Protecting the valley’s biodiversity

The brush-tailed phascogal has a large population in the area surrounding Leanganook.

Work is under way on a biodiversity audit that aims to find out more about the creatures and plants that call the Harcourt Valley home. 

The second stage of the audit follows ongoing advocacy by members of the Harcourt Valley Landcare group, who have been calling for an on-ground audit to be completed before Mount Alexander Shire Council proceeds with the strategic planning project – ‘Plan Harcourt’. 

Harcourt Valley Landcare president, Terry Willis, said the group was relieved to know their voices had been heard and that the council was pushing on with the second stage of this audit. 

“We can’t protect the plants and animals that share our beautiful valley with us if we don’t know what they are – and neither can the council,” Terry said. 

“We believe that deep environmental understanding about the landscape should be a fundamental and an early part of any town planning process and we’re pleased that we’ve contributed, not only to a better understanding of our local biodiversity, but to the way that councils will approach planning in the future.” 

‘Plan Harcourt’ is the document that will guide the development of Harcourt, which has been earmarked for substantial growth. Features of the planning process include rezoning land that has historically been zoned farming, to allow for development, and consideration of environmental protections. 

Harcourt Valley Landcare is advocating for the protection of waterways such as Barkers Creek and its tributary Picnic Gully Creek, together with wildlife corridors such as Elys Lane, Douglas Lane, Leafy Lane, Shady Lane, Eagles Rd and Craigie Street. 

“The river red gums, long-leaved box and grey box trees along these lane ways are just beautiful,” Terry said. 

“They’re so important for our native animals, but research tells us that they’re also incredibly important for our own health.” Trees reduce temperatures and mitigate climate change. Studies have also shown that crime rates are lower in areas near trees. 

According to research by Latrobe PhD graduate, Dr Jess Lawton, the trees along these lanes provide hollows for creatures like the brush-tailed phascogale, a small mammal whose range has shrunk significantly across the state but whose population is in good health in the area surrounding Leanganook. 

Environmental consultants have begun visiting key sites, assessing whether the proposed growth area includes habitat for threatened species including the brush-tailed phascogale, the brown toadlet and the golden sun moth. 

The audit is due for completion in June 2024, after which Harcourt Valley Landcare hopes the Strategic Planning team at the council will apply the new knowledge to ensure the best possible protections in the next version of ‘Plan Harcourt’. 

Harcourt Valley Landcare member Bron Willis, who led the group’s advocacy with the council, said people could sometimes feel powerless in the face of all the bad news that kept coming about environment and climate. 

“But the antidote to that is getting vocal in our own backyard to protect what we have,” Bron said. 

“The Harcourt community has a really great opportunity to let the council know they are passionate about the natural values of our valley. 

“We’re grateful for the relationship we’ve been able to form with the council. But it’s what we should expect – they need to know the community is paying attention.” 

Let council know you want to see Harcourt’s natural corridors protected by signing Harcourt Valley Landcare’s petition: change. org/SafeguardHarcourtsWildlifeCorridors or via