A few grassland tourists would have visited the Rokewood Cemetery grassland lately, as it is one of the best places to see a range of native grassland flowers. This section of the tourism market seems to be overlooked but there must be lots of people traveling around to look at grasslands given the number of activities scheduled for the spring. Just another reason to keep our grasslands and grassy woodlands well managed.
If you are a regular visitor to the Rokewood Cemetery grassland, did you notice any changes? While the grassland is still fenced, the fence has recently been moved inwards, so this results in about 1000m2 extra being regularly mown, so less native flowers and less seeding, which is only okay if you are managing for weed orchid or watsonia.
There has always has been a need to balance the requirements for parking with grassland management at this cemetery. In 2013 a fence was erected with Government funding and another entrance was put into the cemetery proper to allow for overflow parking. Now it appears more parking space was required, so the fence has been moved and the usual black star stakes have also been replaced with galvanised ones. Perhaps they are less intrusive but they are an interesting choice, as the grassland is burnt every few year and fire damages galvanising.
Cemeteries on the Victorian Volcanic Plain (VVP) are a microcosms for the multiple issues we come up against every day when managing grasslands/grassy woodland remnants whether it is in a reserve or roadside. This is the third VVP cemetery I have visited this month where the native plants are being impacted by the timing, frequency, height and extent of mowing.
Is it possible to manage the seemingly conflicting requirements of cemeteries and threatened species? Neatness versus the need to go to seed, the requirement for more graves versus the need for enough space to fulfill ecological functions.
If the answer is yes then we need specific policy guidance, advice and funding to assist trustees to manage these last native remnants that in a few cases contain endangered flora, fauna and communities. Trustees (or other land managers) shouldn’t have to balance the conflicting requirements on their own, with limited resources. Perhaps similar to the CFA where vegetation management officers provided a valuable service to brigades, we need a biodiversity officer for cemeteries.