darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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August 19, 2014

The largest environmental movement in Australia’s history is set to get underway in the coming weeks and volunteers working on the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail will be a part of it.

The Australian Government’s Green Army has been officially launched, with the first round of Gippsland projects being revealed by Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

Young people in Gippsland will be among the first 17 to 24 year olds to participate in the environmental program, joining forces with local environmental groups to deliver important local conservation projects.

Mr Chester said the Green Army would build on the incredible work already being undertaken by community-based volunteer groups.

“One of the best things about the Green Army is that these vital environmental projects will get access to fit, young workers who can supply extra muscle that is often not readily available,” Mr Chester said.

“The Green Army participants will earn an allowance and gain hands-on, practical skills, training and experience in environmental and conservation fields.

“But ultimately the Green Army is an environmental programme and it will make a real difference through projects like this one by restoring and protecting habitat, weeding, planting, cleaning up creeks and rivers and restoring cultural heritage places.”

Green Army projects to be rolled out soon in Gippsland include:

 Gippsland Plains Rail Trail Stage 1: Mapping vegetation, removing weeds and undertaking revegetation work at key locations along the trail between Stratford and Heyfield. Participants will also help to research and develop content for interpretative signage and distance markers along the Rail Trail;

    Boolarra Old Mill site and Forest Rehabilitation: Improving biodiversity, carbon sequestering, excavating tracks and revegetating areas of forest. The project also includes wildlife camera monitoring and data collection, weed control and collecting native seeds to be grown and used in the forest; and,

    East Gippsland Rail Trail Project: Restoring, rehabilitating and re-establishing vegetation and protecting native habitat of several endangered or threatened fauna and flora species along the East Gippsland Rail Trail, between Bairnsdale and Orbost.

Chairperson of the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail Committee of Management, Helen Hoppner, said the extra hands on the ground and funding would be invaluable.

“It is a massive injection of funds that we really need. We are so volunteer-poor for such a big project. It is a 67km project and you can’t be there every two seconds working on the trail,” Mrs Hoppner said.

“Particularly with native vegetation plantations on the trail, it’s been an ad-hoc response so far because there is never enough time or money to do a ‘project’.

“So this will be a project for the Rail Trail – signed, sealed and delivered.”

Mr Chester said the Green Army participants would also be supported to obtain Certificate I or II qualifications or a nationally-endorsed skills set to help them prepare for the workforce or improve their career opportunities.

The Green Army was a key Coalition election commitment and, with $525 million budgeted over four years, the Green Army is one of the Government’s major environmental initiatives and will encourage practical, grassroots action to support local environment and heritage conservation projects, providing training to 15,000 young Australians by 2018.

This investment in the Green Army will bring the Government’s total investment in natural resource management to more than $2 billion over four years.

Young Australians interested in joining the Green Army can apply through the appointed Service Providers. Contact details for Service Providers are available from www.environment.gov.au/green-army

CAPTION: Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester (second from left) with Gippsland Plains Rail Trail Committee of Management and Maffra and District Landcare Network representatives Carmen Lees, Tony Richards, Beth Ripper, Christine Richards and Milly the Labrador, at the Powerscourt Siding on the Stratford-Maffra section of the trail.

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