Thursday, April 29, 2010

food labelling - consumer's rights to know

Samantha Dunn wants better food labelling laws, to read more visit

Samantha Dunn

Greens Candidate for Eastern Victoria

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

is this art?

The story of famous street artist Banksy's work being removed by Melbourne City Council has provoked a lot of conversation about graffiti, street art and tagging today.

Is this art? This stencil appeared in a Belgrave Laneway some years ago, long painted over, but was it vandalism or art?

Coincidentally I attended the Shire's Graffiti Management Working Group today to talk about graffiti issues across the shire where the Banksy issue came up in discussion. The Group mainly oversees the implementation of the Shire's Graffiti Management Plan which covers off on a range of prevention, early intervention and pro-active responses to graffiti issues. Our approach is a whole of community approach and we work with business, local communities, government and non government organisations.

Our goal is to minimise the incidence of graffiti, reduce the cost of graffiti and improve the sense of community safety.

The definition of graffiti in our community is unclear, is it street art, is it tagging, is it vandalism, or is it all of these things? Often the term graffiti is used in a way to describe vandalism and I consider that there are two very distinct and different categories of graffiti. It is abundantly clear to me that tagging is about vandalism, it is the sort of graffiti that makes communities feel unsafe and encourages anti social behaviour. Street Art however is different, the expansive murals, quirky stencils, love it or hate it, it's role on our streets is quite different and it does not have the same impact on our communities as tagging.

Street art continues to be controversial, but tagging is unsightly and should be tackled the minute it appears. Did you know that you can get a free graffiti removal kit at any of the Shire's community links? Just pop in and ask for one if you need one.

The clean up and continued maintenance of Blacksmiths Way in Belgrave to remove all the tagging was a great community effort, driven by the Traders resulted in less anti social behaviour and less incidence of crime in the laneway.

Melbourne is world renowned for its street art, people travel across the globe to look through our lanes and back streets at a myriad of street art. Banksy's work on Hosier Lane was a testament to this reputation. It is interesting to look at the responses provoked by its removal. Street art by its very nature is ephemeral, here today – gone tomorrow, I don't think the artists expect their work to stand the test of time.

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mav working for weeds

report from the roundtable – 27th Apr

This week I moved a motion about environmental weeds to try to garner support from the Municipal Association of Victoria (one of local government's peak bodies) to lobby state government. The MAV State Council meets twice a year to consider motions from councils across Victoria and it is another advocacy mechanism for local government.

The motion:

That the MAV seek a commitment from the State government for significant and ongoing funding for local government, effective from the State Government Budget of 2011/12, to allow a collaborative work effort in the management of environmental weeds.

Ivy is a big problem in the shire, found in 60% of the shire's high conservation reserves, it is not listed as noxious. It is in many private properties and I encourage landowners to remove it. Ivy has the ability to completely smother trees, destabilise them and cause them to fail.

In Yarra Ranges and other municipalities environmental weeds are a huge problem. One of the problems with environmental weeds is that they are not considered noxious. In the shire's top 20 list of weeds, only 3 of them are listed as noxious. Often when government announces funding to tackle weeds it is aimed at noxious weeds, which means councils who are tackling other weed nasties miss out on any funding.

Environmental weeds contribute to land degradation, impact on our biodiversity, create greater fire risks, effect water quality and quantity and impact heavily on the budgets of local councils. In Yarra Ranges most of the weeds are on private or crown land as the shire's landholdings amount to only 2% of the shire's 2,500 square kilometres.

We work very hard with Friends of and Landcare groups to assist with tackling environmental weeds. But the problem is explosive, the weeds are winning and the Dandenongs are fast becoming known as the Weedynongs. Local government needs the assistance of state government to continue to facilitate collaborate efforts to tackle the problem across all different land holdings.

Yarra Ranges councillors voted unanimously to support the motion, let's hope the majority of councils support the motion at the upcoming MAV State Council meeting. The State Government needs to put its hand in its pocket to help local councils with environmental weeds, alone we are losing the battle fast.

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making our streets active and accessible

report from the roundtable – 27th Apr

At this week's council meeting we had to consider the Streets and Roadside Trading Policy. The Policy provides a framework to balance the need to provide access to pedestrians whilst allowing traders to use footpaths for commercial purposes. It is informed by the federal Disability Discrimination Act.

Over the past few years we have seen a tremendous change in the way footpaths are used and that is generally for the better of our townships. It is terrific to see el fresco dining, streetside trading all adding to our streetscape and creating engaged, lively and vibrant streets. However this activity needs to ensure that people can walk the footpaths without tripping hazards and we need to make it easy for those with mobility challenges, whether that be a parent with a pram, someone who is vision impaired or someone with a zimmerframe.

I thought it was important to amend the motion put to council to reassure local traders that council will be working with them to continue to encourage active, vibrant and safe streetscapes. I included as point of the motion: 3. That Council work with local traders to ensure that ongoing active and safe streetscapes continue to be encouraged.

The Policy gives us the option to deal with those traders who continue to place 4 or 5 A boards on the footpath in front of their shop which only contributes unsightly clutter to our streetscapes. However this policy is not about coming down on traders with a big stick, it's about ensuring there's plenty of room for all on our footpaths.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

i love you too fundraiser

This will be a fun night, it would be great to see you there.

to book online click here

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art of glass

I had the pleasure of officially opening Kirsten Laken’s exhibition, Transparent Works at Burrinja over the weekend. Kirsten is a local artist based in Selby, who does exquisite work with glass.

Me with glass artist, Kirsten Laken. Kirsten's work is superb and ranges from the contemporary to the traditional. Be sure to visit her studio as part of Open Studios.

Glass has been her passion for a very long time, I’m sure it runs through her veins, her feel for the medium is extraordinary and she has completed many commissioned works throughout her career.

Kirsten is busily preparing for the Dandenong Ranges Open Studio weekend coming up on the 29th & 30th May. It’s a time where artists across the region throw open their studio doors to the public. In it’s seventh year, it is an event well worth supporting. A great way to spend a day, travelling around the Dandenongs and visiting our local artists. If you’d like to know more visit
Burrinja or find them on facebook.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

etc meets with minister

Yesterday, in my role as chairperson of the Eastern Transport Coalition, I met with the Minister for Public Transport, Martin Pakula. The Eastern Transport Coalition was there to discuss solutions for transport woes in Melbourne's east.

Accompanied by the ETC deputy, Cr Mick Van De Vreede, we discussed a range of transport solutions with the Minister, from improved bus services for the region through to feasibility studies for rail extensions to Doncaster and Rowville.

On rail...
While Government has said that those rail extensions aren't in the current Victorian Transport Plan, it's important that feasibility work is done now so that these projects can be implemented into the future.

The Victorian Transport Plan is chiefly based on Sir Rod Eddington's 2008 transport report, extensive as it was, the Eddington report did not consider transport needs east of Warrigal Road. It is no wonder that the VTP struggles to provide for the people of Melbourne's east.

On buses...
The much lauded and recently released Bus Service reviews were an opportunity for government to make some much needed changes, however the announcements fell way short of the needs of local communities.

The Smart Bus system is extremely well patronised and often commuters struggle to get on the popular service (particularly the 900), however the recent reviews provide very little detail on when new and more frequent services might be implemented.

We hear time and time again that buses are the answer for the East. If that's the case we need them now.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

belgrave heights serves an ace

This week I had the great pleasure of being part of the announcement of funding for the Belgrave Heights Tennis Club. For the last three years the club has tried to secure funding to install three Plexicushion courts, this year their calls for help were answered.

The shire was pleased to provide $20,000 towards this worthy project, we are committed to making our sports facilities drought proof. Pictured left to right: Heather Willsher – club president, Kylie Wilkeson – driving force of the club to secure funding, Sean Wilkeson – club professional and junior convenor and Cr Samantha Dunn - Lyster ward.

The State Government announced a $60,000 grant, that, along with $20,000 from the Shire of Yarra Ranges, $54,000 from Tennis Australia and a lot of fundraising from the club, means Belgrave Heights Tennis club will be able to commence the installation of the new hardcourts and also use the new synthetic surface to collect water to use on the two remaining en tout cas courts.

The drought and subsequent water restrictions have made it difficult for tennis clubs to adequately maintain their en tout cas courts, however the upgrade to plexicusion will greatly reduce water requirements of the tennis club and mean that they are far more self sustaining into the future. It will also provide the club with the chance to grow their membership and provide locals with the chance to play on the same surface as the one used at Rod Laver Arena.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

agenda and minutes

Click on the image for a copy of the agenda

Click on the image for a copy of the minutes

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Monday, April 19, 2010

celebrating 6 years of hard work

It was great to join the John’s Hill Landcare Group to celebrate the finalisation of six years of planting along a tract of land straddling the Shire of Yarra Ranges and the Cardinia Shire.

Me pictured with John's Hill Landcare group president, Karen Alexander. Behind us is the very first planting of the Landcare group 6 years ago and it is thriving.

The success of the planting is overwhelming, from years of planting and weed work along the unmade section of Ridge Road, Kallista and Ridge Road East, Emerald there is a now a mini forest thriving and full of wildlife.

It was terrific to see the group take the time out to recognise and celebrate their achievements and acknowledge the efforts of all of their volunteers.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

multistorey retirement village for kilsyth?

report from the roundtable – 14 apr

Council had to consider an application for a 55 unit retirement village in Kilsyth. The applicant had lodged a ‘failure to determine’ at VCAT, which means council took longer than the 60 days allowed to assess the application and make a decision. This is not uncommon with complex applications.

The proposed building was enormous, it was completely out of character with the area and at 5 levels, it represented an absolute overdevelopment of the site.

There was in inherent tragedy in refusing this application, the Shire so desperately needs retirement villages and aged care facilities. But when the neighbours are confronted with a building that stands at its highest at 11.02 metres and some of the suggestions to address overlooking include 2.8mt high fences, it is obvious that there is too much on this site and this development does not take account of its location or its neighbourhood.

Councillors were unanimous in their refusal of this big and bulky building for Kilsyth.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

curbing cockie crunching and munching

report from the roundtable – 13 apr

This week's council meeting saw council approve a concerted education campaign, a focussed advocacy effort and the development of a local law to address the issue of sulphur crested cockatoo feeding and chewing in the Shire.

A problem that has brewing for the last four years, it was time to put some focussed effort and attention into addressing the issue of cockatoo feeding. Feeding sulphur crested cockatoos sees the birds cause all sorts of damage to buildings, fixtures, fittings, forests and ferns, because instead of foraging for food in the wild the birds have a plenty of time spare to chew. Not only that, it is not good for the birds either.

These cockatoos are chewing away on the retaining walls at Grant's Picnic Ground in Sherbrooke Forest. Parks Victoria have committed to initiatives to restrict the feeding of birds at Grants Picnic Grounds which include a designated feeding enclosure. There will also be limits to the volume of seed sold from the kiosk and a prohibition on seed being brought into Grant's Picnic Grounds.

The cockies need to chew to keep their beaks well honed and in good health, it is a natural behaviour generally done whilst the birds are foraging for food, whilst they don't need to forage because of a constant supply of food, they do need to chew.

The damage the birds have caused in townships across the Dandenongs is incredible, the level of destruction quite unbelievable. Feeding of the birds has seen neighbour pitted against neighbour as frustration levels get higher and higher as destruction from cockatoos continues.

It is not only backyard feeding that is contributing to the problem. The cockatoo feeding at Grant's Picnic Ground saw Kallista under siege last year as the birds gnawed the community house, bollards in the village green, fixtures at the kinder, the historic mechanics hall, power supply lines and local residences.

Grant's Picnic Ground is about 100 metres from the Kallista PreSchool, the preschool suffered ongoing attacks from cockatoos on its wooden fixtures and fittings in 2009, costing parents and ratepayers a fortune. This money could be far better used than cleaning up after cockies.

It was time to tackle the issue head on. At a public meeting last year I gave a commitment to the community to look at the issue and investigate the legal instruments that could be used as an enforcement tool against feeding.

This week I moved the following motion:

That Council:

1. Lobby the Minister for Environment to modify the licence conditions for the restaurant at Grants Picnic Grounds to prohibit the sale of wild bird seed for the purpose of feeding sulphur crested cockatoos on the basis that it is putting the birds at risk.

2. Further seek the prohibition of feeding sulphur crested cockatoos throughout the Shire and support the provision of signage.

3. In unison with DSE, continue to campaign throughout the Shire to educate the community of the risks to the wild birds caused by feeding and associated
dependency. This should include tourist organisations who promote the feeding of wild birds in the Shire.

4. Commence the development of a local law in relation to sulphur crested cockatoo feeding for consideration by Council in Twelve months.

The motion was supported 7 votes for to 1 vote against.
(note: Cr Cliff was absent from this meeting)

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

rm22 on the line

I had an opportunity to see first hand, the work of the Yarra Valley Tourist Railway Society out at Healesville last weekend. The volunteer railway have done a tremendous job restoring the Walker RM22, an ex Victorian Railways rail-motor, not to mention the great restoration works on the track and bridges too.

Pictured left to right: Adam Taylor – Driver and Committee member, Cr Samantha Dunn – Lyster Ward, Brett Whelan – Vice President and Brett Morton – President with the beautifully restored RM22 in the background.

YVTR are currently testing the RM22 which runs along the line from Healesville for about 4.5 kms towards Tarrawarra over the Watts River and through the tunnel. The group plans to officially launch the RM22 in June and make it available to the public for train rides.

The YVTR volunteers are an impressive bunch, passionate about their railway, they proudly acknowledge the many hours volunteers have put towards the railway restoration and the fact that they have the youngest volunteer base of any tourist railway in Victoria.

They have terrific support from a huge range of local businesses, the Department of Transport and local community members.

The YVTRS welcomes anyone who is interested in participating in various projects to restore the Yarra Valley Railway to be Australia's Premier Broad Gauge Railway. If you are interested in finding out more contact or click here.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

agenda 13 april

click on image for a copy of this week's council meeting agenda

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

bus review, more work to do

Earlier this week, the Minister for Public Transport, Martin Pakula announced the results of the Yarra Ranges Bus Services review. The announcements are a a step in the right direction and it was good to see a some of the council’s recommendations for service improvements included, however, there is much more work to be done on further improvements to meet the needs of commuters living across the Shire.

No 695 extension to Knox City, very disappointing.

The council’s 24 page submission to the review called for much-needed improvements to peak hour frequencies, better connections with train services and more services operating until 9pm and on Sundays. Other improvements sought included the introduction of express services along the Warburton and Maroondah highway, increased coverage in rural areas and an expansion of the Telebus service.

The review has resulted in changes to five of the shire’s 26 bus routes and include:
Route 663 (Belgrave – Lilydale): Boost Weekday and Saturday service to operate till 9pm, and introduce Sunday services for the first time, meaning services will operate till 9pm, seven days a week.
Route 670 (Ringwood – Lilydale): Will be extended from Lilydale Station to Swinburne University. The frequency of services will be increased to approximately every 15 minutes at peak times.
Route 680 (Lilydale – Mooroolbark): The Lilydale to Swinburne University section of Route 680 will be replaced by Route 670
Route 688 (Croydon – Olinda): Will be extended to from Croydon to Montrose to replace and improve Route 698. This will be a combined service so passengers won’t need to change at Olinda and means additional weekday services and weekend and public holiday services for the first time.
Route 698 (Croydon – Montrose): Will be combined with Route 688, and will be known as Route 688.

It was good to see the changes to Route 688 which will see more frequent connections from Croydon and Upper Ferntree Gully railway stations to the hill top townships of Olinda, Kalorama and Sassafras, it has great potential to help boost tourism numbers to the region.

The improvements announced by the department will go some way to improving the quality of public transport in our municipality, however, if the government is serious about reducing car dependency and making it easier for people to access work, study, training, medical appointments and social and sporting activities then more extensive improvements are required.

Last year route 694 was recommended for deletion, not gone yet, but how safe is it?

The Shire of Yarra Ranges will continue to push for a range of other improvements aimed at encouraging people to use public transport – including the abolition of the country fare for commuters travelling beyond Woori Yallock. It was disappointing to see that this hasn’t been addressed by the Minister, it is a key issue raised through the review workshops and puts those community members beyond Woori Yallock at an ever greater transport disadvantage.

At the workshops in June, 2009 the consultants announced a range of recommendations covering 27 routes, including new routes, extended routes, deleted routes and more frequent and express services.

It is disappointing to see that some of the recommendations that were received as very positive by our community have not been included in the Minister’s announcements. Of particular disappointment is the consultant’s recommendation of the extension of route 695 to Knox City (currently running from Gembrook to Belgrave). Time and time again community members have spoken out about their concerns about the difficulty of getting to Knox City via our bus network, particularly parents concerned about their teenagers having to wait, sometimes for extensive periods at Upper Ferntree Gully Station. I know there will be a great deal of community dissatisfaction about this glaring omission.

While we haven’t got everything we asked for I am still pleased with the progress that has been made to date and the council will continue to advocate for more public transport improvements across the municipality.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

colourful competition

It was delightful to be able join Michael Alexander, President of the Belgrave Trader’s Association, to present 2 local children with prizes for ‘best colouring in’ as part of the Trader’s Easter Colouring Competition.

Pictured left to right: Charmaine Jeffery – Manager, Belgrave Community Bendigo Bank, Emily, Michael Alexander – President, Belgrave Trader’s Association, Jayson and Cr Samantha Dunn. Emily took her picture to another level by adding real whiskers and a fluffy tummy to her Easter Bunny, while Jayson’s picture was so skilfully coloured for someone so young. They both did a great job, as did all the children who entered the competition.

Competition was fierce with hundreds of children across the region entering with all manner of Easter Bunnies, including ninja bunnies, rainbow bunnies, spotted bunnies and stripey bunnies. Charmaine Jeffery, Manager of the Belgrave Community Bendigo Bank, and me were tasked with the job of judging the plethora of entries pasted in shop windows throughout Belgrave.

Jayson, a 4 year old from Selby Pre School, took out the under 5 prize, whilst Emily, an 8 year old from St Thomas Mores Primary, took out the over 5 prize.

The children were delighted to be chosen winners of the competition and readily accepted their prizes with proud parents looking on.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

selby cfa election night

I had the great pleasure of presiding over the elections of the Selby CFA brigade as part of their AGM. It was terrific to see Sandra Jenkins re-elected to the position of Captain and James Rennick re-elected to the position of President.

The re-election of President James Rennick (left) and Captain Sandra Jenkins (right) reaffirms their position as strong leaders for the brigade.

recognised the difficulties the brigade faced in the aftermath of Black Saturday and the long process to rebuild and recover from that.

I recognised their dedication to protecting our community and commended the brigade on the leadership shown in efforts to remove tonnes of fire fuel from areas that directly interface with residential areas throughout Selby (see
blog). Selby CFA’s fire fuel reduction works serve as a model to use in the future and were a great collaborative effort between the CFA, the community and the shire.

The brigade has had a terrific response to their fundraising efforts throughout the last year and have been well supported by the local community. A testament of this support was the community funded Selby Tanker 2, where $200,000 was raised over 10 years to see the project come to fruition (see

The brigade, like most across the Dandenongs, has seen an increase in membership of firefighters and auxiliary members too. There is no doubt about the important role the CFA Brigades play in our local community.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

pokies in chirnside – no thanks

The Shire of Yarra Ranges recently had to provide a submission to the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation about the proposed relocation of 70 pokie machines to a new venue on a significant corner in Chirnside Park.

An application has been lodged to construct a hotel, function centre and recreation facility at 266 Maroondah Highway. It is a prominent, gateway location to the Shire of Yarra Ranges and the Yarra Valley. It is adjacent to the Chirnside Park Shopping Centre and is a completely inappropriate siting for such a facility.

I am opposed the move based on some serious concerns about the suitability of the site for gambling and the impact on our local economy and families in the region.

Part of the application includes the proposal to install 70 pokie machines which would be relocated from the Lilydale International site, which is being converted into retirement accommodation.

It is well know that pokies attract patrons from disadvantaged areas well beyond the borders of Chirnside Park. Our local economy loses millions of dollars to pokies, the last thing we’d support is greater financial strain on families as well as intensifying problem gambling in our community.

Yarra Ranges sees losses of $35million per annum in the Shire, this money would be far better spent in our local economies, rather than through the slot of a pokie machine. The cumulative losses since 1992, in today’s dollars, equals $500million, this is a massive hole in terms of money that could be spent elsewhere.

We know that problem gambling has significant negative health and wellbeing outcomes for families. It is a major determinant of ill health and the associated anti-social behaviour of problem gamblers has a significant negative impact on community well being.

And worst of all, the applicant has not even consulted with the community so community members haven’t even had the opportunity to voice their concerns to the regulator.

The Shire of Yarra Ranges council has always had strong concerns about the negative impact of gambling and has developed a responsible gambling strategy aimed at reducing the incidence of problem gambling.

The social costs are enormous, not to mention the economic impact to small business and employment. I will always be opposed to any additional pokie venues or machines, they are a blight on our community and take money from people who can least afford it.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

people friendly towns

This year sees stage 4 streetscape works in Belgrave. For some time cyclists have been crying out for some bicycle parking in the township. The streetscape works have provided an ideal opportunity to start to address the issue and make Belgrave a more people and cycle friendly place.

No need to buy bottled water, fill your reusable water bottle up in Belgrave. A far more sustainable way to quench your thirst.

The latest installation of bicycle parking complete with seating, water fountain and water bottle filler is a small way to make our towns more people friendly. It’s great to see people being able to get a drink of water without having to buy bottled water and to refill reusable water bottles too.

There will be more bicycle friendly spaces soon in the town, watch this space for more details.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

cockie community education

Last week saw the distribution of a flyer throughout the Dandenongs highlighting the importance of keeping wildlife wild.

After a community meeting last year about the extreme gnawing behaviour of the cockatoos in Kallista, I, the shire’s Environment Department and the Department of Sustainability and Environment collaborated to produce the flyer to educate the community about the pitfalls of feeding wildlife, particularly cockatoos.

All of those people who live near sites where cockatoos are fed are aware of the damage to property and the natural environment caused by the ongoing chewing by cockatoos. The flyer is a first step to educating the community and hopefully those people who feed cockatoos will understand the impact they are having in a broader sense.

I was pleased to be able to support this first step in an education and advocacy effort by funding the printing of the flyer through my ward fund. The Shire also picked up distribution costs for the flyers which were delivered across the Dandenongs to all areas where we've received reports of chewing cockatoos in the past.

Already I have been contacted by concerned residents who suffer ongoing property damage from cockatoos because their cockatoo feeding neighbours have not recognised the link between feeding cockatoos and property damage. I hope that people heed the message, it’s lovely to have wildlife in your backyard, but it is important to keep it wild.

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