President's report

4th February 2024
By Nick Williams

When I reflect on 2023 … It's nice to be back to normal, with a full calendar of events of plantings, bird watching, litter cleanups, Streamteam water quality testing…and more.

But, in many ways, 2023 was a far from normal year. We will look back on it as being quite auspicious. In June, we received the wonderful news that Ann McGregor had been awarded an Order of Australia for service to conservation and the environment. I’d be remiss not to mention Ann’s husband, Bruce, who she has shared many of these activities with and also acknowledge the people who nominated her.

The marram baba Parklands future directions plan is due for release by the end of the year. Earlier in 2023, 2 large parcels of private land were bought by the state government, to include in the parklands.  This demonstrates the value of ideas first proposed by FOMC and MCMC in 2008.

Our Vision for the Wallan Wallan Region Park is gaining traction, after sharing it with members, working with partner organisations Wallan Environment Group, the Nature Glenelg Trust and talking to politicians who seem increasingly interested in our ideas.

We see a better future than one where the swamps of the upper Merri are filled with spoil and have houses built on them. Our vision is that we restore these wetlands and that they act as critical green space that provides flood abatement for downstream communities (like Brunswick) and recreation, biodiversity and cooling for the new communities in the north of the catchment. 

I think the Victorian community is still coming to grips with the scale of urbanisation that will occur in the upper Merri Creek. The new suburbs currently being built will house 372,000 people and generate an estimated additional 38 gigalitres of stormwater runoff. Perhaps we need to start questioning the Ponzi scheme that has been successive governments’ economic growth policy, one that is reliant on unsustainable levels of population growth to drive it, rather than increasing Melbournians' quality of life.

However, there does seem to be increasing government grant support for urban creeks and there is significant funding available at the moment which is positive. This includes:

  • a $500,000 Federal government election commitment to the Merri Creek that has started to come through. This will fund revegetation projects in key areas, as well as a refresh of the Merri Creek and environs strategy. This is needed to remind councils that the creek needs to be managed wholistically as a catchment and that there is an existing organisation, MCMC, to do so.  Councils do not need to reinvent the wheel;
  • a $10 M State government Green Links Grant program that aims to fund revegetation along urban creeks for which we are currently preparing applications; and
  • a $200 M Federal government Urban Rivers and Catchments Program.

Hopefully, we can put in successful applications that can fund a lot of works similarly to the grants programs of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that kick-started much of the revegetation along the creek.

Finally, I would like to publicly thank a few people, who are stepping down from their roles, for their service on the Friends of Merri Creek committee and to the community more generally.

  • Luisa McMillian – who has stepped down as MCMC manager after more than 20 years of wise and considered leadership. We welcome Bernadette Thomas as MCMC’s new Executive Officer.
  • Bernie MacGuire – who has led a team that has truly revolutionised our membership database and how we manage renewals and communicate with members. This has been a stupendous effort that FOMC will benefit from for years to come.
  • Anne Frost – who has always volunteered for the difficult tasks, such as the vague Merri Visioning process, Parks Victoria Volunteer requirements and our Auspicing policy.
  • Jane Miller – for the past 6 years has maintained the FoMC facebook page. Putting out multiple posts per week that inform, educate and motivate the community, helping to grow our membership and influence.

Celia Romaniuk and Evan Rennick have joined the committee and are providing website and membership support. Polly Bastow has joined us to help produce the Merri growler. 
Our thanks to all, and farewell, Anne and Bernie, and welcome to Celia, Evan and Polly.

I hope everyone had a well-deserved break over the summer holiday period, and we look forward to another great year in 2024.

Wallara Waters estate, Wallan, photograph, Nick Williams


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