Presidents Page, May 2006
Firstly I apologise that the League only managed to produce one newsletter last year (No. 48). We are hopeful that this situation may improve later this year. We have a fairly small Committee and most of its members are still in the work-force which makes their time to help us very limited. Nevertheless we have met fairly regularly during the past year and continued to monitor Shire Council agendas, local papers, respond to letters, telephone calls, e-mails etc. and attend meetings on behalf of the League. I wish to thank most sincerely the office-bearers and members of the Committee for their support and various contributions over the year.
Birdsland 21st Birthday Celebration
On 5th November last year, the Shire of Yarra Ranges and the Birdsland Environmental Education Centre Advisory Committee hosted a Birthday Party to celebrate the milestone of 21 years since Birdsland first opened its gates to the public in 1984. The League had been among the first to advocate Council buying the property in 1980 when an application was made to the shire of Sherbrooke to activate an old small lot subdivision for housing development on the property which was currently being used for farming purposes. A number of local residents as well as environmental groups opposed the proposal and also lobbied Council to consider purchase for public open space as a solution. Fortunately some Councillors were receptive to this idea and over a period of time, negotiations took place (led by Crs. Michael Buxton and Frank Reid) with the Bird family. This resulted in a satisfactory proposition being put to Council and much discussion among councillors of the day (1981). Some councillors felt that long term maintenance would be a problem. On the other hand the land’s position adjacent to the Monbulk Creek Retarding Basin Lakes and their recreational possibilities, were seen as a decided bonus. The land’s miraculous survival as bushland and open pasture were seen by some as an opportunity to be seized then as the alternative was some sort of housing development. It had become a divisive issue by the time the vote was taken on whether or not to buy the property in October 1981. The writer had been a Sherbrooke Councillor for only a few months but had taken a particular interest in the Birdsland situation and did not hesitate to support the purchase. The vote was close but a decision was made to purchase the Bird’s Farm property for public open space and recreation.
A number of modifications and improvements had to be made, and it was in April 1984 that the gates of Birdsland Reserve were finally opened to the public, along with the adjacent Monbulk Creek Retarding Basin (then managed by the Dandenong Valley Authority, but now by Melbourne Water.) About 100 people attended the 21st Birthday including members of the Bird family, Cr. Robyn Hale (Lyster Ward Councillor) and member of the BEEC Committee, Mr. Rob Hauser, CEO of the Shire and a number of senior Shire staff. Staff of the Environment Dept. (who had worked hard for the day) were led by their manager Caroline Carvalho and members of the Birdsland Environmental Education Centre (BEEC) Advisory Committee who had also prepared and worked for the day, were among the gathering. Children from Belgrave Heights Christian School choir sang two songs from “The Ballad of Birdsland” composed by John Shortis (Commissioned in 1980 by Dandenong Ranges Music Council) and they provided a delightful interlude. Speeches by Mr. Rob Hauser, Cr. Robyn Hale, and Melbourne Water, talked about the new Wetlands, and the writer as Chairperson of BEEC gave some of the history (as outlined above) and special thanks to the Bird family for their co-operation and sharing our vision. Also present were former Sherbrooke Councillors, Michael Buxton and Frank Reid who played an important part in acquiring Birdsland and Peter Downard who as Shire President helped convince the State Government to buy the “link-up” land between Birdsland and Lysterfield Lake Park, an outcome which had been sought for a number of years. The wisdom and far-sightedness of these decisions can now be seen.
Cr. Robyn Hale
Our warmest thanks to Robyn Hale who has retired from Yarra Ranges Council after nine years and a further four years on Sherbrooke Council prior to that. She also served one year as Mayor. Robyn was a highly conscientious and diligent Councillor who loved and appreciated her Dandenongs environment. She was a great advocate for Birdsland. Thank you Robyn and good wishes for your future.
Betty Marsden, President