Council garden program aims to help residents heal from storm trauma

A Victorian council is launching a program of garden-inspired events, activities and resources to help residents a year after the most devastating storm event in the state’s history.

Cr Jim Child

On June 9, 2021 the Yarra Ranges LGA experienced trauma, damage and loss when parts of the state were hit by heavy rain and strong winds that brought down trees and caused flooding and power outages.

More than 50,000 Yarra Ranges residents lost power and internet for up to three months, and 173 properties were damaged, with 76 uninhabitable.

Council estimates over 1,000 residents either lost their gardens entirely or suffered damage.

Yarra Ranges set up a Recovery Planning and Rebuilding Team which has been providing advice and assistance since then.

Healing our Gardens

In its latest initiative, Yarra Ranges is launching a Healing in our Gardens program, which targets residents whose gardens were directly impacted by the storm, and offers to connect members of the community who escaped damage with those who didn’t.

Yarra Ranges Council Mayor Jim Child says one of the main reasons people choose to live in the Dandenong Ranges is for its large and well-established gardens.

Image: Yarra Ranges Council

“Our Dandenong Ranges is renowned for its beautiful gardens, and many of our residents and communities have nurtured, cared and tended for their gardens and environment over many years, and now simply don’t know where to start or do not have the energy, funds or capacity to reclaim their garden,” he said.

He described Healing our Gardens, which is supported by local Landcare and gardening groups, as “a living, evolving environmental project for people impacted by the storm to collaborate, share knowledge and resources, and ultimately help each other in the recovery of their garden”.

Prize winning gardener to launch program

Melbourne-based landscape designer Philip Johnson, who took out Best in Show at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show in London, will help launch the project on September 3.

Mr Johnson says while a significant amount of tree canopy was lost in the storms, this has also opened up new opportunities.

“While the loss of trees caused by the storm has been tragic, we have a unique opportunity to make a change to our gardens and bring them back to health, but to also listen to each other and drive collaboration on how we nurture our gardens and the wider environment,” he said.

“Sadly, we have lost a large amount of trees canopy, which means that gardens are now more exposed to sun and heat, but this brings with it new opportunities to grow flowers or vegetables that perhaps weren’t able to grow before.”

Disaster resilience

In its immediate response to the storm, Yarra Ranges Council established the Resilient Yarra Ranges project which includes a range of programs to boost disaster preparedness and future resilience.

As part of that Council is engaging in a joint venture with Monash University to assess the feasibility of a resilient microgrid across essential buildings and is upgrading council owned community buildings used as relief centres with solar power capabilities.

It’s also engaging in pro-active tree management in high risk areas.

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