Meet Gold Coast’s Ecological Warriors
Natalie O’Driscoll | June 4, 2021
The Gold Coast is one of the most bio-diverse regions in Australia, with 49% of land covered in native vegetation. Unfortunately, climate change and a rapidly growing population pose threats to the future of our unique natural environment. That’s where ecological conservation and restoration groups come in.
With World Environment Day on 5 June, we thought we’d celebrate some of the innovative programs and passionate people behind ecological restoration on the Gold Coast.
North East Albert Landcare
The focus of North East Albert Landcare is the restoration of private land in the northern reaches of Gold Coast. Ideally, the group wishes to eventually connect remnant vegetation to form a continuous biodiversity and wildlife corridor from the Darlington Range to Moreton Bay. Sue Durance has been an active member of the organisation since 1992.
“I was initially inspired by local environmental legends, Janet Hauser and Glen Leiper, who lived nearby and willingly shared their considerable knowledge,” Sue shares.
“I quickly fell in love with the rainforest plants of the Gold Coast Hinterland, particularly the remnant species along the Pimpama River where I live.” These include the critically endangered Ormeau Bottle Tree which is a huge focus of the program, and needs immediate protection in order to ensure its survival.
The City’s Beaches to Bushland Volunteer Landcare Program provides an opportunity for Gold Coasters to foster a connection with their natural environment and their fellow nature lovers. Each year the program volunteers engage an impressive 5,000 people in the planting of 60,000 trees across 60 hectares of the Gold Coast, making it the largest replanting program in the city. Residents have the option to join an ongoing bushcare or landcare group or volunteer in a community tree planting day. This program not only protects and restores our natural areas through bush regeneration, it also provides a fun and educational volunteer experience. The program is also up for a National Landcare award in August 2021.
oRestore is an innovative and pioneering piece of ecological tech that Gold Coast is proud to call its very own. The first ever return-on-investment calculator for ecological restoration, oRestore – developed in partnership with University of Queensland and Griffith University – is an application that aids conservation managers in making cost effective resource allocation decisions.
Why does it work so well? The Gold Coast’s developed landscape makes restoration a complicated matter. The 13,000 hectare conservation estate is made up of 800 scattered parks consisting of many vegetation types, all in different states of degradation. The tool allows the user to test spending scenarios based on the limited budgets available, enabling cost savings and maximum ecological benefits for the restoration programme.
Land for Wildlife is a voluntary program that encourages and assists landholders to manage wildlife habitat on their properties. Through the long-running program, residents learn about native plants, animals and ecosystems on their property, and get advice on managing threats such as weeds and pest animals. The Land for Wildlife program is free and hugely popular, with nearly 7,000 members in South East Queensland, making it the fastest growing network of landholders involved in private conservation in Australia. No wonder it’s been going for more than twenty years.
The Guanaba Indigenous Protected Area (I.P.A) is situated at the foot of Mount Tamborine and covers 100 hectares of dense rainforest. Guanaba is part of the traditional lands of the Kombumerri people, who have inhabited the Gold Coast and its hinterland for at least 24,000 years. The site is being managed by its Indigenous custodians to conserve and enhance the natural qualities and conservation value of the area.
Justine Dillon is a traditional owner and the Guanaba I.P.A Project Coordinator.
“I.P.A has federal funding through National Indigenous Australian Agency (NIAA) to conserve the environment and culture as a Traditional Owner body,” she explains.
“Our site is 98 hectares of dry sclerophyll and rainforest gullies with a fresh water creek and aquifer supporting our native flora and fauna.” Visitors to the area can experience endangered and rare species, a bush tucker trail, Corrobboree Circle, cultural and environmental educational activities, bush walking and nature play. You can book a complimentary visit here.
In 2015 the upper estuary at Damian Leeding Memorial Park on the Coomera River showed significant bank scour and bed erosion, causing a risk to infrastructure and public safety. There was also a threat that the river could break into the recreational lake within the park. An erosion assessment was conducted and an innovative design using hardwood trees implemented. This naturally stabilised the park and allowed re-establishment of mangrove seedlings and sediment. By 2018, the project had successfully stabilised 450 metres of foreshore by placing hardwood instream structures on the riverbed, tethering logs to marine hardwood piles, and revegetating the bank with 7100 native riparian plants. The success of the project and others like it across the City continue to be monitored to ensure the riverbanks remain stable and that foreshores and aquatic habitats remain protected. More natural stabilisation projects will be rolled out in 2022.
The Broadwater Parklands Mangrove Wetlands creation was a $1.2M restoration project designed to improve the quality of stormwater discharged into the Broadwater and increase the diversity in marine habitat within the Southport Parklands. In order to create the new wetlands, the City utilised material dredged from the Broadwater channel, and planted two species of mangrove seed. This multi-functional artificial wetland now successfully filters suspended nutrients, sediments and gross pollutants from the Broadwater, while providing marine habitat and increases coastal resilience. The once-degraded area now successfully treats stormwater from a 7 hectare area of urban catchment, and is home to 21 bird species, 20 plant species and 8 fish species.
Friends of Nerang National Park was founded in 2020 by Nerang local, Jessica Lovegrove-Walsh, to assist the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service in managing invasive plants in the 1600 hectare park.
“The two biggest threats to the natural world are land clearing and invasive species, the latter of which is the focus of Friends of Nerang National Park,” explains Jessica. On the second Sunday of each month, the group hosts all-inclusive events that are primarily focused on ecological restoration. These events help to maintain habitat for native wildlife, including the threatened species which call Nerang home, such as the koala, greater glider, and the glossy black-cockatoo.
City of Gold Coast runs Our Beaches, a coastal education program for students and the general community that aims to encourage Gold Coast residents to keep their beaches beautiful. It offers insightful information about coastal processes, sea life and vegetation and also runs hands-on sessions that include planting native species, weeding and collecting litter. Excitingly, they also host school holidays programs that offer physical, interactive and educational activities for kids, helping to create the next generation of little coastline warriors.
Back from the Brink is an environmental documentary series and extensive original media collection created and owned by passionate conservation organisation Natura Pacific. Back from the Brink shines a light on local threatened species with the goal to educate the community and hopefully inspire them to act before it’s too late.
“Australia, like the rest of the world, is entering the sixth wave of mass extinction,” says Natura Pacific’s Mark Nadir Runkovski. “A variety of inter-relating factors, not just in Australia, but around the world, are contributing to this process: pollution, land-clearing, disease and most challenging of all, climate change. These extinction-drivers are often so large and overwhelming, that communities find it difficult to know where to begin if they’re to start trying to tackle the crisis. But there are many ways in which each and every one of us can do our bit, it’s simply about sharing the stories and know-how.” Enter Back from the Brink.
Friends of the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens Inc were instrumental in the establishment of the botanic gardens through several years of lobbying and advocacy starting in 1998. Five years later, the first planting day was held in July 2003. Since then, there have been more than fifty community planting days, planned and coordinated by Friends, partnering with the City of Gold Coast Council. These have resulted in a plant collection that represents the region’s distinct and diverse flora.
In addition, the Friends created the Endangered Plant Trail, the Mangroves to Mountains Walk, the Friends Nursery which specialises in the propagation of regional species, monthly plant sales, and the support of scientific research and education. The Friends also provide informative and enjoyable guided walks at the Botanic Gardens. For more information visit their Facebook page. It’s an understatement to say they’ve been and continue to be instrumental in the conservation and promotion of Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens.
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