A conservation class act in Victoria

Since 2009, Landcare Australia and Kowree Farm Tree Group (KFTG) have been working together to manage a world-first conservation project in Victoria, with impressive results.

The Conservation Reserve is an innovative conservation program begun by Bank Australia on a collection of rural properties in the Wimmera region of western Victoria.  What makes this project stand out from other conservation projects is that the properties are owned by Bank Australia’s customers and were purchased specifically for protecting and improving biodiversity, and capturing carbon in native vegetation.

An important element of Bank Australia’s business strategy, the Conservation Reserve offsets biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions related to the financing of home and car loans.  In real terms, when a customer purchases a block of land to build a new home, an equivalent area of land is allocated for protection or revegetation in the Reserve.

The impressive results of the world-first conservation project in Victoria are there for all to see.

For seven years, Landcare Australia has managed the planning, implementation and delivery of works at the Conservation Reserve in partnership with KFTG.  Working on an area equivalent to the size of 464 football fields, the successes of the project are as immense as its scale and have been achieved through a strong emphasis on community engagement and establishing strong partnerships between Bank Australia, KFTG, local business and community groups.

The numbers speak for themselves.  Forty-three kilograms of seed was sown and 70,000 indigenous seedlings planted while 680 volunteers contributed over 2,000 hours of on-ground activities.  Five hundred and sixty-two hectares of remnant vegetation that provides habitat for threatened species has been protected under covenant. Alongside this, future carbon offsets of greater than 87,000 tonnes of carbon are predicted, within a 100-year time frame.

As a result of the habitat protection and restoration works undertaken over 927ha throughout the last seven years of the project, a number of native species are likely to benefit.  These include Victoria’s most iconic, yet endangered bird, the south-eastern red-tailed black cockatoo, the critically endangered golden sun moth, the growling grass-frog and the striped legless lizard, both of which are listed as vulnerable.

While the environmental outcomes of the project are certainly impressive, the social outcomes are also something to be proud of.  The Conservation Reserve has played host to an average of 100 visitors a year, through field trips, planting days and bus tours.  The local community is involved through educational activities for local schools and planting days are used as fundraising activities for local groups.

The Conservation Reserve isn’t just an outstanding example of a business understanding the importance of conservation, but is an important community education resource, and by including and educating the local community along the way, there is a significant level of local and regional support for the initiative.

With such impressive environmental outcomes, positive community benefits, and a legacy to last in perpetuity, the Conservation Reserve is a shining example of what can be achieved through innovation, collaboration and realising the importance of making a lasting difference.

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