The future of our catchments and the associated land, water, biodiversity, marine and coastal assets are in the hands of people that live, work, and visit the region. An active and engaged community supported by strong partnerships is critical to ensure better catchment stewardship in the West Gippsland region. 

The community theme includes both community groups and people as individuals. The region’s Traditional Owners are recognised as having a special connection and role in caring and managing Country and this is emphasised in the Traditional Owners theme of this RCS.  

The regional population is growing as people move to West Gippsland to take advantage of its proximity to Melbourne, its amenity and open spaces. An increase in visitor numbers has also been observed as the growing population of Melbourne explores its own backyard. Changes to the make-up of the community provide both opportunities and challenges for land, water, and biodiversity management.  

Numerous community groups with an interest in the natural environment operate within the region. A network of volunteers have a vital role in citizen science by regularly monitoring fauna and vegetation and collecting ongoing water quality data.  

Community groups, along with regional businesses, corporate and philanthropic organisations, and individuals, make important contributions to the region’s environment through financial investment, business practices and volunteering. 

Some groups such as BirdLife’s Friends of Hooded Plover are experiencing increased participation however the level of participation in many other volunteer activities is being impacted on by changes in demographics and commitments to work and family.

The communities of Gippsland have proven themselves to be resilient and continue to have a positive outlook despite the major environmental and economic challenges confronting the region in recent years, such as bushfires, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Landcare and community NRM groups

In West Gippsland, Landcare has a long and proud history, made up of a committed and motivated grassroots community that have delivered best practice natural resource management for more than 30 years.

Five Landcare networks support 52 Landcare groups. There are also approximately 55 community – NRM groups who do not sit within the Landcare network structure, such as friends of groups or foreshore Committees of Management.

All these groups and networks drive projects that address local and landscape-scale issues through on ground works such as revegetation, pest plant and animal management, soil health and riparian management. They also build skills and social connections in the community through training and events.

Landcare and community NRM groups have a successful history in the region. They also play an important role in enhancing the West Gippsland environment, and its ability to adapt to meet emerging challenges. Partnerships between agencies and community NRM groups are one if the best ways to achieve great on ground outcomes for the West Gippsland region1.