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Land restoration starts growing program

Conservation and Land Management students at South Regional TAFE – Photo Jesse Collins

Conservation and Land Management students at South Regional TAFE have relished the chance to become involved in an ecological restoration project in a former blue gum plantation at the Albany campus. The work is being undertaken as part of a collaboration between the college and Greening Australia with funding from the Federal Government’s 20 Million Trees initiative through its National Landcare Program.

About 23ha of TAFE land was harvested of blue gums in the summer and since the start of this year, the students have been nurturing seedlings including banksia, eucalypt, acacia, melaleuca, hakea and adenanthos in the nursery ready for winter planting on the site.

The planting site from a drone – Photo Jesse Collins

In mid-June, the students started planting the seedlings among the blue gum stumps while Greening Australia South Coast Project Officer Glen Steven ran a CommVeg direct-seeding machine between the rows. Both were working together towards the same goal – to begin the long process of restoring native bush with species endemic to the area, which will, in turn, provide an optimum habitat to support and promote survival of local fauna species and a prime environment for native flora.

CLM Lecturer Sylvia Leighton explained the site was being sown with native seed and more than 10,000 stems per hectare were expected to germinate and grow.

“Also, the students will hand plant more than 6000 plants this year and a further 3000 next year to infill the site with nectar-rich and favoured-habitat species for local animals such as the ring-tailed possum, quenda, honey possum and pygmy possum,” Ms Leighton said. “By March next year, when the CLM group surveys the site for native bird species, we hope to be able to measure the return of some local bird populations,” she said.

Ms Leighton said the site gave students the potential to learn a great deal about revegetation techniques and methodologies and allowed them to hone their skills to take into future landcare employment.

Students Eloise Mae Varga and Courtney Carroll, who both aspire to work in landcare when they graduate at the end of the year, took time out from planting to talk about their task.

Conservation and Land Management students at South Regional TAFE – Photo Jesse Collins

Ms Varga said the real-life experience was valuable as it was educational as well as having a positive impact on the environment.

“In Albany, a number of species are endangered or vulnerable, and this will help to bring back some of these reptiles, birds and mammals as well as provide a habitat for native flora. ” she said.

Ms Carroll said she had enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the course and this particular live-work project for the scale of it.

“Doing this has helped me learn the various aspects of restoration while giving back to the environment,” she said.

Having an assignment so near to town was a first for Greening Australia Conservation Planner Barry Heydenrych, who said the location was a major advantage for demonstrating the work of his organisation.

Though it could take up to three years for discernible growth and wildlife to be reinstated in any great numbers, this vital work marks a productive alliance between the stakeholders while signalling the start of a restored environment for local flora and fauna. It will also continue to benefit student learning for years to come. Ms Leighton said photographic monitoring points had been installed to capture a visual record of the revegetation.