Diana to leave a legacy at Toora farm

LOVE OF LAND: Hugh Sarjeant (pictured) and Diana Droog has restored the natural environment of their Toora property for generations to come.

THE journey that Diana Droog has taken over the last 10 years is one marked by vision and a sense of wanting to leave the world a better place.

Born and raised in Moe, Diana headed to the city to pursue a career in both medicine and business.

As her career wound down and with time to think about what her legacy might be, Diana and her husband Hugh Sarjeant purchased a former dairy and beef property at Toora.

It had been cleared and worked hard since the 1900s.

“We weren’t able to build a home on the property but decided that we didn’t need to for us to do what we wanted,” Diana said.

Initially the property was leased out while Diana worked out what was needed to restore the place.

“I was curious about the local landscape, how it might have been and how it interacted with Corner Inlet. The key was to work out what to do first,” she said.

That first step was to establish plantings to determine if they could survive without watering and how water flowed through the property.

“We were fortunate to have local plant grower and contractor, Frank Smolders, providing advice and help in planting over 20,000 indigenous plants over four years,” she said.

Following that, the husband and wife team created wetlands on the property to both catch and filter nutrient heavy rainwater before it flowed into Corner Inlet.

This also fostered an environment for frogs and other fauna to call home.

Over time the property has become a haven for not only wildlife but also researchers, bird watchers and others interested in improving the environment.

“Just spending time with like-minded people discussing ideas and sharing is such a powerful tool that we have.  It’s certainly been one of the main ingredients in the development of the property,” she said.

 “We have to protect the natural environment. Living in the city most of the time and seeing what’s happening there in terms of development, it can be a bit overwhelming in terms of trying to protect the environment.

“At Toora, we’ve been able to work with others and I hope that makes a real difference.”

One of the budding ideas Diana is keen to further explore is embracing indigenous land management on the property.

“We’ve had teams from the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) work on the property and this is certainly something I’d like to see develop,” Diana said.

“I think it’s important to work with indigenous groups as a mark of respect for their heritage but also to improve the landscape using some of those traditional methods.”

Over recent months the property has hosted training days for GLaWAC staff looking at weed identification and salt marsh management.

“Seeing the property used like that gives me a real buzz,” Diana said.

 “It’s about bringing people together, improving knowledge and in turn improving our environment.”

Moving forward, Diana maintains her desire that the property become both a research site as well as a landmark site to inspire others in their journey to improve the environment.

“There is another generation coming through now who will need to continue this type of work. Hugh and I have loved every minute of our time on the Toora property and the emotional, physical and monetary investment that we’ve made,” she said.

“However, this type of work needs to continue. We’re just custodians of the land, temporary owners. It’s our job to leave the place in a better condition than we found it.

“Hopefully we’ve started something here that others will want to continue for many years to come.”


Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=29878

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