Key words: bush regeneration, Bitou Bush, Leptospermum laevigatum, abseiling for weed control, Indigenous land management
Dirawong Reserve is a 300 ha crown reserve for the conservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage, flora and fauna and recreation, Located on the southern peninsula of the river mouth adjoining the village of Evans Head in Northern NSW, the reserve includes beach areas, frontal dunes, cliff faces, coastal heath and ti tree swamp. The reserve is managed by the Dirawong Reserve Trust, which is committed to implementing its Plan of Management by upholding the values of Indigenous heritage and improving restoration of the natural environment through strategic and continuous projects.
The coastal zone, largely involving coastal strand plant, dune, heath and grassland communities, has been subject to a range of impacts including sand mining, off-road driving and weed invasion over half a century, leading to high levels of weed dominance. Bush regeneration works have been ongoing since the early-mid 1980s and include a combination of volunteer programs and engagement of contractors. A range of innovative techniques have been used to treat Bitou Bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata), Glory Lily (Gloriosa superb) and Coastal Tea Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum). Results of the combined efforts over time has achieved the decline of weed over large areas of the site, with extensive regeneration of native vegetation.
History of Indigenous community involvement. As a result of inspiration gained from the highly successful employment of Indigenous Rangers during the 1970s at the nearby Bundjalung Flora and Fauna Reserve (now Bundjalung National Park), local Bundjalung community members were employed on a casual basis at Dirawong Reserve during the 1980s and 1990s. Experienced supervision and training was provided for the bush regeneration works, which focused on control of Bitou Bush, using manual techniques. As part of the program, elders from the Bandjalang community worked alongside younger workers, passing on both Traditional Ecological Knowledge and culture relating to this important site.
The Trust, which is made up of representatives including from the local Bandjalang clan Traditional Owner group, has a policy of seeking Traditional Owner personnel for any contracts that come up in the future. Such employment would mean that four generations of Indigenous natural resource management workers will have been directly involved in managing Dirawong Reserve over the last three decades.
Recent works. To complement ongoing regeneration projects, recent (three-year) funding through the NSW Government Environmental Trust Program has allowed Dirawong Reserve Trust to engage contractors to manage the continuation of the project, applying a range of both standard and Dirawong Reserve’s own innovative techniques to treat Bitou Bush, Glory Lily and Coastal Tea Tree among other weeds.
One successful innovation, developed in the 1990s by the site’s long time regeneration advisor, Ellen White, has been the cutting of Coastal Tea Tree below the lowest branch or cutting off all branches, which has proven to be sufficient to kill the plant.. This method eliminates the need to use herbicides and reduces strain for operators. This has been applied at other areas of the headland more recently, using chainsaws. To assist with the ongoing and long term work of treating Bitou Bush, the Trust has engaged a specialist abseiling bush regen team to spot spray or cut and paint Bitou Bush in difficult locations such as cliff faces. (See photos above).
Results to date. Progress has been steady and highly effective over recent decades, although there is much work remaining, in terms of Glory Lily follow up and there are still substantial areas of Bitou Bush to treat. To date, Coastal Tea Tree works have been carried out over 12 ha, with no sign of resprouting from cut stumps in any age class. (See photos of some of the recent works above). Treatment of cliff faces by abseiling contractors has resulted in effective treatment of Bitou Bush with no significant off-target damage (see photos below). No soil destabilisation has been generated from the works.
Acknowledgements: Funding has been received from a range of sources, most recently the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust Program. We also acknowledge the dedicated work of our bush regeneration volunteers and committee members over the decades since the mid 1980s.
Contact: Dirrawong Trust, P.O. Box 90, Evans Head, NSW 2473, Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.