Thursday 31 October 2013

Hansard of the Legislative Council




[11.04 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Just a question, Mr President. What is a community without diverse volunteer groups? Not much of a community. But there are numerous volunteer groups in everyone's electorate around Tassie and I have a fairly dense concentration around where I live at the southern end of my electorate of Rosevears - that is, around the West Launceston-Trevallyn area. One of the more vigorous and effective is a group called the Friends of the Trevallyn Reserve, of which I am a member - not entirely as active as I would like to be. Members might have seen the media coverage of the hugely successful Launceston-Trevallyn Gorge challenge last weekend with Michael Klim as our ambassador.

I want to highlight the work of the Friends of the Trevallyn Reserve. It was started in 2001 by a small group including Anna Povey, who is still a member of the four-person committee after 12 years. I would like to quote from the group's website:

Greater Launceston is fortunate to possess an area of more than 440 hectares of adjoining parkland and bushland known as the Cataract Gorge and the Trevallyn Nature Reserve, respectively. This area extends along the South Esk River gorge, through the western suburbs of Trevallyn and West Launceston and through to the head of the Tamar Valley. The terrain of the nature reserve is primarily a rocky plateau, and facilitates many leisure activities such as walking, horseriding, archery, hang-gliding, mountain biking, aquatic sports such as water-skiing or swimming, rock climbing, dog walking, and orienteering.

Notwithstanding these activities, the Friends of Trevallyn Reserve - FoTR - endeavour to preserve and promote the natural values of the area primarily through weed eradication, species protection and revegetation programs.

It has about 40 volunteers and holds working bees on the second Saturday of every month of the year except January. The average attendance at each working bee is about 12. In 2009, over 260 man-hours of work was volunteered by FoTR groups in the Gorge Reserve area.

The Trevallyn Reserve and the gorge could be quite a mess without the Friends. The Friends liaise closely with the Launceston City Council and the Parks and Wildlife Service, which both help when specialised tasks need professional contractors when, for example, there is a major weed infestation of such magnitude that it requires professional spraying. Spanish heath, boneseed, gorse and blackberries seem to the worst enemies and often need professional spraying. Parks and Wildlife and council workers know their spraying programs are worthwhile because the Friends can be relied upon to do the follow-up control, which is very important.

I will come back to Anna Povey because she says that every group needs one or two key people to enable the contributions of a much larger bunch of people. She says these key people need to be encouraged and supported so they do not burn out and they must not be overwhelmed with things such as safety, fundraising and insurance. The Friends could not have come into existence if Wildcare had not sorted out their insurance; they were fantastic. The insurance burden is such that many potential groups do not get started because of it. Apart from donations of herbicide from the Launceston City Council, the West Tamar Council and Parks and Wildlife, the Friends received a grant from Landcare Tasmania to buy tools and gloves. It needs practically no funding so there is no diversion of effort to fundraising.

Anna Povey says if Parks and Wildlife and councils all had Bushcare officers or volunteer coordinators who could help set up such groups, there could be a lot more work done for very little money. She believes that her group could tackle some bigger tasks if it had a facilitator to nudge it along. The groups would only need occasional support, especially in their start-up phase and, of course, it is very hard to quantify the value of volunteer groups like FoTR but economists do not seem to want to know.

It costs very little and the 260 man/woman hours in 2009 can be quantified. Let's say we call it $20 an hour, which is well over $5 000 worth of work, but how can you quantify that social interaction, the outdoor exercise and the satisfaction and the wellbeing of being part of such a group?

At a meeting this morning with Chris Colley from Parks and Wildlife, he told me that there are more than 60 groups around Tasmania involved in those sorts of partnerships with Parks and Wildlife. I used the template of FoTR to help a group with Mick Allen at the head as the Friends of Redbill Point just near Beaconsfield. It was hugely successful. They planted 460 trees recently, only two of which have been stolen. They really have respect in their community. I will be helping another group in the near future as well. I salute the work of the Friends of the Trevallyn Reserve.