YUNGABURRA LANDCARE GROUP

30 MARCH 2021

Forget strolling trails and spotting platypus… Instead, picture bushland choked with weeds and a creek clogged with grasses – and you’ll have a good idea of what Yungaburra’s Lower Peterson Creek area looked like a little over two decades ago.

That was just before the Yungaburra Landcare Group formed.

“Locals were concerned about water quality. And the creek banks were an almost impenetrable mass of lantana and other rampant weeds,’’ the group’s current president David Blair says.

“The group secured funding from the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust and started linking patches of remnant rainforest from the road bridge at the town’s western entrance downstream for about two kilometres.”

That was the start of what can only be described as an outstanding success story. It was long before David’s time with the group but the transformation of Lower Peterson’s Creek into a popular tourist attraction and recreation area for locals has been well-documented. It has also led to multiple awards for Yungaburra Landcare, which was initially known as the Eastern Tinaroo Catchment Landcare Group.

David says members were inspired by larger-scale work further upstream through another local community group – TREAT. The Yungaburra group planned a staged revegetation project within the capacity of the small volunteer workforce, with an emphasis on expanding Mabi forest, an endangered plant community that is only found on the Atherton Tablelands.

The original revegetation project has now been completed – despite setbacks brought about by frosts, flooding and even drought-like conditions – and the forest has a flourising canopy. Rough paths once used for watering access are now well-worn walking tracks spanning 2.5km of creek frontage, and a platypus viewing platform, suspension bridge and picnic areas have been added.

David says one of the keys to the group’s success was “concentrating on getting it right the first time”.

“The main focus in the early days of each stage was the clean-up. Before each planting there were many hours of mechanical and chemical weed eradication followed by soil preparation and assembly of seedlings, mulch, fertiliser, irrigation and manpower for the actual planting day.”

“Most plantings were timed to coincide with wet season.

“Another big thing was this group’s unwavering commitment to follow-up maintenance. From the beginning, volunteers met each Friday morning to keep on top of the maintenance program, and we still meet on Fridays for mowing, weed clearing, track maintenance and the occasional fill-in plantings. Weeds are controlled by slashing, mowing and systematic spraying routines.”

Yungaburra Landcare Group

Getting the community on board from Day 1 was another important step. Local councils, the Yungaburra Business and Citizens Association and the general community have helped to meet ongoing maintenance expenses. The Dulguburra Yidinji indigenous group has been an important part of the project, as have landholders and students ranging from primary and high school to the School of Field Studies.

David says much of the campaign’s success can be attributed to the drive of founding president David Leech, who, for health reasons, can no longer come to Friday sessions. A section of the trail has been named after another standout contributor, CSIRO botanist and author Geoff Tracey. The group still boasts a founding member – group secretary Wally Coutts.

“I’ve been part of the group just five years,’’ David says. “For me there’s the enjoyment of watching platypus and sometimes seeing tree kangaroos and water dragons. Looking after the track, you get to talk to a lot of visitors who enthuse about being able to walk into an area like this one and that’s very satisfying for all of us.”

To learn more about the Yungaburra landcare Group, email David Blair at davidblair49@gmail.com

Terrain NRM is a community-based membership organisation. Yungaburra Landcare Group is one of 80+ members in a network of partners involved in natural resource management in the Wet Tropics. Members have voting rights at our annual general meetings. Find out more here.

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