Land management at HMAS Cerberus plays an important role in maintaining the Commonwealth heritage values of the site whilst allowing for the site to develop in line with its evolving needs. 

Ventia's Grounds Maintenance Supervisor Justin Ridgeway has worked at the base for the past 17 years, originally joining the then-Transfield Services team in a hands-on role. Over the years, his role has evolved to encompass all the elements of land management in a holistic approach encompassing flora and fauna, pest management, sustainability and landscaping. 

Following redevelopment at the base in April 2018, a stockpile of tree mulch accumulated that Justin and his team were keen to repurpose. 

The 6000m3 pile was a result of an extensive base development across the site. The pile was becoming a host for invasive weeds to thrive and Justin knew there was a much better use for it.

I wanted this mulch to be seen as a resource, not a burden," Justin says. 

Mulch stockpile at HMAS Cerberus

Pictured: The 6000m3 mulch pile was a result of an extensive base development across the site. 

Finding a solution

The Ventia environmental team partnered with the Defence Security and Estate Group (SEG) to find a solution. 

"The first step was to identify a revegetation site on the 1500-hectare base that wouldn't interfere with bushfire management or future development," Justin explains. 

"This zone is a way to increase the population of eucalyptus trees, which had declined due to competition with weed species and overgrazing by native animals." 

Justin explained that the chosen zone would benefit from the mulch as it would condition the soil in preparation for tree planting that was to follow, help retain moisture, encourage microbial activity and address compaction to rehabilitate the soil and suppress weeds.

Over two days, the team utilised 50-tonne trucks and a 13-tonne excavator to move the mulch. 

Justin is passionate about effective land management and is always seeking ways to do things better than they've been done before. He's keen to support the maintenance of the formal exotic gardens at the base, including elms, oaks and ash, which were planted between 80 and 100 years ago. 

But his real love is reserved for native flora. 

I have a passion for native landscapes.

"This came about after I moved to the Mornington Peninsula and gained a real appreciation for native plants. I'd like to see them used more extensively in Australian landscapes both formally & informally."

The Ventia team at work planting trees

Pictured: The Ventia team and partners planted over 500 indigenous plant species. 

United by a love of native flora and fauna

Justin facilitated a tree planting day and brought together SEG, Defence, the Mornington Peninsula Koala Group, our Regional Environmental Manager, our Ecologists and Nature Links. These groups, united by their love of native flora and fauna saw them plant over 500 indigenous plant species on the revegetation site. 

This now completes a vital corridor that links remnant habitats between three ecological zones (Bittern, HMAS Cerberus and Somers) and is critical in providing our local koalas with more food, a habitat to support breeding and a safe passage between trees. 

Koalas are not the only winners though. "The upper tree and lower shrub vegetation supports a variety of different habitats, and ecological processes', says Justin. 

Basically, if you're a snake, wombat, or even an echidna you would be smiling right now!

The Ventia team at HMAS Cerberus

Pictured: Ben Hall (Ventia), Rachel Devlin (Nature Links) and Jemma Dutton (Ventia).