Who are we?

Who are we?

The VVP Biopshere Inc. is a registered charity organization, with DGR status, who is working to facilitate the formation of a Biosphere within the VVP. We have a volunteer committee who meets regularly, and have recently engaged one part time independant contactor to serve as our project coordinator. We are researching the program, approaching local govenments and other stakeholders to assemble a team, and drafting a proposed Biopshere map and governance structure. We are funded entirely by donations, and need your support! Please join us, if you are excited about our vision!



The VVP Biosphere’s 2020 Vision

What would a VVP Biosphere look like?

Most change within a community comes about as the result of access to better information which leads to a reassessment of values, then behavioural change. Governments can provide information which allows the community to become better informed and subsequently to change behaviours.

Consequently, a VVP Biosphere household in 2020 could have the following features with respect to living in a UNESCO Biosphere:

  • Residents will identify with their local Biosphere representative structure. Each subdivision of the VVP Biosphere will be co-ordinated at the local level by a representative committee (round table) which in turn reports to a central management body (Core Management) more detail and diagram. They will know well, their local ‘go to’ person and will have attended many community consultative, workshop meetings to discuss and provide feedback about their needs and issues. They will feel supported in their problems and involved in decision making processes.
  • Community groups such as Landcare, VFF and NGO’s will also have a voice at more focussed meetings.
  • Maps on the wall of each household displaying key ecological elements, flora and fauna, weeds etc will help maintain awareness of local ecosystem services and natural resource management issues. Road signs at all air, road and river entry and exit points to the VVP Biosphere will welcome and farewell travellers and alert them that they are now entering or leaving a Biosphere Reserve.
  • School students will learn about the ecology of their Biosphere and engage in learning activities provided by groups such as Waterwatch, Iramoo, Werribee Zoo, Estuary Watch, Landcare, Coast Care, Greening Australia, Western Districts Natural Resource and Catchment Authority, (formerly CCMA, GHCMA and West Coast Board) etc, as well as the state and federal Education departments.
  • The house is almost autonomous for water and waste. Depending on location, each house is able to store rainwater, process and use wastewater on site, generate its own electricity from sun and wind and grow much of its own food.
  • Local industry is participating in incentive programs along Sustainability lines as well as sponsoring NRM work and is rewarded by tax relief, rate rebates and local customer loyalty.
  • Farmers are well supported by local councils, state government and Catchment Management Authorities in developing a coordinated production program that balances sustainably produced products for local, national and international markets.
  • Each local community has its own identity and specialty productions according to soil, climate and demographic. This is coordinated by the regional Biosphere roundtables.
  • Households are supported in growing their own fruit and vegetables.
  • Local ‘farmers’ markets’ are well supported and provide most of the fresh food required by that community.
  • Local Energy Trading Schemes (LETS) are growing rapidly as the community appreciates the value of sharing skills, knowledge and materials locally.
  • Many regions may decide to become part of the Transition Towns network.


What can a Biosphere Reserve do that is not already being done?

Across Australia, with some regional and state variation according to the values of the prevailing political party, communities are generally well served with respect to governance and Natural Resource Management. However, as we all know, there have been many major failings, particularly with respect to loss of grasslands and woodlands and many of our threatened ecosystems remain subject to political whims despite ostensibly protective, conservation legislation. Most people reading this would know of an issue in which the system has failed for a range of reasons and an area of high conservation value has been destroyed. Apologies many years down the track are not much use to the former inhabitants of the destroyed habitat area. The loss of their genes also places a severe evolutionary restriction on that local ecosystem.

We are very fortunate to have in Victoria many seriously committed scientists within DSE, DPI, Parks Vic, the CMA’s and other Government and non-government organisations that have devoted their time to protecting Grasslands and Grassy Woodlands across the VVP.

Unfortunately, this has not been enough. We are still losing both EVC’s and still fighting protection battles with Local and State Government.

DSE’s Vanessa Craigie and Mel Dougherty are currently working on a VVP Recovery plan. we hope that their vision will match that of the VVP Biosphere start-up committee.


So what more can be done?

As a teacher of science and environmental science, I have experienced the enthusiasm that students across the age spectrum, have for environmental issues. Even the city kids empathise with the natural world and understand readily how our demand for energy, housing, waste disposal, food and water has had serious impacts. They are receiving a much better environmental education than was common in my own early years, so hopefully they will be major contributors to the ongoing conservation debate.

For me, this is the bottom line. For the optimum health of a community, including its natural resources and ecosystem services, we need a well-informed, engaged population, able to articulate their needs and concerns and able to vote for the local, state and federal personnel who will best serve the whole community; flora, fauna and humans.

The UNESCO Biosphere program is named the Man and the Biosphere Program for this reason. We are part of it. We dominate it, but we do not own it and we have no right to compromise the health of future generations by doing it damage.

Our optimism for the long term conservation of Grassy ecosystems is sustained by the outcome of the long and vexed battle for the Otways. For well over 30 years many conservationists fought against ignorance and the vested interests of the woodchip industry. Eventually the battle was won and with hindsight it is clear that the Greater Otway National Park and the ecosystem services, water and tourism opportunities that it now provides far outweigh the biodiversity cost of the wood chippers, who, despite their early complaints are now doing very nicely on plantation timber.

Unfortunately, grasslands don’t lend themselves to dramatic heart rending photographs. I have yet to see someone chained to a de-rocking or laser levelling machine and it’s hard to build a ‘fort’ in a paddock of Kangaroo grass. But these ecosystems are just as worthy of protection and the native grasses may well hold the genetic key to our long term production of carbohydrates. Work on producing a perennial cereal crop is long overdue. Annual crops require enormous amounts of energy and fertiliser, which is essentially wasted post harvest. If we were able to harvest perennial grains (eg Themeda, Austrostipa, Microlaena and Poa) economically, this would constitute a significant breakthrough in sustainable agriculture.  Our current annual staple grain crops, wheat, barley, oats and maize, had lowly beginnings and conventional plant breeding is responsible for their success. Perhaps we have the knowledge now, to speed up the variety-improving process.


Stuart McCallum

VVPB Secretary

On behalf of the VVPB group