Starting a landcare group in Greater Sydney
What is landcare?
Landcare is a grassroots environmental movement organised into groups and organisations – some are purely voluntary with half a dozen members while others are substantial organisations that employ paid staff and operate with significant budgets (Landcare NSW website).
Landcare aims to help coordinate and fund efforts by community, government and business to protect and preserve the local environment.
Landcare volunteers work across farmland, bushland, parkland, beaches, national parks, rivers, dunes, creeks, Crown land, public land, private land, forests, and travelling stock routes.
To start a landcare group you need to identify a group of people interested in addressing the same environmental issue. It is important to generate as much interest as possible before you start your group. Remember that while Local Land Services is keen to support you, we are unable to offer regular assistance at landcare days etc so you need a responsible, committed and enthusiastic group to drive your activities.
Once you have your group of interested people, the next step is to ask the following questions.
Whose land do we want to work on?
- Local council land – If the land is owned or managed by Local council you will need to speak to their environment team before starting a group. Many councils have well organised ‘bushcare’ programs to support you.
- Crown land – some crown land is managed by local government so the above still applies. However, if the land is not managed by council you will need to get permission from Crown Lands prior to starting work. Local Land Services can help with this.
- School or church land – You will need permission to undertake any works from the landowner. Forming a dedicated committee or working group is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page when working with a school or church.
- Private land – this is the traditional model of landcare where neighbours unite to remove weeds and plant trees in their local area. This can be both a formal or informal group. See the information below on incorporating for more details.
- Community Title land - a landcare group is a great way to manage common land in a community title development. You will need to ensure you have permission from the strata committee and that the corporate body's insurance covers your activities.
- Other land such as Water NSW or Roads & Maritime Services land - You can only work on a government agency’s land with permission from that agency. This can sometimes be difficult to obtain. Some sites also require special permits, for example, group members may be required to obtain a “Work safely in the construction industry” certificate (White Card). Local Land Services can facilitate communication with other organisations but cannot guarantee any specific outcome.
Do we need to incorporate?
Many landcare groups become incorporated associations. This is usually so they can apply for grant funding or enter into legally binding contracts. Incorporation also provides the group with its own legal identity which protects individual members during any legal transactions. Incorporation comes with specific governance obligations including a minimum of five legal members, the formation of a committee, developing a constitution and appointing a public officer. There are small ongoing annual costs associated with becoming incorporated.
If your group is affiliated with another entity, such as a church, school, community strata title or local council you may not need to be incorporated as your existing partner can act as a legal entity on your behalf. If you can avoid incorporation by working with another entity you can have all the benefits of being able to receive grant funding without the governance burdens associated with incorporating.
Similarly, if you are a group of landholders working on private land and only want to engage in landcare informally, and do not have an interest in getting funds as a group or entering into contracts, you do not need to become incorporated.
If you decide that it is best to incorporate as you would like to receive funds as a group or think your group would benefit from a more formalised governance structure, Local Land Services can help you through this process.
To read more about incorporation, visit the NSW Fair Trading website.
Do we need insurance?
As above, if your landcare activity comes under the auspices of another entity then it may be that you are also covered under their insurance. It is important to confirm this. If you are working on Crown or private land your group members will need to purchase insurance. Local Land Services can provide you with advice about appropriate insurances and in some instances will cover the cost of insurance.
What tools, training or other support do we need to undertake our work safely and successfully?
A Local Land Services officer can visit your site and provide advice on what resourcing you will need to achieve your goals. If you are new to environmental management, you may need training to ensure your work doesn't cause damage to sensitive areas or wildlife habitat. You may also need specific tools or safety equipment. Local Land Services can help you design a workable plan and provide advice on getting the right equipment. Local Land Services may also be able to provide funding or help you access funding through other organisations.
Other things to consider
Register with Greater Sydney Local Land Services
Greater Sydney Local Land Services keeps an up to date list of Landcare groups in the region and is committed to providing financial support and advice where possible. Local Land Services also produces a monthly Landcare e-newsletter including current funding and training opportunities.
Put your group on the NSW Landcare Gateway
The NSW Landcare Gateway is a free website that showcases Landcare groups and helps members of the public find their local group. You can upload photos, information and events to the site. The gateway allows you to have an online presence without the ongoing cost of hosting a website.
Considering joining your local Landcare Network
Many parts of Sydney are covered by a local or regional landcare network. Landcare networks are umbrella organisations of local landcare groups, which provide on-going support to member groups, and manage cross-tenure projects. Landcare networks in Greater Sydney include:
Hawkebsury Landcare Network – working across the Hawkesbury LGA on both conservation and sustainable agriculture focused projects. Membership is open to groups and individuals.
Central Coast Community Environment Network – working across the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie LGAs for Ecologically Sustainable Development and against threats to it. Membership is open to groups and individuals.
Greater Sydney Landcare Network – is a regional landcare network that aims to support individuals and groups who are working to protect, restore and improve the natural environment of Greater Sydney. Membership is open to groups and individuals.
Blue Mountains Bushcare Network – Blue Mountains Council supports both bushcare groups working on public land, and landcare groups working on private land.
Cattai Hills Environment Network - A new network that aims to support Landcare and private land conservation in the Hills District of north west Sydney