Environmental education benefits community


Lorne and Aireys Inlet P-12 College students have partnered with the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) to regenerate the Erskine Paddock area in Lorne as part of the Coast Guardians Program – a free educational program, which aims to increase environmental awareness in local schools. Read more

New online nature search launched


The Surf Coast Nature Search (SCNS), an interactive, online search tool for identifying weeds and indigenous plants in our region, has been launched.

The Surf Coast Nature Search homepage.
Surf Coast Nature Search homepage

The online resource, which has been developed by local volunteer group Jan Juc Coast Action (JJCA),   is a detailed database of hundreds of indigenous plants and environmental weeds on the coast between Point Impossible and Bells Beach.

Users are able to search based on a range of criteria including plant type, flower colour, size, leaf shape and more.

JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes said the website is a great local asset for locals that will help support an increase in environmental awareness.

Jan Juc Coast Action Chairperson Luke Hynes uses the new database to search for the coastal shrub along the Surf Coast Walk.
Jan Juc Coast Action Chairperson Luke Hynes uses the new database to search for the coastal shrub along the Surf Coast Walk.

“The SCNS database has been a dream of the JJCA group for many years,” he said.

To date, JJCA volunteers have added 181 plant species to database, which is expected to grow as species are added and the tool extends to include fauna and cover more areas of the Surf Coast.

“It’s exciting to think that people with a limited understanding of botanical terms will now be able to identify local plants, pinpoint environmental weeds in their backyard and learn more about the environmental impacts and benefits of particular species,” said Mr. Hynes.

JJCA group volunteer Graeme Stockton said one of the aims of the database is to help coastal property owners create environmentally friendly gardens.

JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale test out the database on their walk.
JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale test out the database on their walk.

“The SCNS is a simple tool for identifying environmental weeds in your garden and selecting indigenous alternatives,” he said.

Weeds, which easily escape from local gardens, have been identified as the number one threat to the natural environment on the coast due to their ability to out compete indigenous species.

“Indigenous plants are vital, providing vital habitat for local birds and animals,” said Mr. Stockton.

Mr Hynes said the group had worked hard with locally based web design experts Boojum to ensure the platform was as interactive and easy to navigate as possible.

“Our biggest challenge was trying to incorporate complex plant characteristics in a searchable format that is flexible and user friendly,” he said.

Luke and Georgie using the database to identify the coastal shrub along the Jan Juc cliffs
Luke and Georgie using the database to identify the coastal shrub along the Jan Juc cliffs

The database can be accessed at www.scnaturesearch.com.au.

The project was supported by a $5000 State Governments CoastCare Grant, $2500 Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Coastal Grant and $1000 Surf Coast Shire Grant.

Check out the Surf Coast Nature Search today and see how many plants you can identify from your garden! Let us know how many indigenous plants you find in your backyard in the comments below. 

Winter weed blitz


Despite the cold weather, winter is the perfect time to combat the spread of environmental weeds and revegetate residential gardens with beautiful (native-animal-attracting) indigenous species.

Agapanthus – a very popular garden plant – are also a noxious weed that have a devastating impact on natural habitats.

Environmental weeds are plants that displace native vegetation which impacts the vitality of indigenous flora and fauna.  Surprisingly, many environmental weeds are popular garden plants that have grown to become major threats to the biodiversity in the natural environment.

Freesias look friendly, but they can spread quickly, out-competing precious indigenous species.

Common garden plants such as Agapanthus, Arum Lily, Gazania and Freesia are all environmental weeds that are detrimental to native flora and fauna.

Gazanias are sold at many nurseries – but don’t be fooled. These invasive weeds are having a huge impact on our coastal environment.

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale, encourages locals to remove environmental weeds from their gardens this winter.

“If we remove environmental weeds and plant indigenous species in their place, we are able to provide a haven for our precious wildlife and protect coastal habitats.

“Revegetating gardens in winter provides plants with ideal soil conditions and the best chance of survival.

“Seeds from invasive species are easily spread by the wind and animals, which is why it is important to avoid planting environmental weeds in the garden,” she said.

The flowering Moonah tree is a native alternative for Surf Coast gardens.
The flowering Moonah tree is an indigenous alternative for Surf Coast gardens.

Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE) Chair Graeme Stockton is urging locals to think of plants as more than an aesthetic addition to the garden.

“Plants provide vital habitats for local birds and animals, and the type of plant determines the fauna it attracts.

“As a community, we have a large impact on the environment and it is up to us to choose whether  we have a positive or negative impact.

“Removing environmental weeds from the garden and coastal habitats is a great start to environmental stewardship,” he said.

Flowering Samphires at Painkalac Creek, Aireys Inlet is a native plant.
Samphires (pictured here in flower at Painkalac Creek, Aireys Inlet)  are perfect for coastal environments.

Weed eradication programs are a vital component of GORCC’s extensive conservation effort to protect and enhance fragile habitats along the coast.

Local schools and environmental volunteer groups actively contribute to GORCC’s conservation effort and dedicate hundreds of hours each year to coastal protection works.

Coastal volunteers in action
Coastal volunteers in action along the Surf Coast

For more information on what plants are weeds (and what alternatives to plant in your garden), check out the  Weeds of the Surf Coast Shire booklet.

Want to do more?  Environmental volunteer groups operate right along our beautiful coast.  For more information,  click here.

Want to purchase some indigenous plants or get a helping hand?  Otways Indigenous Nursery in Aireys Inlet is a great place to start.

Have you identified any weeds in your garden?

Plant Tool in Production


An innovative, searchable plant database is in production thanks to grant funding, donations and the work of Jan Juc Coast Action volunteers.

The online tool, which will allow people to identify indigenous species and environmental weeds growing in the Jan Juc area, will provide in-depth information about local flora.

Jan Juc Coast Action is working with a range of partners on the project, including the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) and Boojum, a local online design business.

The project was recently awarded a GORCC Coastal Grant of $2500 and has also received support through a State Government Coastcare Grant.

Jan Juc Coast Action volunteers Graeme Stockton (left) Geoff Morgan and GORCC Conservation supervisor Georgie Beale
Jan Juc Coast Action volunteers Graeme Stockton (left) Geoff Morgan and GORCC Conservation supervisor Georgie Beale are picture with the Indigenous Olearia plant in Jan Juc

Jan Juc Coast Action volunteer Graeme ­­Stockton said the database will help to protect local flora and fauna by allowing coastal property owners to identify environmental weeds in their gardens and offering them indigenous alternatives.

“Environmental weeds are harmful plants that quickly spread to nearby habitats causing severe damage to the fragile coastal environment.

“We only have a thin strip of natural coastal habitat left and residential gardens are located very close to these fragile environments,” he said.

Jan Juc Coast Action hopes the database will be expanded beyond Jan Juc in the future to cover indigenous plants and weeds right along the GORCC managed coast.

“It would be ideal to see this tool expanded to become a comprehensive database of not only flora along GORCC-managed land but fauna as well,” said Mr. Stockton.

Boojum Lead Designer Roland Maxwell who has been working with the volunteers to create the website, has donated hundreds of hours to the project.

“The database will be searchable in a range of ways including flower colour, size, leaf shape and more,” he said.

The platform has been designed to be as flexible and user friendly as possible.

The website is flexible enough to support future growth to the database and potential extensions of the project such as applications for mobile,” said Mr Maxwell.

GORCC is supporting the project through both grant funding and in-kind assistance.

GORCC Community Liaison Manager Jane Lovejoy said the website is set to become an indispensable tool that can be used by volunteers, community members and educators alike.

“This tool will be a fabulous education resource for school groups that we engage through our education programs.

“Additionally, those who love the coast and enjoy walking along the Jan Juc Cliffs and admiring indigenous species will be able to accurately determine what plant they’re looking at,” she said.

More information on coastal volunteering and the GORCC Coastal Grants program is available at www.gorcc.com.au.

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times Green the Coast column