normally a committee decision to authorise their sending.

This year the Merri Growler newsletter is in an email format that utilises links to stories on our website and other places. This will be new to some readers but will help streamline our communications with members and supporters, allowing greater impact across both the newsletter and social media platforms. And incidentally saving us $1500 in printing and postage charges. This change means that Ray Radford and Dean Lombard will no longer be doing the editing and layout of the newsletter, which is something they have been doing for well over a decade. I’d like to acknowledge the huge amount of work they have done on the newsletter over the years and thank them on behalf of members and the committee.

Strategic Planning and the Merri Merri Parklands

The committee, in particular Ann McGregor, have been heavily involved in the planning processes for the upper Merri. As you know, it is threatened by urbanisation with plans for massive new suburbs, something those of you who went on the bus trip recently saw first-hand.  The view from Green Hill over Herne Swamp was spectacular but also a bit scary when you realise the extent of housing planned and the fact that some of them look like they could be flooded. 

However, there is progress. DEECA (ex DEWLP) have released a draft plan for the Wallan Regional Park which we are happy with – if their boundaries are not whittled down by vested interests and other areas of government. It also looks like at least the southern portion of Burrung Buluk (formerly known as Hanna Swamp) will be protected.

Engagement with Politicians

It feels like Anne, Peter and I have met with lots of politicians this year at different events. A big shout out to Claire Weekly who invited many of the candidates to working bees at Merri Park which was a really useful opportunity for us to engage with them and is a really good model as every politician likes to be seen planting trees. This has been a good chance to communicate our priorities to them. I get the impression that they value the work of the Friends, and the sensible evidence-based approach we bring. We also put a lot of effort prior to the State election into developing the prospectus and scorecard, contacting candidates and parties for their positions, and meeting and discussing it with them as needed.

FoMC was pleased by the pledge made by local Federal MPs Ged Kearney and Peter Khalil, that a future Labor Government would provide $500,000 for the Merri Creek Management Committee.We also welcome the commitments made by various parties in the run-up to the state election.

However, we still have work to do to realise opportunities in the lower catchment and capitalise on the public’s increased appreciation of Merri Creek gained during COVID. These include:

Despite numerous approaches from us Darebin Council is yet to engage with our vision that Northcote Golf Course become a biodiversity haven – noting that we are officially agnostic as to the continuation of golf on the site. We’ve had a lot more engagement from groups on both sides of the debate and have met with them whenever requested

The increasing tendency of local government councillors and council officers is to forget that the Meri Creek is a catchment. This has led to them implementing policies for their side of the creek which really do not make a lot of sense. Hopefully we can remind them that MCMC has a role in coordinating actions across the catchment and has a huge amount of organisational corporate knowledge and expertise to support that role. A refresh of the Merri Creek Environs strategy will hopefully help alleviate this situation.

Continuing to educate state government departments and agencies that urban biodiversity, including native grasslands, seasonal herbaceous wetlands (Burung Buluk), grassy woodlands, swamp wallabies, platypus and Krefft’s gliders, is important. That community is concerned about them and that departments and agencies should be supporting the communities' efforts to protect and restore them.  

In summary, I think the Friends can be very proud of our collective efforts in 2022, and we look forward to a busy year in 2023, hopefully implementing some of the election promises we’ve been able to influence.

Image: FoMC

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