As a sub division within a snow gum woodland, developers at Dinner Plain, near Mt Hotham in the Victorian Alps, have done a good job of keeping as many mature trees as possible, whilst building houses and businesses quite densely. The ‘green’ aspect within the village is aided by the small bushland reserves that break up the housing.

Alphutte at Dinner Plain: bare earth where native veg existed. Introduced tree in background.

Guidelines require people to use indigenous species where they are putting in plants (Council guidelines say ‘only indigenous plant material can be used at Dinner Plain’), and lack of fencing has meant that small pockets of remnant understory also exist between houses. This enhances the feeling of still being in a forest.

However, Dinner Plain could be a very different place in coming years.

There is a disturbing ‘suburban creep’ that is evident, with a reasonable number of land owners now opting to destroy their remnant ground storey species and replace them with lawns.

In one obvious example of this, the people who run the Alphutte pizza restaurant recently completely removed all the remaining remnant understorey at the back of their block.

In spite of the fact that local indigenous species are meant to be planted at DP, Alphutte flout this law and have a large conifer growing as well.

While this was just a small patch of shrubs and flowers, if everyone at Dinner Plain destroyed their remnant vegetation and replaced it with lawn, and planted exotic (and potentially invasive) species on their land, the place would look profoundly different. There would also be substantial loss of biodiversity within the village itself. Dinner Plain is a small enclave of private housing within the Alpine National park, and weed invasion into the park is an obvious and, sadly, growing problem.

Often, these people retain most of the older snow gums on their properties yet don’t seem to understand (or care) that mature trees have to come from seedlings, meaning young trees must be put in to allow them to replace older trees when they do eventually die. The ‘clear the scrub and plant grass’ mentality and absence of new trees being planted will see a profoundly different village in coming years.

If poor environmental management upsets you, you may want to avoid Alphutte the next time you’re in Dinner Plain.

You might want to support Mountain Kitchen, which stocks local indigenous plant species.

Thankfully, the majority of people do seem to appreciate the remarkable landscape they are staying or living in, and do the right thing at Dinner Plain, by protecting or even replacing indigenous species.