Landcare Port Macquarie

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Landcare has been very active in our area for 20 years. Secretary Joan Wilson and President/Funding Officer Julie Ho explain just how important the work of our local Landcare group is for our community … The group not only helps to manage our beautiful reserves, ensuring a viable habitat for native fauna and flora, but also propagates native plants and provides an outlet for local volunteers.

What’s the history of Landcare in Port Macquarie? 

Port Macquarie Landcare was formed in 1998 by a small group of environmentally conscious locals responding to the emerging National Landcare movement. We were soon joined by our local Dunecare and Port Macquarie Conservation Society members. “Landcare” grew fast and soon Estelle Gough, who was qualified in horticulture, started propagating native plants. When NPWS provided a site, she set up a modern community nursery, where volunteers now growing 40,000 seedlings annually. These go to replace weeds into bushland, to farmers and developers, to Council and to home owners. The nursery was mentioned in NSW Parliament in 2018.

As Landcare’s bush regeneration work expanded, we needed equipment, a trailer, van and shed, chemicals and plants. Many of the grants to cover these costs were secured by Funding Officer Julie Ho. We have received more than $750,000 in funds, from corporate donors and all levels of government.

What are some projects Landcare has been involved with?

Landcare volunteers have been healing the “green arteries” of our town that were clogged with litter and weeds. Among the first 14 sites were the Lilypond, Blair, Absalom, Timber Ridge, Merinda and Rushcutter Reserves; also, Lighthouse, Shelly and Nobby’s Beaches. In 2012, Environmental Trust granted $250,000 for rehabilitation of Wrights and Yarranabee Creek catchments. Estelle Gough managed this 56 ha project, extending from Transit Hill and Timber Ridge down to Kooloonbung. It was finalised this year, with Estelle and our volunteers mentioned in NSW Parliament in 2017. Landcare and Council continue to maintain the “ET” Project and others.  

We take care to involve many community groups, such as Birpai, Scouts, ACES, public and private schools, Work for the Dole, and conservation volunteers. Our inclusiveness and partnerships have been the key to good results and securing vital grant money. 

Landcare’s main partners are Council (manager of the Reserves we work on) and NPWS, which hosts the nursery (in return we’ve grown plants, helped with research and hunted down cane toads). Through Justice NSW we’ve also hosted workers on Community Service Orders, who excel at doing the heavier bush work. 

What activities were held to mark Landcare’s 20th anniversary locally? 

In March we had a birthday barbecue celebrating our wins for the local environment. We have had more than 300 long term volunteers since 1998, and many attended! Our work partners and friends came too, from Council, NPWS, Justice NSW, Hastings Landcare, Friends of Kooloonbung, Mrs York’s Garden and Gondwana Bush Restoration. The setting was a reserve that showcases Landcare’s methods: how we can return bushland to health and close to its original condition, within a few short years. We are collating an illustrated history of our group, an updated website, and a super end-of-year party! 

What are some of the issues Landcare faces? 

Too much native vegetation is being lost. We won’t have the lovely environment and wildlife that attracts people here, if we keep removing bushland. Let’s keep local plants that are perfectly adapted to our soils and rainfall, including mature trees. Bushland is not a threat to property, and Council has Asset Protection Zones that ensure this. Sadly, garden waste and litter are still being dumped in bushland, despite a weekly green bin service and recycling. Dumped grass and cuttings do not compost; they grow and become weeds that suffocate native plants. Destruction of wildlife by uncontrolled dogs and cats is another problem: if our native animals are not safe in their own environment, they will die out. 

What are some planned future projects? 

In our reserves we’ll use our tools and knowledge to maintain biodiversity and our life support systems: the forests, plants and animals, the soils, water and atmosphere. Council has ready a Biodiversity Strategy and a Coastal Koala Plan of Management. When adopted, these will give us a better chance of coping with a changing climate and population growth. By extending the bushland where plants and animals can live safely in suburbia, we get to enjoy wildlife experiences, scenery and shelter. Keeping the natural assets our local economy and tourism are based on is a win for everybody. Landcare’s Nursery will be central, giving residents suitable easy-care native plants through “weed swaps”. We will help them create wildlife-friendly gardens free of weeds through our Backyard Bushcare. 

Why would you encourage people to join Landcare?

Landcare is about enjoying, understanding and protecting our natural assets, now and in the future. When kids on our National Tree Days planted a tree then watched it grow, a love of nature began. 

Landcare is a friendly group, where volunteers are valued and feel rewarded when they see big improvements happen so quickly. They learn on the job, and have fun getting fit. They know Landcare provides safe equipment and tools for them. We’ve noticed that Landcare is addictive! 

Where can we find more info? 

We’re always looking for more volunteers, particularly on site to help manage reserves. Email us: or, or phone Estelle on 0432 141 605 or message Julie on 0439 597 926.

Thanks Joan & Julie. Interview: Jo Robinson.

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