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Article

CMA Funding Enables Wetland Protection

Sep 24, 2017
 
The Kealy familyThe Kealy family, from left,
Bernard, Tony, Angela and Elise


Vixen The Kealy family’s dog Vixen enjoys
playing in the wetland grasses on their
Charam project site

West Wimmera farm wetland is further protected with the help of CMA funding

The Kealy family have been sheep farming in the west of the Wimmera for almost 60 years.

Tony and Angela have been protecting wetlands on their family farm at Patyah for thirty years, and with their children Elise and Bernard, are continuing this philosophy on the farm at Charam, where a small amount of the farm is cropped, as well as having sheep.

This year they have taken on a project to fence and protect half of one of the wetlands, about 10 hectares, which they describe as fairly unproductive from a farming perspective, but naturally beautiful. They will allow existing trees to regenerate and control graze one half, while continuing to graze the other half as part of the paddock.

Daughter Elise says her family’s motivation is two-fold; by fencing and allowing trees to regenerate they will create protective areas that they can control graze while at the same time they are increasing biodiversity and providing improved conditions for birds, native plants and wildlife.

The project will enable them to track the differences between different management of the two halves of the wetland. The area is also part of a two-year Wimmera CMA research project with Deakin University measuring wetland carbon capture under different stocking methods.

The Kealy’s have seen similar projects in action on the family farm where Tony and Angela have been fencing off wetlands and creating new shelterbelts for the past 30 years. They have a particular interest in excluding stock to allow regeneration of buloke patches to provide more protected areas for red-tailed black cockatoos, as well as protecting the bush stone curlew. 

“This is for the aesthetic appeal and to develop whole new ecosystems. These areas bring more birds which eat bugs and the benefits from these improved ecosystems spread right across the whole farm. That’s how we were brought up so when we bought more land we thought we’d look a bit more closely at what we could do here,” Elise said.

Elise said the CMA funding enabled them to go ahead with the project.

“Running a farm is like needing never ending bucket of money and fencing off a wetland is a luxury item rather than an essential one,” she said. “This is some of our least productive farmland, where our DSE is that low we’re not making that much money, so it’s not a cost to our business to have it fenced off. The bonus is that it’s also helping the environment, not only now but into the future.”

Elise said she was happy the site was also part of the new research project.

“We’ve got to make a living off the farm or else were gone, but if there’s ways we can be more environmentally friendly so that future generations have planet earth to live on and enjoy, I’m very happy to be involved.”

Wimmera CMA project facilitator Bruce McInnes said the key to the success of the CMA’s wetland projects was working with landholder needs.

“It’s important that the arrangement with the CMA is flexible and includes ways to improve the farm not only for the environment but to benefit their farm business as well,” he said.

“Elise and Bernard have the added benefit of knowing how these projects can improve the overall farm with the work their parents have been doing for such a long time. Tony and Angela have excellent demonstration sites to show how native vegetation recovers once grazing pressure is removed from under trees, and they’ve created some wonderful areas for wildlife and plants to flourish in while improving their overall farm.”

This project was supported by Wimmera CMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

 
Elise Kealy Wetland The changing faces of the Kealy’s Charam wetland project site during wet and dry times.

The left photo shows autumn grasses one metre high on the wetland area on the right
hand side which was not grazed over summer. The left side is being control grazed.