Long-serving employees proud of contributions

Collin Tate (left) and Tom O’Dwyer have been with the Goulburn Broken CMA since its inception on July 1, 1997.

Twenty-five years ago, on July 1, 1997, catchment management authorities across Victoria came into existence.

Starting their careers with the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority on that day were works supervisor Tom O’Dwyer and plant operator Collin Tate, who had previously worked for the Upper Goulburn Waterway Authority and Mid Goulburn River Management Board, respectively.

Based at Yea, Tom and Collin joined the burgeoning organisation ready and eager to contribute to the health and management of the Goulburn Broken’s natural environment.

Two-and-a half decades on, Tom is a technical waterway and floodplain engineer at Goulburn Broken CMA and Collin is a river health implementation works supervisor.

Both continue to work to protect the environment, having been part of many changes in catchment management over that period.

“There has been an evolution of waterway management in that time,” Tom said.

“There’s a much more sophisticated approach now than in the early days — a far greater understanding of how the river, landscape and natural environment function as a whole.

“Waterways are the most sensitive environmental feature in the landscape, they are at the heart of it all. All rivers, streams and tributaries join together eventually.”

Changes to the environment take time to occur so the benefit of a long career with the CMA has meant Tom and Collin have witnessed the positive changes that are an outcome of the work they have done.

“I love revegetation work and seeing the result of that over the years — tree planting, habitat work, watching the fish populations come back,” Collin said.

“Being involved in the revegetation of King Parrot Creek between Yea and Seymour has been particularly satisfying.

“In 1998 the first fish survey was done there and those surveys are still being done today.

“Fish have turned back up and water bugs have moved in due to improvements in that waterway and that’s fantastic.”

The community and the environment have faced numerous challenges over the past 25 years including fires, flood and extended drought.

Tom said both had shown incredible resilience.

“Recovery from those events is very hard and takes time for people and the landscape,” he said.

“After Black Saturday we were working with a stressed community and a stressed catchment.

“Macquarie perch were taken out of King Parrot Creek and kept at Snobs Creek hatchery while the waterway recovered.

“And with time there was recovery — the rivers bounced back, which really does show the resilience of the landscape.”

Collin said there had always been a strong community connection to the catchment, from landholders to conservation groups.

“I’ve also seen generational changes in farming and agricultural practices with lots of improvements over time in land and stock management.

“Science has come into decision making in catchment management a lot more over the years and it’s certainly for the better.

“Scientific surveys are undertaken before and after projects so the impacts of the work can be monitored and assessed.”

Reaching the 25-year milestone for Tom and Collin naturally provides the opportunity for reflection.

“Overall, you do hope that what you’ve done for all these years has made a difference,” Tom said.

“There’s been a lot of people come and go through the organisation in that time and I’ve always been happy to share my knowledge and experience.

“Enthusiasm and new perspectives have blended with experience.”

Collin said he had always found everyone at the Goulburn Broken CMA took their responsibility to the catchment seriously and were committed to doing a good job.

“When I started here, I never gave much thought to how long I was going to stay in the job,” Collin said.

“But 12 months in it just seemed like what the CMA was doing was a good thing for the environment and I’ve continued to enjoy contributing to that.

“Looking back at some of the early tree plantations and seeing the size of the trees now, you soon realise how long you have been here.”