Residents fighting to keep willow trees along Birch's Creek in Smeaton

A move by the North Central Catchment Management Authority to remove the old willow trees along Birch’s Creek at Andersons Mill has drawn criticism, from residents keen to see the trees remain.  

Concerned: Belinda Ellams, Wylie Terry, Hayley Shipp-Tink and Geoff Neal with children Griffin Reeves, 3, Reed Ellams, 9 and Nellie Duffy, 4, in Smeaton.  Picture: Dylan Burns.

Concerned: Belinda Ellams, Wylie Terry, Hayley Shipp-Tink and Geoff Neal with children Griffin Reeves, 3, Reed Ellams, 9 and Nellie Duffy, 4, in Smeaton. Picture: Dylan Burns.

The NCCMA is undertaking major works on the picturesque creek which, when completed, will see the removal of a number of foreign plants from along the water including blackberry, gorse in addition to the well known willow trees.

The move is part of a push by Parks Victoria and DELWP to remove willow trees from waterways throughout the state. 

The scenic area plays host to the annual Andersons Mill Festival in April where the creek is a major attraction.  

Smeaton Sustainable Futures Group member Hayley Shipp-Tink said while some people were opposed entirely to the removal of the trees, others wished to ensure the removal is a gradual process. 

“We’re talking about accelerated succession here and that means establishing other plants before the trees are removed,” Ms Shipp-Tink said.  

“We’re concerned about the aesthetics because they’re talking about removing most of the canopy which would make it a really unattractive place to visit.  

A petition in support of keeping the willows gathered more than 250 signatures, however other groups such as the Friends of Smeaton have thrown their support behind the NCCMA’s push to remove the willows and clean up along the creek.

In a statement NCCMA chief executive Brad Drust said the body had been working on Birch’s Creek for the past 15 years to remove foreign species that were a threat to both the creek and surrounding farm land.

The creek project in Smeaton is expected to last for three years, a substantially shorter time frame than that advocated for by the sustainable futures group.   

“(Birch’s Creek) has important populations of platypus and river blackfish, is highly valued by the community, provides a reliable source of water and supports valuable agricultural production,” Mr Drust said.  

“We recognise that there are some different views (around the maintenance of the creek) and we are keen to make sure that they are well heard.” 

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