Engineer's lasting legacy empowering landholders to improve land

A legacy left by John and Bette Mann is empowering Victorian landholders to improve soil, biodiversity and productivity on-farm. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

Respected environmental engineer John Mann was born and raised on a farm near Geelong, where he first discovered the profound impact of environmental conservation.

“My uncle was always involved and giving advice,” said John’s nephew Lance Mann. “He was big on planting trees … we’ve planted over 4,000 trees on the farm, and it has dramatically reduced our salinity problem, just as he said.”

John ascended to the role of Chief Engineer Manager at the Dandenong Valley Authority (DVA) at its inception in 1964, leaving an indelible mark on the water and flood management of the Dandenong Valley. His responsibility spanned designing infrastructure, maintaining existing structures, and predicting potential flood risks.

John Mann (far left) with colleagues from DVA Engineering. Photo courtesy Jim Jarvis.

In his first decade with the DVA, John was instrumental in allocating over $100 million (in today’s terms), towards river improvement works, drainage channels, pipelines, pumping stations, tree planting, and grass sowing.

These initial works were maintained and improved over the subsequent 10-year program, also designed by John. Importantly, he ensured the preservation of significant swamp and bird habitats. John’s work both safeguarded the ecosystem balance and public safety in the rapidly developing southeast suburbs of Melbourne.

Described by a colleague as a “true gentleman with an always-open door”, John’s influence was deeply felt.

John didn’t just keep his expertise to himself; he made numerous contributions to the field of Flood Plain Management and shared his knowledge globally. Accompanied by his wife Bette, who shared his passion for environmental preservation, John left a legacy that spans beyond borders.

John and Bette with the colossal 12-metre-wide “mermaid boab” at Careening Bay in WA’s Kimberley region. Photo courtesy Lance Mann.

Today, John and Bette’s dedication to environmental restoration continues to inspire and assist others through the John and Bette Mann Landholder Grant.

Administered by Greening Australia at the bequest of John and Bette, this fund symbolises their enduring commitment to a greener future, providing an annual grant to Victorian farmers and landholders to positively impact land conservation, soil improvement and land productivity.

The inaugural grants have been awarded this year to recipients Anthony Pelchen, and Anthony Dufty and Cate Kirk-Dufty. They’ll use the funds for activities that will deliver strong biodiversity and habitat connectivity value across a total combined area of 30 hectares.

What an incredible way to be remembered.

By supporting Greening Australia with a gift in your Will, you can leave a legacy like John and Bette’s, that helps heal our continent, and our planet. Find out more about Gifts in Wills.


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