Category Archives: Urban ecosystems

Operational planning and logistics – introducing fire into the landscape

Robert Strauch

Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub (ESBS) is an Endangered Ecological Community that only exists in the eastern part of the Greater Sydney area – between North Head and La Perouse. From an original estimated area of 5300 hectares there’s only 146 hectares of this community left. From the 3% that’s actually left only 18% of that ESBS is on managed lands. A lot of it is in areas like golf courses, people’s backyards along coastal parts in the Sydney eastern suburbs and small pockets on Council reserves, most locations of it are quite sparse in area, with the North Head community being the largest portion in total area remaining.

In 2004, the key stakeholders developed a recovery plan for ESBS, with National Parks working with other land management agencies to try and protect and manage this community. One of the recommendations from the plan was high intensity burn at an 8-15 year rotation.

Fire and Rescue New South Wales (NSW) are re-introducing fire as a tool to restore ESBS at three sites: broad area burning at North Head, some windrow burning at La Perouse on the site of the NSW Golf Course and pile burning at Centennial Park in the Moore Park area. This involved three types of burns: an area burn, windrows and burn piles.

Fig 1. Broad area burning at North Head

Fig 1. Broad area burning at North Head

1. North Head

A burn was conducted at North Head, Sydney Harbour in early September 2012. This was done in collaboration with National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and also the North Head Sanctuary Foundation. Interestingly, the location of the fire is very close to the location Dr Geoff Lambert has identified as the site European people in Australia first recorded their observations of fire being used by Indigenous people on the 28th May 1788.

Methods and risk management. At North Head, three relatively small burns were conducted: third quarantine cemetery (0.8 ha), North Fort (1.5 ha0 and Blue Fish Drive (1.8 ha). These involved very high levels of operational logistics and operational planning, prior to waiting for the appropriate burn conditions.

(a) Public safety. Because of a history of fires getting out of control at North Head, precautions involved restricting public access to the headland, which meant confining all three burns to 1 day to minimise disruption. There was an overall incident controller, Superintendent Kel McNamara for the North Head complex, plus divisional commanders in charge of each of the burns. The divisional commanders essentially were running their individual burns managing their operations officers and resources required. From this we ended up with 10 firefighting appliances (trucks) and (including the incident management and logistical appliance) we had a total of 36 resources contributed by three agencies: Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Rural Fire Service Pittwater-Warringah. With all of that we had 121 fire fighters for our very small sites. State Emergency Service assisted us with closing down walking trails and making sure people weren’t actually coming onto the headland. We had a fire truck (Flying Pumper) sitting there as if it was in a fire station, so if any spot fires occurred they could go and deal with the fire and we could still carry on with our prescribed burning that we were undertaking.

(b) On the day of the burns there were 400 kids on the headland, which was worrying. I tried to encourage them to go into Manly for the day but they wanted to stay on the headland for their planned activities at the Quarantine Station. Because of that I then had to go through steps in the local emergency management plan and arrange with Sydney Ferries to make sure there was a ferry ready and available in case we needed to evacuate the headland as we could only evacuate by water. Also we had to speak with Harbour Control in case the fire got away and we had to shut down the shipping channels coming into Sydney Harbour.

(c) Heritage protection. We obtained mitigation funding through the NDRP National Disaster Resilience Funds to do some mitigation work around North Head’s historical stone walls criss-crossing the headland. This involved some clearing along those walls to protect the historical significance of them and this clearing doubled to create a strategic fire advantage zone over the headland.

(d) Miscellaneous risks. Among the other things I had to deal with was underground ventilation. There’s historical war tunnels through North Head with ventilation intakes that I had to make sure were covered and insulated so we weren’t dragging smoke into the underground tunnels, increasing the carbon monoxide load down there. This was so if people walked in there after the burns they weren’t going to asphyxiate themselves. The bonus carry over from Defence was possible unexploded ordinance out on the headland. Furthermore, the Sydney Water treatment plant opposite the blue fish drive burn involves an above-ground storage tank of highly explosive biogas.

(e) We could only burn in certain seasons. The breeding seasons of the Endangered population of Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta) and also the penguins had to be considered. This also involved working in with studies of these that were being done by the University of New South Wales, researching the bandicoot’s pre and post-fire introduction. Then we had to put in a notification strategy. The weather window, given all the other constraints, was very narrow. We put out an email notification system where we were literally going to give people anything from 24 hours notice up to 48 hours notice to actually go ahead with the burn.

This high level of risk meant that I had to win the confidence of senior management of Fire and Rescue NSW to support the burn. We did get that support as well as support from all the other land managers, which was fantastic.

Burns themselves. In terms of the burns themselves, once the fire got into the burn area it developed to very good intensity. It was a very high fuel load situation and one interesting challenge was to try and stop the fire fighters from putting the fires out. The buildings were quite close and they were very small parcels of burns.

Ecological context. The burns that we did on North Head involved a range of experimental treatments that included burning, controlled thinning and untreated controls; with some sites fenced from rabbits, a study conducted by Dr Judy Lambert.

We burnt on a small scale to start with to see what type of regeneration we were going to get from broad area burning out on the headland. The regeneration that we’re getting out at North Head is outstanding. But the biggest problem that we have is the newly sprouted post fire vegetation degradation from rabbits and the bandicoots. So we suggest for any burning in ESBS, the advice is that it needs to be fenced post-burn to encourage the regeneration to thrive.

Fig 2. High biomass vegetation before burn, North Head

Fig 2. High biomass vegetation before burn, North Head

Fig 3. During burn at North Head

Fig 3. During burn at North Head

Fig 4. Water deliver from air, North Head

Fig 4. Water deliver from air, North Head

Fig 5. Mopping up after burn at North Head

Fig 5. Mopping up after burn at North Head

2. La Perouse

At the New South Wales golf course at La Perouse the dominant species, Coastal Tea Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) was cut and dropped on the ground. They let it cure and then they come in and burn it in isolated pockets.  Burning on the golf course is a lot easier than North Head because there are far fewer risks to plan for and manage, and the eastern boundary is the Pacific Ocean. With this type of environment and preparation we can get extremely high intensity burns which are required for the ESBS. Once again the land managers fence the area to stop exposure to rabbits. At the La Perouse golf course site, we had arson this fire season so we had an additional 21 hectares of wildfire. We’ve put measures in place to monitor what introduced fire has done compared with what wildfire has done in the same vegetative area along Henry Head.

3. Centennial Park

Centennial Park, in the middle of Sydney, has an area of ESBS which is not even a hectare. The Park’s owners, the Centennial Park Trust, have been manually clearing weed from the ESBS, piling it and then conducting pile burns on the area, spreading the ash from that. Once again some really good regeneration has occurred there and the burn area is also fenced off to stop rabbits.

That’s our story of how Fire and Rescue NSW has been involved in broad area burning, windrow burning and pile burning, working with land managers for the recovery of Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub.

Acknowledgements: Fire and Rescue NSW acknowledge this project could not have happed without the collaboration of National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, North Head Sanctuary Foundation, Rural Fire Service Pittwater Warringah, Road and Maritime Services, NSW Police, Manly Council, Sydney Water, Sydney Ports, Sydney Ferries, Harbor Control, Department of Defence and many others.

Contact: Robert Strauch, Bushfire Officer – Metro East Command, Fire and Rescue NSW (Operational Capability, Specialised Operations, Bushfire Section – Level 1, 55 Dickson Avenue, Artarmon, NSW 2064. Tel: +61 2 9901 2445, +61 448 597 547; Email: E

[This project summary is a precis of a talk presented to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s 10th Biennial Bushfire Conference, ‘Fire and Restoration: Working with Fire for Healthy Lands’ 26-27 May 2015. For full paper see:

Fig 6. Windrows before the burn, La Perouse

Fig 6. Windrows before the burn, La Perouse

Fig 7. Burn La Perouse

Fig 7. Burn La Perouse

Fig 8. Mopping up after burn, La Perouse

Fig 8. Mopping up after burn, La Perouse

Twelve years of healing: Rehabilitating a willow-infested silt flat – Stormwater Management.

Alan Lane

Key words: urban stream, erosion, siltation, soft engineering, head wall

Introduction: Popes Glen Creek is a small permanent stream rising close to the centre of the township of Blackheath, NSW, Australia. Its upper catchment (10 ha) comprises low-permeability urban development, roadways, shops and parklands.

The funneling of runoff from the low-permeability catchment into the headwaters of Popes Glen Creek resulted in intense and destructive runoff after rain, carrying down large and small debris, depositing sheets of silt, uprooting or burying vegetation, causing erosion of the creek banks and threatening to undermine the head wall of the silt flat downstream. This resulted in the formation of a 1 ha silt flat at the headwaters of the creek, covered with dense infestations of mature Crack Willow (Salix fragilis), Purple Ossier (S. purpurea) and mid-storey and ground-layer weeds. This has been revegetated as a permanent wetland as described in a previous summary (

This summary describes the runoff management aspects of the project, where the aims were:

  1. to reduce the impact of runoff
  2. to reduce the incursion of silt
  3. to remediate the main channel
  4. to stabilise the head wall.
Fig 1: Notched weir diverting water towards sedimentation pond.

Figure 1: Notched weir diverting water towards sedimentation pond.

Figure 2: Sedimentation pond

Figure 2: Sedimentation pond

Works carried out:

1. Diversion of part of the flow and capturing sediment. A diversion channel was constructed with flow regulated by a notched weir in the main stream. This diverts approximately half the volume of the flow into a sedimentation pond were silt is captured, reducing the quantity deposited downstream (Figures 1 and 2).

2. Construction of low-impact detention cells. “Soft engineering” detention cells constructed across the silt flat from coir logs and woody debris found on site retain and slow the release of flow, dispersing it across the silt flat and raising the water table, suppressing weeds and supporting the vegetation of the created wetland (Figures 3 and 4).

3. Elimination of the highly incised main channel. Natural debris falling into the main channel creates a series of small pondages. These retain and slow the flow and allow overflow to disperse across the silt flat. (Figure 5).

4. Protection of the creek banks. Dense plantings of deep-rooted swamp vegetation e.g. Red-fruited Saw Sedge (Gahnia sieberiana) and Black Wattle (Callicoma serratifolia) (Figure 6), and loosely woven structures constructed from woody debris (Figure 7) protect creek banks and silt flat from erosion and scouring.

5. Stabilisation of the headwall. Contractors employed with funds from the Environmental Trust have constructed a major structure with railway sleepers and rock armouring to stabilise the head wall (Figures 8 and 9).

Figure 3: Volunteers building a detention cell from woody debris found on site.

Figure 3: Volunteers building a detention cell from woody debris found on site.

Figure 4: Raised water table enabled wetland sedges (Carex gaudichaudiana and Eleocharis sphacolata) to displace Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens).

Figure 4: Raised water table enabled wetland sedges (Carex gaudichaudiana and Eleocharis sphacolata) to displace Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens).


Lessons learned and future directions:  This project is on track to replace the forest of willows with wetland vegetation, transform a highly incised creek and weed-infested silt flat into a healthy Upper Blue Mountains Swamp – an endangered ecological community scheduled under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The volunteer group will continue working with Council and contractors to complete the planting program and to monitor the evolution of the site, including its vegetation, water quality and colonisation by macroinvertebrates, birds and frogs.

Stakeholders and funding bodies: This work is supported by a grant from the Government of New South Wales through its Environmental Trust and by the Blue Mountains City Council,  which also oversaw the engineering works. All photographs: Alan Lane and Paul Vale.

Figure 5: A natural pondage formed when debris was allowed to remain in the stream.

Figure 5: A natural pondage formed when debris was allowed to remain in the stream.

Figure 6: Dense plantings of Black Wattle (Calicoma serratifolia) and Gahnia (Gahnia sieberiana) protect creek banks from erosion.

Figure 6: Dense plantings of Black Wattle (Callicoma serratifolia) and Gahnia (Gahnia sieberiana) protect creek banks from erosion.

Figure 7: Volunteers using woody debris to protect the silt flat from scouring.

Figure 7: Volunteers using woody debris to protect the silt flat from scouring.

Figure 8: Part of the original head wall approximately 3 m high and 20 m wide.

Figure 8: Part of the original head wall approximately 3 m high and 20 m wide.

Figure 9:  Part of structure constructed to stabilise the head wall.

Figure 9: Part of structure constructed to stabilise the head wall.

Contact information: Dr Alan Lane, Coordinator Popes Glen Bushcare Group, PO Box 388, Blackheath NSW 2785, Australia. Tel: +61 2 4787 7097; Paul Vale, Deputy Coordinator Popes Glen Bushcare Group, 81 Prince Edward St, Blackheath NSW 2785, Australia. Tel: +61 2 4787 8080; and Ray Richardson, Chairman of Steering Committee, Environmental Trust Grant 2011/CBR/0098. Tel: +61 2 4759 2534.

Reconstructing Western Sydney Grassy Woodland Understorey at Hoxton Park, Sydney, NSW

By Christopher Brogan

Purpose of the project. Endeavour Energy sought to restore a small highly disturbed Cumberland Plain Woodland bushland remnant at the West Liverpool Zone Substation at Hoxton Park, to offset 12 native trees removed to facilitate construction works at their electricity substation.

Condition of the site. The Cumberland Plain Woodland remnant was very small (approx.0 3.ha) and contained relatively healthy examples of four native trees (Grey Ironbark Eucalyptus crebra, Grey Box E. moluccana , Forest Red Gum E. tereticornis and some Paperbark Melaleuca decora). However, the native shrub and ground layer was generally absent and the soil surface was highly compacted with a low organic matter content. This was due to historic clearing for agriculture, recent clearing for the installation of electrical infrastructure and the fact that a layer of coarse fill material and asphalt had been deposited over the topsoil in some areas (probably for car parking).

Goals. As we found fragments of 3 grasses and 6 forbs remaining on site, our goals were to protect and enhance all remaining plants by ecologically sensitive weed control and planting of missing species from the Cumberland Plain Woodland community.

We had 24 months to achieve the revegetation, with performance criteria being: a survival rate of >80%; a reduction in the percentage cover weed to < 5%; and, an increase in percentage cover of the herbaceous layer to 67% – 100%.

Fig 1. Weed control included cut stump poisoning of woody weeds and high volume herbicide spraying of invasive perennial grasses.

Fig 1. Weed control included cut stump poisoning of woody weeds and high volume herbicide spraying of invasive perennial grasses. (Photo C Brogan)

Around 260 cubic metres of recycled wood waste was used to mulch to a depth of 100mm over 2,600 square metres.

Around 260 cubic metres of recycled wood waste was used to mulch to a depth of 100mm over 2,600 square metres.(Photo C.Brogan)

What we did. We identified two zones on site: Zone 1 – with capacity for assisted regeneration; and Zone 2 – without capacity for assisted regeneration. Zone 1 was treated using standard bush regeneration techniques – i.e. removal of weed to facilitate natural regeneration. Zone 2 treatments included: weed control, mulching with recycled wood waste (2,600m2 x 100mm deep); planting with 9,100 native tubestock (3-4 plants /1m2) raised from Western Sydney seed; and watering throughout the first month.

After some assisted natural regeneration and planting 9,100 native tubestock (raised from Western Sydney seed) a strong cover of native understorey was reinstated.

After some assisted natural regeneration and planting 9,100 native tubestock (raised from Western Sydney seed) a strong cover of native understorey was reinstated. (Photo. C Brogan)

The Presentation Title

Same part of the site taken before and after treatment.

Same part of the site taken before and after treatment. (C Brogan)

What advice can we offer?

  • Always check your project site to identify any fragments of native species which may be present and protect them during weed control works, particularly when spraying herbicide.
  • Use good quality tubestock of the appropriate provenance and budget for a seed collection program if the project timetable allows.
  • Never underestimate the need to water tubestock during hot months and allocate sufficient resources to watering.

Contact: Christopher Brogan, Earth Repair and Restoration Pty Ltd, PO Box 232 Panania NSW 2213. Tel: +61 (0)2 9774 3200 Email:; Web:

Acknowledgement. This is summarised from a talk first presented to the symposium ‘Rebuilding Ecosystems: What are the Principles?’ Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre, November 13th, 2014, Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR).



Directly transplanting of native monocots from donor areas to suitable reconstruction sites

By Edgar Freimanis

Key words: urban bushland restoration, site remediation, direct return topsoil, plant salvage, transplanting.

Introduction: As a bush regeneration contractor often working adjacent to development sites in the Sydney Region it occurred to me that plants and topsoil earmarked for destruction at a development site could be salvaged and translocated to improve results in nearby or similar restoration areas. Monocots lend themselves to this process due to their comparatively shallow, fibrous and stoloniferous root systems that have adapted to regrowing after disturbance.

Works undertaken and results. Over the years our bush regeneration contract team has translocated monocots at a range of project sites where natural regeneration potential is very low. Typically this technique accompanies our more conventional planting of nursery grown tree and shrub tubestock in these areas. The soils in these recipient areas are usually similar to those of the donor sites from where they were sourced. If weed management is needed, the recipient sites are typically weeded before transplanting takes place. We use hand tools such as shovels to dig-up variable sized sections of mostly native grasses and some other native monocotyledonous plant sods from areas that have been designated for development and other similar authorised clearing.

The sods are placed into plastic trays, moved and directly transplanted into parts of adjoining bushland conservation areas that have been designated for reconstruction planting. The transplants can be placed within recipient sites at similar densities to grassy ground layer tubestock plantings, (e.g. at densities of between 1-4-plants per m2, or more) or laid out like turf in continuous sections,

Plant establishment aids such as water retention crystals and fertilisers are also applied to each transplant at planting to assist with plant survival and establishment. The transplants are watered-in initially and on subsequent occasions, depending on prevailing soil moisture conditions, project resources and project timing.

Ongoing follow-up bush regeneration weeding is typically undertaken in the recipient sites, as required. (Fig 1). Monitoring has been confined to ‘before and after’ photo documentation, as shown in the following examples.

Figure 1. A sod of the native grass Entolasia stricta being transplanted at 4 plants/m2 into the old driveway at the Tuckwell Road. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 1. A sod of the native grass Entolasia stricta being transplanted at 4 plants/m2 into the old driveway at the Tuckwell Road. (Photo: Ecohort)

1. Tuckwell Road, Castle Hill Shale Sandstone Transition Forest and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest Regeneration and Reconstruction of low residence sections. The recipient site was a rehabilitated old bitumen driveway within an estimated 0.40-hecatre bushland conservation and restoration area Native grasses and other monocots were transplanted from a bushland area that was being cleared for associated road widening works at a density of four plants/m2. (Figs 2 and 3).

Figure 2. Tuckwell Road ‘before’ (note: exotic plants already removed). (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 2. Tuckwell Road ‘before’ (note: exotic plants already removed). (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 3. Tuckwell road about 2-years later showing transplanted native monocots and planted native shrubs. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 3. Tuckwell road about 2-years later showing transplanted native monocots and planted native shrubs. (Photo: Ecohort)

2. Kellyville (Cumberland Plain Woodland site). The recipient site consisted of an edge of a bushland conservation area, that was subject to earthworks associated with a retirement village development. The recipient site’s soils were ripped to alleviate compaction and topsoiled with local clay-based topsoil. Native grass sods were transplanted from donor areas that were located within the approved development footprint area adjoining the bushland conservation area. The sods were cut into 200-300mm sections and placed in close proximity to on-another, not too dissimilar to a jig-saw puzzle or hand cut turf, to make a continuous grassy layer, with minimal gaps between transplanted sods. The transplanted sods were lightly filled and top-dressed with local topsoil to fill and level out any gaps between the sods, and then trimmed to surrounding ground levels and watered-in well. (Figs 4 and 5)

Figure 4. Native grasses being transplanted, very close together like turf sods at Kellyville. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 4. Native grasses being transplanted, very close together like turf sods at Kellyville. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 5. Same Kellyvillle site about a year later. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 5. Same Kellyvillle site about a year later. (Photo: Ecohort)

3.Spinifex transplanting on coastal sand dunes. In this project the rhizomous native grass sprinfex was transplanted into dunes from nearby areas at Corrimal Beach in the Wollongong local government area, as a part of works associated with Council’s 2013 Dune Management Implementation Plan. The spinifex transplanting works were undertaken in conjunction with weed control and tubestock reconstruction planting works.(Figs 6 and 7)

Figure 6. Spinifex being transplanted into a section of dune at 2-4-plants per m2. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 6. Spinifex being transplanted into a section of dune at 2-4-plants per m2. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 7. Section of spinifex that has established from previous transplanting. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 7. Section of spinifex that has established from previous transplanting. (Photo: Ecohort)

Benefits and characteristics of direct transplanting include:

  • Reduction of lengthy plant propagation and seed collection phases;
  • Avoidance of seed maturity restrictions and clashes with project construction phases;
  • Guaranteed achievement of local provenance material;
  • Ability to obtain species that are difficult to propagate or collect seed from;
  • Potential inclusion of other plant species from donor to recipient sites (translocated as seed in the soil of transplanted sods);
  • Achievement of similar densities to tubestock planting or turf-laying;
  • Ease of implementation (transplanting monocots is a technique that has been long-practiced by bush regenerators, gardeners and horticulturists);
  • Ability to conduct the treatments on a small scale using hand tools, or large scale using heavy machinery.

Barriers and challenges to direct transplanting include:

  • Timing/gaining consent difficulties relating to compatibility of works between donor and recipient sites;
  • Convincing consent authorities of the efficacy of this method;
  • Technical issues: proximity of donor and recipient sites;
  • Cost, (including maintenance and watering) which can be higher than other methods;
  • Difficulty in transplanting some monocots;
  • Potential for soil pathogen spread.

Acknowledgements:  This summary was originally presented to the November 2014 Symposium ‘Rebuilding Ecosystems’ held at the Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre, Sydney by the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR)

Contact: Edgar Freimanis, Ecohort, ( PO Box 6540 Rouse Hill NSW Australia 2156 Tel: +61 418 162-970 Email: ed

Acknowledgement. This is summarised from a talk first presented to the symposium ‘Rebuilding Ecosystems: What are the Principles?’ Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre, November 13th, 2014, Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR).

Grey Box grassy woodland restoration: Mandilla Reserve, Flagstaff Hill, South Australia

Key Words:  Minimal disturbance, bush regeneration, Eucalyptus microcarpa, volunteer, Bush For Life

The Site:  Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) Grassy Woodland is listed as an endangered ecological community under the EPBC Act 1999. This ecological community was once widespread on the drier edge of the temperate grassy eucalypt woodland belt of south-eastern Australia. In South Australia, this community occupies less than 3 percent of the area it once did before European settlement. One of the remaining suburban remnants of this community can be found in Mandilla Reserve, Flagstaff Hill, SA. The reserve is surrounded by suburban houses and remains under threat from weed and pest invasion, lack of recruitment of canopy species plus degradation associated with urban encroachment (pollution runoff, rubbish, excessive stormwater). Since 1996 the Bush or Life program together with the City of Onkaparinga have supported community volunteers to care for and manage the bush regeneration work within the reserve. The objective was to restore the highly degraded Grey Box remnant into a woodland community representing the unique diverse vegetation it once housed.

Geoff and Barbara Moss, volunteers at Mandilla Reserve

Works:   Two very dedicated community members adopted the site in 1996 and began visiting on average 3 times per week. They used minimal disturbance bushcare techniques to tackle a carpet of bulb weeds such as Sparaxis (Sparaxis bulbifera), Soursob (Oxalis pes-caprae), Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) and Cape Tulip (Moraea flaccida) mixed with highly invasive annual and perennial grass species. In the surrounding degraded areas, some strategic planting was also carried out using Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), Sticky Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and local sedge seedlings. Four areas were also hand direct seeded with native grasses to encourage ground cover recruitment and discourage weeds. All seed used was collected on site to ensure local provenance was maintained.

The flourishing Grey Box Grassy Woodland now found on the reserve

Success of the combination of natural regeneration and supplementary plantings

Results After thousands of volunteer hours, extensive regeneration of natives occurred on site. The volunteers’ work has transformed the reserve into a flourishing area of lilies, native grasses and understorey shrubs. Today, the vegetation in the reserve is virtually weed free and even native orchids are beginning to return. In addition, the area that the bushland covers has expanded as a result of the planting and direct seeding. Since these works, natural regeneration has also been observed of native sedges including Senecio, Carex, Juncus and native grasses.

Lessons learned:  Regular follow up for several years is vital to the success of any primary clearance work whether or not minimal disturbance techniques are used. Facilitated regeneration can be successfully used with bush regeneration providing it is strategic and complementary to and considerate of existing natural regeneration processes. Maintenance of the plantings or hand direct seeding is also vital to minimise competition from weeds and ensure their success.

Acknowledgements: This site is owned by the City of Onkaparinga Council and is managed in partnership with Trees For Life who train and support volunteers through its Bush For Life program. Thanks goes to Geoff and Barbara Moss, the site’s main volunteers.

Contact:  Jenna Currie, Bush For Life Regional Coordinator, Trees For Life

Sustainable Streets Program, Byron Shire Council, NSW

Graeme Williams

Byron Shire Council’s ‘Sustainable Streets’ program aims to foster community-inspired sustainable behaviour change at a neighbourhood level. The program consists of regular neighbourhood gatherings and sustainability education workshops on topics, including: organic gardening; bush-friendly backyards; rainwater harvesting; solar power and energy efficiency; ethical shopping; green cleaning and, cooking with local produce.  .

Activities. In each participating neighbourhood, residents get together for sustainability workshops and build bonds in the neighbourhood, whilst raising points to fund their own local sustainability project. Currently seven streets in neighbourhoods across Byron and Tweed Shire Councils have participated in the Sustainable Streets program, including: Brunswick Heads; Mullumbimby; South Golden Beach; Mullum Creek; Murwillumbah; Cabarita Beach; Uki.

Analyses of the street’s consumption of energy, water and ecological footprint (i.e. the number of planets needed if everyone lived that lifestyle) were made prior to the program and calculated again after 6 months. (Results are shown in Table 1.)

Table 1. Decreases in energy, water and eco footprint of residents in participating Sustainable Streets in the Tweed-Byron area.

Location of Street Energy Water Eco Footprint
South Golden Beach 5.0% decrease 43.0% decrease 5.5% decrease
Uki 13.0% decrease 23.0% decrease 14.5% decrease
Mullumbimby Creek 13.5% decrease 62.0% decrease 21.0% decrease
Cabarita 26.0% decrease 23.0% decrease 20.5% decrease
Brunswick Heads 12.3% decrease 41.5% decrease 15.3% decrease

Results to date.

Energy. Participants have changed to Greenpower, with 8 families having installed their own solar power system. Other changes have been changing consumption patterns including turning off standbys, installing low wattage lights, wearing jumpers instead of turning on heaters, manual operation of electric hot water boosters, adjusting pool pumps minimum use or converting to a natural pool and insulative cooking.

Water. Five families have installed water tanks, others use shower timers, less frequent bigger clothes and dish washing loads.

Food and garden. Participants have converted to efficient composting or worm farms or installed poultry. Others meet more regularly for neighbourhood food and plant swaps and and buy more local food from a nearby organic farmer and at the Farmer’s markets.

Fuel emissions. Changes included reducing air travel, downsizing the family to more fuel efficient models, increased carpooling and pushbike use.

Environment. Nine families cleared their land of invasive weeds

Lessons. A major aspect of the project has been the strengthening of social connections in the neighbourhood, with many participants drawn into the program to ‘get to know their neighbours’. In an increasingly isolated society, the enhancement of social capital has been one of the most significant achievements of the program and platform to develop local sustainability. It is hoped that additional streets will be launched in the future.

Contact Byron Shire Council’s Sustainability Officer on 6626 7305. Also see to access the ‘Sustainable Streets doco’ which can be borrowed from local libraries.

Sustainable Streets residents (Photo Byron Shire Council)

Brunswick Heads Sustainable Streets participants (Photo Byron Shire Council)

Geary’s Way Bushcarers – Success is in our sights

Key words: bush regeneration, community engagement, habitat restoration, urban bushland, follow up

Hugh Lander

Geary’s Way Bushcare team tends a small, but important area of recovering bushland in Kylie Avenue, Killara, NSW in the Local Government Area of Ku-ring-gai. In its “native” state the area would have been recognised as a Sydney Turpentine, Ironbark Forest (STIF) but in the century or so since the development of the suburb, the site had degraded to a point where it was highly infested by a wide range of weed species including Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum) and Small-leaved Privet (Ligustrum sinense).

Council records show that, over the last 40 years, several groups of concerned local residents have made attempts to rehabilitate the area and these well-meaning efforts have invariably ended in failure as interest waned or people moved on. However this latest attempt began in earnest in January 2008 and with the help of Ku-ring-gai Council staff, the Council’s Wildflower nursery at St Ives, several successful applications for funding to the Council’s Small Grants Scheme funded by the Environmental Levy and a small but very enthusiastic team of local residents – the project now really looks like it will succeed.

How the site looked before work started just 4 years ago – native trees being “swamped” by Balloon Vine

When the work began there was a deal of consternation in certain quarters because the site had been the subject of several previous attempts at rehabilitation – all of them had failed and each time it seemed that things just got worse. Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia), Lantana (Lantana camara) , Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) and Morning Glory (Ipomoea indica) covered the site to a depth of 4 metres with Lantana and Balloon vine growing 7 – 10 metres up whatever native trees remained, although many of them had already died. Beneath all this nearly every weed known to Ku-ring-gai’s Bushcarers grew in profusion: Crofton weed (Ageratina adenophora), Fleabane (Conyza bonariensis), Onion Weed (Nothoscordum gracile), Senna (Senna x pendula), Slender Celery (Cyclospermum leptophyllum), Moth Vine (Araujia sericifera), Ehrharta (Ehrharta erecta), Tradescantia (Tradescantia fluminensis), African Ivy (Delairea odorata), Fishbone Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia), Turkey Rhubarb (Acetosa saggitata) , Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus.), Fumaria (Fumaria sp.) Nutgrass (Cyperus rotundus) and a wide range of other exotic grasses and forbs.

A recent view of the site – ground cover is Native Geranium (Geranium solanderi)

But things have changed. The small group has made good progress in the 4 years since the current project started but we are well aware that there is a lot more to do. Natural regeneration is occurring all over the site, including Basket Grasses (Oplismenus spp.), Berry Saltbush (Einadia hastata), Bracken Fern (Pteridium esculentum), Bleeding Heart (Omalanthus populifolius), Common Hopbush (Dodonaea triquetra), Gahnia (Gahnia sieberana), Lesser Joyweed (Alternanthera denticulata), Right Angle Grass (Entolasia stricta) and White Dogwood (Ozothamnus diosmofolius). Some recent discoveries include a self-seeded Running Postman (Kennedia rubicunda), a Geebung (Persoonia sp.), Breynia oblongifolia and Pastel Flower (Pseuderanthemum variabile).

A Tawny Frogmouth resting under one of the Turpentine trees planted on site

Wildlife is returning. Swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) have been seen on the site as well as, Eastern Whipbirds (Psophodes olivaceus) a Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), Satin Bower Bird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) Brush Turkeys (Alectura lathami), and recently a male Lyre Bird (Menura novaehollandiae) and male and female Satin Bower Birds.

A Bower Bird’s bower on site

Outcomes and lessons learned. One of the lessons learned by the Geary’s Way team (comparing our success with the efforts of the past) is that groups intending to work on bushland site rehabilitation should not open up more of the site than they can reasonably follow up with limited resources and time. To do so will only end in failure with the inevitable result that the weeds return in even greater numbers than before.


Our Trainer, Liz Mackay, delivering her Geary’s Way Bushcare Site Assessment to members of the team


We feel that, as a group, we have made real progress. We have worked hard, we have formed a team of (bush)caring locals, we have learned a huge amount (one of the things that we have learned is that there is still so much more to learn), we have gained a real sense of achievement and we want to continue to look after our small site, to nurture it, for the native animals that will benefit from our work, for the native vegetation that is now returning, of its own “free will” to the site and for the generations of Australians who will come after us.

The Geary’s Way Bushcare Team (L-R): Di Harry, Marilyn Algeo, Sue Bardwell, Hugh Lander, Alan Bardwell, Barry Kirtley, Liz Mackay, Barbara Walsh and Ian Coffey

Contact: Hugh Lander, Geary’s Way Bushcare Group Site Convenor; 0411 7547349.

Pool to Pond – converting backyard swimming pools to ponds for biodiversity

Key words: urban wildlife, backyard habitats, environmental education, fish conservation

Peter Clarke

Since 2007 Ku-ring-gai Council in northern Sydney, NSW, has assisted residents in converting their unwanted swimming pools into ponds. The Pool to Pond program has assisted over 40 households with the conversion by supplying technical advice, native fish and native aquatic plants.   The residents often use exotic aquatic plants alongside the native plants provided by Council and, although natives are preferred, the exotics nevertheless provide useful habitat.

Fig 1 Pool converted to pond, Shirley Rd Roseville

Converting a swimming pool into a pond is an eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to ongoing maintenance or removing a pool altogether. Once converted, the ponds become local biodiversity hot spots, attracting a wide range of wildlife including birds, ducks and frogs.  The water quality of ponds is well within Australian recreational standards and is far above the quality found in Ku-ring-gai streams (Ian Wright, University of Western Sydney, 2010, pers. comm.).

Many people interested in the idea were concerned about mosquitoes.  Fortunately this is not a problem because, out of the approximately 60 mosquito species that live in the Sydney area, only three or four are considered pests.  These pest species prefer shallow, ephemeral water and dislike living in depths greater than 30cm.

Pool converted to pond, Gordon NSW

The motivation for the over 40 or so pools converted to date are many and varied.  Advantages to householders are reported to include the following.

  1. The conversion is reversible.
  2. The ponds can still be used for refreshing ‘dips’ and provide a peaceful reflective place
  3. A considerable reduction of the household energy bill is achieved by not running the pool pump and filter. (Saving up to $1,000 and avoiding release of approximately 400 tons of greenhouse gases.)
  4. A pond will also enhance household sustainability by no longer requiring the use of toxic chemicals. It also provides water for garden irrigation, car washing etc.
  5. Maintaining a pond is not labour or capital intensive.
  6. Ponds are a very useful educational resource; for example children can use dip nets to collect a wide range of aquatic wildlife.
  7. Pool to Pond allows people to become custodians of a species of threatened native fish in their pond.  (Species such as Rainbow fish and Gudgeons from genetically significant populations have been used in this initiative and have proven to be extremely fecund.)

Contact: Peter Clarke, Community Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Ku-ring-gai Council, Tel: +61 2 94240 811, Mobile: 0418 277099, Email:

Tweed-Byron Bush Futures Project – Management of significant urban bushland

Key words: bushland restoration, community engagement, council, landcare, costing

John Turnbull , Byron Shire

Two north-east NSW local government areas – Byron Shire and Tweed Shire – are collaborating in a Project that focuses on the management planning and restoration of 985 ha of urban bushland within both shires; i.e. the public lands that fall within about 2kms of urban areas.  These lands have been subjected to threats including land clearing, fragmentation, weed invasion, domestic and feral animal incursions, waste dumping and altered hydrology.  The Project involves more than 10 vegetation communities including seven Endangered Ecological Communities, two ecosystems covered by State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) and habitat for a wide range of threatened flora and fauna species.

Figure 1 Tweed Byron Bush Futures Project Study Area

Early in the Project a rapid assessment methodology was developed to determine bushland health based on key ecological attributes. The field data sheet used in the audit is now used by restoration contractors for monitoring and evaluation of on-ground works. The audit also determined prioritisation of sites for on-ground work and provided a cost estimates for ten bushland restoration classes.

Figure 2: Site signage put up at all work sites

Extensive on-ground restoration works include weed control (employing best practice bush regeneration methods) and habitat restoration, rubbish removal and recycling, nest box installation, feral animal control and installation of interpretive signage. In addition community and Council engagement programs, education events and workshops are being delivered and educational resources developed including a public land volunteers manual.

One of the Project goals is to generate institutional change and reinforce the role that Council has in managing natural areas, particularly those areas directly under its control It is hoped that this may lead to allocation of an ongoing core budget for NRM.

Results to date: 23 Site Action Plans (SAPs) have been prepared encompassing 43 worksites and 145 hectares of urban bushland. Primary bush regeneration work is underway at 52 sites covering 225 hectares resulting in a significant reduction in weed density and severity. Thirty nest boxes have been installed and monitoring to date has recorded Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) and Long-eared Bats (Nyctophilus sp.) in treated sites. Ten Landcare workshops have been delivered and six fact sheets prepared on biodiversity management issues.

Figure 3: Sugar gliders using nest box installed as part of the project

Lessons learned and future directions: The monitoring and evaluation process within the SAP guidelines will allow for determination of each project’s effectiveness, as well as effectiveness of the overall program.  SAPs, restoration costing and our rapid assessment bushland health methodology will all inform future bushland management decisions, while our volunteers manual will provide ongoing support for bushland ‘care’ groups.

Stakeholders and funding bodies: The main funding is from the NSW Environmental Trust Urban Sustainability Grants Program; with in-kind contributions from the Council’s involved. Stakeholders include Brunswick Valley and Tweed Landcare Incs, NRCMA, local land management agencies, Council staff and environmental groups.

Contact information: John Turnbull, Bush Futures Project Manager, Tweed Shire Council, PO Box 816 Murwillumbah NSW 2484 (02)66702732