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Sarsfield Community Association

25 August 2021

Sarsfield Community Snippets ~ Number 2

Welcome to the second edition of Sarsfield Community Snippets- a fortnightly update of some of the key happenings around Sarsfield. There is always so much going on!

In the last edition we reported on the progress of the Community and Recreation Reserve plans and the upcoming Christmas in August event. Further Covid restrictions in Regional Victoria announced from Saturday have sadly put this event on hold.

Many local residents have recently become aware of Iluka Resources Limited making application for an exploration licence in areas to the North and East of Bairnsdale including sections of Sarsfield. An information letter from an interested resident is now on the Sarsfield Website with some links to further information and updates. Please follow up if you have concerns or interest in this development.

This fortnight we talk about the draft plan for the Sarsfield Camping and Water Reserve – affectionately known since the bushfires as the ‘Wire Dump’.

We also talk about an amazing ‘feel good’ project which involves caring for our native wildlife after the fires whilst involving local children and community members at many levels- the Scouts Nesting Box Project.

Our local interest segment involves a ‘Covid safe Cuppa and chat’ with the much loved Sarsfield Bushfire Recovery Hub co-ordinator Neil Smith who finished up in his role last week.

Things can be tough at this time- cancelled events, restrictions on our daily lives , absent friends and families and the anxiety that comes with “ not knowing”! Please reach out to friends and neighbours- a phone call or a smile can make a big difference. Help is available from any one of the many support services available.

List of Available Support Services

Interim DRAFT Plan -
Sarsfield Camping and Water Reserve

Throughout the community consultation process looking at ‘The Future of Sarsfield’, many residents identified the Reserve adjacent to the Nicholson River Bridge as a potential area which needed to be appropriately rehabilitated, beautified and revegetated.

The reserve was directly impacted by the 2019/20 Bushfires . Mature trees were destroyed and after the fires the reserve was used during the clean up/ recovery as a dumping ground for debris and wire from destroyed fences.

The reserves visibility from passing traffic along the highway was in some cases a depressing view for a community in recovery.

With careful management, replanting and the addition of some environmentally sensitive amenities like picnic tables and walking tracks it could potentially provide safe access to the waterway and a quiet place to rest and relax.

As part of the Community plan this area was prioritised as an area of action. Hence the development of the Draft Sarsfield Camping and Water Reserve plan. The Traditional Owners- the Gunaikurnai People will be involved wherever possible in aspects of this plan.

The key directions of this draft plan include Buffer tree planting, Riparian Zone management along the Nicholson River, Walking trails, Vehicle Access and Parking, a Lone Pine Rest Area, River access and a Footbridge and Trail across the river.

DELWP is the manager of this reserve and the plan will guide and inform their management and redevelopment of this important area.

Appendix 1 - Draft Camping and Water Reserve Master Plan

Draft Plan Camping and Water Reserve

A full copy of draft plan is also available from any committee member of SCA.

Feedback can be provided to Rod Clough at rod@360leisure.net
or Simon on 0472 838 149.

Nests for Nature
Sarsfield and Clifton Creek Nesting Box Program

Scouts standing behind their boxes. (Image: Simon Hof)

Science Week 2021 is an opportune time to celebrate one of the many good news stories coming out of the Sarsfield recovery.

Immediately after the catastrophic fires of Summer 2019 / 2020 it became apparent that much of our native wildlife had been impacted. There were no bird whistles, surviving habitat trees were black and bare and there were no croaking frogs.

The loss of diversity of animals and birds in our Sarsfield area prompted an idea which looked at making small local change whilst empowered local children to make a difference.

A local Scouting group built nesting boxes which were installed in the local area. Local kids were educated on the value of nesting boxes, the devastating impact of bushfire on wildlife and the technical aspects of putting the boxes together.

Local residents shared their stories to the children, Pete Simpson from DELWP educated them on the impact of fires on flora and fauna and local businesses supported with donations and expertise in hanging the boxes. This project was certainly a good news story.

This project continued to grow legs. Disconnected and impacted local residents were enlisted to help out. Men’s Sheds across the community added their expertise and institutions such as Zoos Victoria, DELWP and Bird Life Australia have embraced the concept. Additional funding has been accessed with the objective of further engaging and connecting impacted youth and children with nature and environmental recovery.

Forty five boxes will provide homes for identified Sarsfield wildlife- Sugar Gliders, Crimson Rosellas, Ring Tailed Possums, Micro Bats and Wood Ducks.

Citizen Science Events have been planned, more boxes are underway and the vision is growing. The installation of cameras and sensors in boxes which broadcast a live feed on our Website is a realistic dream.

Types of boxes. (Image: Simon Hof)

Numerous organisations and businesses have supported this project including Elbow Community Building, GLCH (Connect Well), Dahlsens, East Gippsland Tree Services, DELWP, Tree Patrol, and the Bairnsdale Scout Group. A huge thanks to a number of individual residents who supported and continue to support this project.

The young people of Sarsfield have certainly made a difference. The Nesting Box project is indeed a “positive news story” which leaves a legacy of connectedness with young and old bushfire impacted community members in their own local environment. Kids are encouraged to keep an eye out for upcoming events during the September School Holidays.

Anyone interested in being involved in this great project can ring Simon on 0472838149.

A cuppa and chat with Neil Smith

Most Sarsfield residents will have had the pleasure of meeting Sarsfield Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV) Hub’s Neil Smith over the past eighteen months. Neil is always approachable, listens with empathy to the many dilemmas that our Sarsfield residents have faced and supports us in finding solutions. He has cooked sausages at the Rebuild BBQ’s with the flair of a grand chef, brokered conversations with council and other planning authorities, sought building and welfare advice from appropriate experts and he does it all with a big smile poking through his bushy beard. Sadly Neil is moving on!

I had the pleasure of catching up with him on his final work day to chat about himself- something that he humbly agreed to.

Neil grew up and has spent most of his life in rural Victoria hence his passion for rural communities.

Neil spent his early years on his family mixed farm in Axedale where they were also bee keepers. After Education at Axedale and Wycheproof Neil worked for 10 years fitting speed boats for Nankervis Brothers in Lake Eppalock. At a mature age Neil completed his Bachelor of Arts and then moved into Community employment in Youth Affairs and Rural Enterprise Victoria.

Neil continued to be involved in rural communities working on projects in small rural hospitals and organizing Statewide Rural Conferences before taking over the Caravan Park in Nowa Nowa for 11 years. Over this time Neil and his partner upgraded and created a unique, quirky and retro park.

Since his time at the hub in Sarsfield, Neil has cooked hundreds of sausages, offered a lending ear to many affected residents and initiated several amazing projects. Neil was instrumental in the Nesting Box idea, was the driving force behind the Lucas Mill project and the brains behind the beautiful Sandhill Ashes Urn – the symbol of that great community event.

Whilst Neil will take on another employment opportunity he will still devote his “spare” time to his passions of woodworking, volunteering, the Men’s shed and continuing to learn from others.

Good luck Neil and THANKYOU.

Neil looking over one of his passions- The Lucas Mill. (Image: John Kinniburgh).

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