Issue Number #35
Issue Date Winter 2006
Number of Articles Online 1 Articles
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Title A letter from the USN Management Committee President
Author Anne Griffiths
Position President

The Understorey Network has been in existence now for over 11 years. Initially funding was secure and we didn't have to fight quite as hard as we do now to remain viable.

That security disappeared with the end of the Natural Heritage Trust 1 funding. For two years the USN struggled to survive, and it was only due to the dedication and determination of the committee at that time that we still exist. During this time it became obvious that the USN could not survive without a coordinator. The "gap" funding given to us at the beginning of 2005 for 12 months enabled us to hire a Project Manager, but with it came a series of responsibilities over and above our core business for our members. We now have specific projects to be initiated and managed, and we must have very positive outcomes that can be easily demonstrated to the bureaucrats who control our purse-strings. We have had to become a business, responsible to the wishes of our benefactors as well as to those of our members. As we cannot afford to provide our members with the field-days, workshops and plants etc on subscriptions alone we must seek funding for specific projects that will allow us to incorporate these activities into the requirements of the funding bodies.

We have recently received 12 months' funding for 2006-2007, but it is very unsatisfactory trying to plan long-term projects with guaranteed funding for such short periods of time. Plants do not grow according to politicians' time-lines! Corporate donations, for use over longer time frames, could solve this problem. We have applied to be listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations (REO), the first step towards getting Deductible Grant Recipient status. This is necessary before applying for corporate sponsorship, and allows tax deductibility of donations, but bureaucracy moves very slowly!

Meanwhile we need to develop a strategy and business plan for the next 3-5 years. The committee will formulate a draft strategy which will be forwarded to interested members. We would like input from members particularly before or at the AGM in August. The final version will be used to develop the business plan needed for application for corporate sponsorship, which will hopefully give us the continuity and stability that we need.

Now onto another, but disappointing, subject. We have had a very successful growing season, with thousands of plants grown both for members and for specific projects, (such as the "Prickly Plants for Penguins"). However three members for whom plants were grown did not fulfill their obligations to their growers as they did not collect their plants. One had moved interstate and not thought to inform the grower, another could not be contacted, and the third "forgot about the plants". Our growers spend a lot of time (and emotional energy) in growing the plants, often at a financial cost to themselves in terms of bleach, water and soil for re-potting. The cost to the USN in dollars is also very significant, being more than $1 per plant. So those three members cost the USN more than $750. We could not blame those growers if they refused to grow again. Therefore the Committee has decided that a small levy will be put on the receipt of plants by members who do not grow themselves (plants that is!).

I do hope that you can all understand why the focus of the USN has had to broaden to meet the requirements of both the members and funding agencies. I hope to see as many of you as possible at the AGM, so that we can ensure the long-term viability of the Understorey Network, (and I promise you that you will not be coerced into joining the committee, though of course we will welcome any new members).

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