When the stifling heat of a summer day starts to loosen its grip, Trevor Verlin and his family head for the cooling waters of the Broken River.
Trevor’s idyllic Nalinga bush property is located right on river’s banks. Whether it’s a quick dip before bed on a hot night or the perfect backdrop for a lifetime of celebrations – Christmas feasts, 21st birthdays and New Year’s Eve – the Broken River is a focal point for their family.
Trevor first discovered the property in the 60s during his university days at nearby Dookie. Years later Trevor remembered the pretty spot and tracked it down to make the owners an attractive offer.
The site was strewn with litter and had nothing more than an old shed and a holiday shack. But the Verlin family knew the jewel of the property was its riverside location and set about cleaning it up and building their dream home.
Yet over the past 27 years Trevor has seen the river change. The once deep, clear water is now murky and shallow while grazing stock has destroyed vegetation along parts of the riverbank.
“The local swimming hole used to be 12 feet deep. Kids would swing off into the middle of the river on a rope,” he said. “Today it’s much shallower and it’s no longer safe to use the swing rope.”
Trevor also mourns the loss of the native wildlife that used to make the river their home including platypus, migratory Dollar birds migrating from New Guinea and a nearby ibis and spoonbill rookery.
Not one to accept the damage done to the river, Trevor has dedicated his career to improving the river’s health. Almost three years ago Trevor became Landcare Facilitator for eight local Landcare groups in the Broken River catchment.
“When they’re strong and unified, Land Care groups can be a real force for positive change in their community.”
A highlight has been the Life on the Broken event series run in partnership with the Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority.
“One of the bigger issues is landowners allowing cattle to graze on the riverbank. They often aren’t aware of the damaging impacts caused including erosion and loss of riparian vegetation.”
“So we gathered them together and worked with them to explain the issue. The days were a huge success with a barbecue, kids’ activities and expert speakers who covered the importance and interdependence of riverbank vegetation, insects, fish and water quality. Our aim is to get people to look at the river in a different way and understand that its health is important to us all.”
Trevor believes farmers can be good observers of the countryside and once they understand more about environmental issues they are often keen to act.
“Our water crisis is a whole of community problem. Today’s farmers have inherited a faulty system. We need to work together to fix it, not blame others.”
When asked what needs to be done, Trevor is quick to point out top priorities: curb water wastage; increase understanding of environmental, farming and urban issues; reward landowners for improving land management and stewardship on their properties.
Story by Tracey Cheeseman