A group of Black Hill residents were left with empty wheelbarrows at their community working bee on Sunday after a load of mulch City of Ballarat had promised failed to turn up.
It was a small hiccup in a long term project to improve the reserve near their homes, but for these keen environmentally conscious volunteers, it represented a bigger sense of frustration at a lack of support from their council.
Black Hill resident and working bee organiser Neil Huybregts said he had been speaking with council for 12-months to secure a delivery of mulch for their project at a reserve along the Yarrowee River.
He said he had jumped between different departments and council officers frustrated with a lack of action and support.
Last March I asked the council for some mulch and it has taken a year. And now I don't know why it hasn't turned up.Neil Huybregts, environmental volunteer
The group of volunteers have been working to clear overgrown weeds that could not be accessed by a council mower for the past year.
They had hoped to put mulch under the trees at the site behind Webb Street for easy maintenance and to put native plants in some of the beds.
"Last March I asked the council for some mulch and it has taken a year. I had to meet with Terry Demeo to make it happen," he said.
"Now I don’t know what has happened and why the mulch didn't turn up. And I just thought 12 months is long enough."
Black Hill residents living near the reserve were invited to join the planned mulch-spreading working bee and a community barbecue on Sunday.
Mr Huybregts said the project was a an example of community taking ownership of their surrounding environment and volunteering their time to improve it, but it was disheartening to volunteers that they have had to work so hard for council support.
"Council has somehow lost the capability to support this kind of thing, despite it costing practically nothing and having such positive outcomes," he said.
"I think what has happened is because council hasn’t been responsive to this kind of project, people who are keen to do environmental improvement work and volunteer work have gone elsewhere.
"The Ballarat Environment Network’s focus is very much on managing reserves and a lot of people buy bush blocks to look after their own block - this kind of thing is falling away."
City of Ballarat infrastructure and environment director Terry Demeo said City of Ballarat worked was working to improve procedures.
"The City of Ballarat works with a range of community and volunteer groups who play an active role in caring for parks and native reserves across the municipality," he said.
"Each group works with council based on their resources and timelines, with individual projects being brought to council and resources committed as required.
"Council certainly recognises the great role these community and volunteer groups play. The City of Ballarat's Community Development Unit has recently convened a workshop of all these groups to ensure they are appropriately aligned so resources are managed in the most productive and supportive manner."
Community environment volunteers have previously raised concerns that City of Ballarat does not have a dedicated sustainability officer, but instead works under a model where sustainability is the responsibility of all City of Ballarat departments.
The City of Ballarat's Community Development Unit has recently convened a workshop of all these groups to ensure they are appropriately aligned so resources are managed in the most productive and supportive manner.Terry Demeo, City of Ballarat
When asked if City of Ballarat will employ a sustainability officer, Mr Demeo said sustainability is an issue which all departments take seriously and it is embedded in our broader Ballarat Strategy and individual program budgets.
"That said, Council is realigning existing positions across both broader sustainability and native flora and fauna to enhance our commitment in this regard," he said.
"Council is committed to working with these groups and is always looking to improve our performance in supporting community and volunteer groups.
"Council’s global budget includes resources of this nature, such as mulch and plants etc.
"Via the recent Community Development Team workshop, protocol for community groups to engage with Council and work collaboratively has been established. If individual requests come in through Council’s normal channels, they are managed accordingly.
"Council will always support projects by community and volunteer groups in the future."
Mr Huybregts said he remained positive the Black Hill working group would receive their mulch some time in the future, allowing them to continue working bees they had scheduled once a month coming into winter.
He said community members had the capacity to make significant environmental impact.
"I am one of these think globally act locally sort of people. There is no doubt that global warming and habitat destruction are major issues.
"You can do something about that and make your neighbourhood better at the same time with mental and physical benefits and a stronger local community."