A series of short stories from those who care about Gold Coast’s catchments.
I’m delighted that Wild Bird Rescues GOLD COAST is now a member of the Gold Coast Catchments Association. WBR is a volunteer bird rescue organisation, run by myself, Rowley Goonan, with a committee to oversee donations.
WBR specialises in catching ‘flight capable’ birds. Typically these are birds that have become hooked or entangled in fishing line. Often it’s both. Catching a flight capable bird presents a unique challenge because they are able to fly away from a rescuer at any time.
The abundant waterways and the popularity of fishing on the Gold Coast mean that hookings and entanglements of waterbirds is a common occurrence. In fact it’s a huge problem. Last year I attended more than 90 rescues for swans alone. Nearly half had a fishing related injury. I think most people would agree that is a ridiculously high number, especially as the entire Gold Coast population of swans probably isn’t much more than 300 birds.
The Republic Fights Back, by Wal Mayr
In 1963 I was in grade one at Broadbeach State School. I walked from what is now central Broadbeach to school through sand dunes and heath land. That soon changed. We moved west and that soon converted to canal estates. I now live in upper Mudgeeraba Creek in an area called Austinville. Austinville is a self-proclaimed republic noted for its homemade whiskey, entertaining hall nights and the Anthem. It’s also noted for a strong rearguard action in environmental restoration.
Finally, after years of retreating from environmental degradation – in Austinville, environmental restoration is fighting back on a landscape scale. This is happening on a number of fronts.
City of Gold Coast Natural Areas Management Unit (NAMU)
The City has made large land purchases in the upper valley and it sends teams in on a regular basis to restore these beautiful properties which lie adjacent to Springbrook National Park. These NAMU teams are passionate, highly competent and make a tremendous difference. They are the modern bushmen – they have a deep understanding of the forest and use that knowledge to help restore it. I can’t help but compare them with the timber getters of a hundred years ago. They are responsible for over 1,000 acres in the valley and have made a great start to ecological restoration of this large area.
Throughout the valley, owners are being supported by the Conservation Partnerships Program within City of Gold Coast. Hundreds of acres are under the protection of legal covenant and thereby have virtually the same conservation status as National Park. Many other properties are involved with Land for Wildlife. The financial assistance offered on a competitive basis by the Conservation Partnerships Program allows successful landowners to hire environmental contractors to assist them in the labour intensive process of weed removal and ecological restoration. SEQ Catchments also provides financial assistance to land owners. As a result, contractors are working on private land in the upper end of the valley on a weekly basis.
So combined with private owners and the NAMU work teams, the upper end of Austinville must be one of the most intensely worked bushland areas in Australia.
The third level of activity within the valley is the community. Austinville Landcare was formed in 2005 with seed money from SEQ Catchments. Weed mapping was undertaken and it highlighted an imminent threat of invasive vines moving upstream into the valley. We have addressed this threat in two ways.
Firstly, we work in partnership with Gold Coast City’s Beaches to Bushland Program on public land in the valley. The program is a real partnership, with the City providing materials, supervision, materials and plants, and the community providing labour and an increasing store of knowledge. We have worked every month (other than breaks over Christmas) for the last eight years in restoring hundreds of meters of creek line and adjacent riparian land.
The second strategy we take is to apply for grants to pay contractors to work on large areas in difficult terrain. Since 2005 we have sourced over $350,000 in grants from SEQ Catchments and State and Federal government to fund environmental contractors to work on public and private land along a 2.5km strip of riparian land at the entrance to the valley. This work was instrumental to stopping the upstream spread of Madera Vine and Cats Claw into the valley.
It is easy to become disillusioned by the relentless progress of ill-considered development; the spread of ever more invasive weeds; and the apathy of most people in a society increasingly disconnected from nature. However, over the last 30 years I have seen some real signs of hope:
– The establishment of the Urban Footprint, which limits urban sprawl and all its associated problems.
– The establishment of fantastic groups such as NAMU, Conservation Partnerships, the City’s Catchment Management Unit, SEQ Catchments and of course the Gold Coast Catchment Association itself.
– The establishment of enduring environmental community groups that are too many to name.
I also feel that Austiville is a part of the positive story. The valley is actually seeing a large net increase in the area of ecologically restored land – and after seeing 50 years of net decrease on the Gold Coast – that is a welcome change!