The Kyneton Biolinks project has laid strong foundations for an ongoing and innovative community-led ecological restoration project. The project set out to evaluate the natural values of ten properties in the north of Kyneton around a stretch of the Campaspe River between Greenhill and Black Hill. There was such eagerness for knowledge from landholders, that an additional 8 one-on-one consultations were conducted and a visitation to a cluster of properties in a more urban area of the Biolink.

Surveys showed that the region, despite being heavily impacted by agriculture, still supports vestiges of its original ecosystems – Large Old Trees from its Grassy Woodlands are holding on, spring soaks remain, fragments of the original grasslands can be found. The properties have much potential to significantly contribute to securing the region’s threatened native plant and animal species.

Ecologist, Paul Foreman walked each property with its landholder, assessing its conservation values, looking for remnant grasses, springs and soaks, habitat opportunities, assessing what was still present and how to protect and enhance these values using the best science available. Each property received an individualised property report, providing in-depth information on what was present and recommended management and conservation actions the landholder could consider taking.

A well-attended workshop planning day was held on a large working farm within the Biolink. Turnout was strong from both Biolink members and partners, including North Central Catchment Management, Bush Heritage Australia and Macedon Ranges Shire Council. This day determined the conservation ‘targets’ for the biolink and project prospectus. Those unable to attend the day had an opportunity for input via an in-depth survey monkey questionnaire that drilled down into the topics, targets and priorities and asked for further feedback from all.

The project has leveraged a further $165,000 of additional funding. Through the prestige and generosity of the Tucker Foundation grant Macedon Ranges Shire Council contributed $15,000 to expand upon the original number of property consultations first proposed. The draft plan enabled the community to be recipients of a fine imposed upon Coliban Water through an EPA prosecution of them for illegal discharges of wastewater into the Campaspe River.

The planned project promotion and art auction fundraising event was postponed due to COVID – with a new date set for early September 2021. A multi-tiered educational, engagement and fundraising event, involving the creation of a time capsule recording the environment as it is today, an art auction and project exhibition in the Kyneton Museum.

Over 150 people have been involved in the project most on a voluntary basis.

This project has obviously benefited the landholders between Greenhill and Black Hill. It is also benefiting the many people contributing different components to our multi-tiered approach, which is 150 people at the moment. For those artists, artisans, providores and local business there is the obvious gain from the press that our communications plan will generate across multiple media platforms. It is harder to give a value is the feeling of inclusion and working on a project for the good of the community together, the feeling that brings. The wider community benefit from inclusion in the conservation stages of the project and taking those learnings to other areas in the region. The amount of buy-in we have received from the local community speaks volumes about the social value being imparted.