Trinity Inlet catchment carers

TRINITY INLET CATCHMENT CARERS

Give people ownership of a project and it will take off like trees in the wet season – that’s one of the many learnings from 82-year-old Yvonne Nicoll who’s spent almost three decades caring for the creeks, swamps and hillslopes of Cairns.

Yvonne is part of the Trinity Inlet Catchment Management Association, which will celebrate a milestone at the end of this month with the completion of a project in the Wrights Creek sub-catchment that has seen more than 18,000 trees planted over three years.

The group has been working with landholders, restoring native vegetation between the creeks and headlands, and preventing exotic plants from taking a hold.

“When we first started it was all farmland, now some is going to be residential. We’ve created a wetland in a detention basin from a defunct barramundi farm as part of this project, and we’ve been progressively taking out African tulip trees. We are now growing the last Melaleuca dealbatas for this project in our nursery.”

A focus on harnessing the enthusiasm of landholders has been highly successful, she says.

“We’ve had projects over the years from Buchan’s Point all the way south to Gordonvale. In the early days, we relied on community planting days and a workforce through government-funded employment programs. We worked mainly with cane farmers.

“As many areas become fully developed urban sites, we are working with engineers and developers, then new residents. It’s as much about reducing exotic plants on creek banks now as stabilising banks, restoring native vegetation and connecting up with world-heritage areas.”

The association made a conscious decision to involve as many residents in homes backing onto creeks as possible.

“We began letter-boxing, inviting them to plant riparian trees behind their homes. We’d get one or two residents responding initially but once neighbours and passers-by saw what was happening, the requests for individual sites soared.

“We’ve been able to build up networks of landholders along waterways. We work closely with Cairns Regional Council so we can help residents with approvals and drainage questions, and give them trees propagated in our nursery.

“It works because they have the ownership of their projects, but they also know they can call us for more advice and help, especially after events like floods and cyclones.

“Some people are slowly and steadily working on projects, going down and planting trees in the early evening or spending many months working their way along a creek to remove exotics that are choking out the natives.

“Anyone can plant a tree – it’s the long-term maintenance to bring that tree to maturity that takes a commitment. As our original helpers leave areas, others move in and we love that they call us.”

Yvonne says the groundswell of support for activities that help with erosion and weed control, water quality and wetland protection is buoying volunteers.
“We are lucky to see a single bird when we start at some of these sites. Then the trees go in. The excitement for people when they see their first Cairns Birdwing or Ulysses butterfly…”

The Trinity Inlet Catchment Management Association includes the Coastal Landcare, Cairns Urban Landcare and Landcare Community Revegetation Unit.

The association is one of 80+ Terrain NRM members. Terrain NRM is a community-based membership organisation, with a network of groups and organisations involved in natural resource management in the Wet Tropics. Find out how you can become a Terrain NRM member.

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