This press release from 2011 about flood resilient design is topical again. A few differences can be noted. My prediction

…that blowouts in the cost of fuelling excavators and buying the massive quantities of herbicides used to kill streamside vegetation will end willow removal programs within a decade…

have yet to materialise although the indications are now stronger than ever.

Leaving aside the interactions between resource depletion, geopolitics and global finance, it does seem that the ideological fervour for large scale willow removal in our region has abated somewhat. Maybe it’s a result of several factors including;

  • the lessons from nature becoming clear to land managers
  • the mounting evidence of the benefits of willows from scientific research
  • the growing distaste with the corrupting sponsorship of Landcare by Monsanto, the producers of Roundup, now proven (in court cases) to be carcinogenic.

In the latest floods, the areas denuded of willows have again suffered substantial damage while the intact areas have weathered the storms and continue to slowly grow valley floor alluvial flats back towards their pre gold era level.

Our work in building leaky weirs on our gully has continued apace and been replicated by others on similar gold eroded gullies around Hepburn and Daylesford that receive strong urban storm water flows.

This focus on flood resilient design is simultaneously aimed to maintain hydration and stream base flows through droughts and so allowing our deciduous tree dominated stream corridors to function as landscape firebreaks just as Spring Ck did in the 2019 drought and bushfire.

These actions can be seen as obeying the Mollisonian injunction that “every (design) element should serve more than one function” and reflecting the more universal permaculture design principle “Integrate Rather Than Segregate” in everything we do.

That there is considerable overlap between permaculture responses to flood and fire resilient design reflects a deep listening to country, holistic and uncorrupted science and old fashioned common sense.

The following historical painting, and current photos of Spring Ck plus current photos and video a few kilometers downstream at Excelsior Bridge in the Jim Crow Ck (now Larni Barramal Yaluk) show the ongoing impact of willow removal discussed in the 2011 press release.

Breakneck Gorge Hepburn Springs 1864 by Eugene von Guerard. This incredibly detailed depiction shows the creek after hundreds of miners used the power of water in the early 1960s to sluice the valley floor down to bedrock.

Hepburn Community forest upstream Breakneck Gorge tunnel with mixed willow/sycamore maple forest plus emergent native eucalypts

Breakneck Gorge down stream of tunnel 15 yrs after destruction of mature willow/sycamore maple forest. Blackberry dominated slopes, regrowth willow, sycamore and blackwood restarting the riparian corridor forest. Water course below tunnel scoured of blackberries by peak flood.

Creek downstream of Excelsior Bridge, highly degraded, actively eroding, after willow removal 2006 and failed native revegetation as if the aim was to recreate the eroded landscape of von Guerard

Complex distributed depositional riparian system dominated by willow and European ash upstream of Excelsior Bridge after peak flood, no damage. The destruction of this novel ecosystem by North Central Catchment Management Authority was stopped by local heritage activist Dave Endacott.

Leaky weir downstream of Melliodora in peak flood flow