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Working together to fight spread

Property owner David Elder has worked hard to tackle blackberries in the district, with great success; Picture: Dylan RobinsonEVERY valley needs a catalyst to champion the battle against blackberries. In Bethanga, it’s been David Elder.

A couple of years ago the grazier recognised that something really needed to be done in the district to combat a spreading blackberry problem.

He approached Mitta to Murray Blackberry Action Group president Jim de Hennin, who encouraged him to gather some neighbours together, rather than taking an ad hoc approach.

So Mr Elder put together his own expression of interest form, visited a stack of landholders and had about 12 of them sign up.

Mr de Hennin was impressed with the result and encouraged the action group to help Bethanga. There are now 20 properties involved, covering 378 hectares.

“There are a lot of small properties but with a common problem,” Mr de Hennin said.

Mr Elder, who farms about 222ha of his own and leased country, said he could see the blackberries were getting worse at Bethanga and that the landholders needed help.

The result is that the Bethanga Landcare group has come out of recess and there’s a whole new interest in working together on land management issues.

In the middle of this resurgence, Mr Elder had a serious four-wheel-bike accident in April 2013 when he suffered seven fractures and a brain injury.

He spent three months in hospital and rehabilitation in Melbourne, and a further six weeks of rehabilitation in Albury.

The accident has not deterred Mr Elder from running his beef cattle and clawing productive land back from the invasive blackberries.

Last week he had Paton Air put out 12 loads of chemical on his steep country, while he also puts in a big effort spot spraying.

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