Land for Wildlife in South East Queensland is one of the fastest growing networks of landholders involved in private land conservation in Australia.
The program is a voluntary one with a very simple aim: to help landholders manage wildlife habitat on their properties. There are more than 4000 Land for Wildlife members across South East Queensland, and the 420 members from the Gold Coast have just celebrated a massive milestone.
Earlier this month, they gathered to mark 20 years of the Land for Wildlife program. Over that time, members have planted more than 62,000 trees and restored hundreds of hectares of habitat for wildlife. Combined, those 420 members across the Gold Coast manage more than 4800 hectares of land for conservation outcomes.
It’s more than the furry and scaly critters who benefit from the program, which is locally administered by City of Gold Coast. Landholders who sign up receive resources and support to help better manage their properties. And the program is entirely free.
Achieving conservation outcomes at a landscape level
Professor Ian Lowe, who served as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation from 2004 – 2014 and chaired the Australian Government advisory council that produced the first national report on the State of the Environment in 1996, is widely regarded as an expert on sustainability.
He said that those who join the Land for Wildlife program receive sustainable benefits.
“Expert advice on weed control and habitat restoration, help to identify plants and animals on their land, a property-specific management plan, free native plants for bushland restoration projects and the opportunity to network with members,” he said.
“They get help to make their land more productive as well as contributing to the protection of our unique biodiversity.”
Land for Wildlife is a voluntary program and no covenant is placed on the properties involved in the program. Professor Lowe believes voluntary conservation activities like Land for Wildlife are critical to a sustainable future.
“We are facing a crisis of biodiversity loss, both nationally and globally,” Professor Lowe said.
“The main forces causing loss of biodiversity are habitat destruction and introduced species. So it is essential that we protect and restore natural habitat. South East Queensland is a biodiversity hot-spot.”
Since the majority of the land in this region is privately owned, supporting private land owners to undertake conservation activities is the only way to achieve conservation outcomes at a landscape level.
Professor Ian Lowe
Creating homes for threatened species
Steve Davis is one Gold Coast landholder who’s been involved in the program since its inception. His 8 hectare property is located in the hinterland between Mudgeeraba and Springbrook with a mix of dry sclerophyll and rainforest with the only clearing being the house pad.
“The area was logged many years ago which has resulted in the usual regrowth of lantana and other weeds,” Steve explained. “With Madeira vine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Crofton weed, blue billygoat weed, mistflower, devil’s fig… all the usual suspects…it is a constant battle,” he said.
“We bought the property specifically with the idea of locking it up so it couldn’t be subdivided or cleared. Land for Wildlife didn’t exist then, but as soon as it came into being, the opportunity to connect with resources and others was perfect.”
Steve said over the past 20 years the number and quality of workshops for members has increased significantly and he praised the City of Gold Coast staff who deliver the program.
“The team really seems to have listened to feedback and have also continually updated the quality and content of the workshops,” he said. “I have recently attended a nest box workshop and repeated their bush regeneration workshop. There are also events on weed identification, native bees, fauna ID and more.”
“I particularly enjoy hearing people’s stories, both the successes and the failures. There is so much to learn from the experience of others.”
And it seems the investment in protecting and extending habitat is paying off. Steve says regular visitors include koalas, antechinus, echidnas, possums and brush turkeys.
“About 20 years ago I planted a Pararistolochia praevenosa (Richmond birdwing) vine which is now around 15 metres up a tree. Richmond birdwing experts regard it as an important island for the butterflies and it is a joy watching them.”
It isn’t convincing telling someone that the Richmond birdwing butterfly is Vulnerable when there are half a dozen flying around the house.
Steve has also received funding from City of Gold Coast to help with these on-ground improvements. The Nature Conservation Assistance Program helped him remove a Dutchman’s pipe infestation – that vine is toxic to the Vulnerable Richmond birdwing butterfly and its removal has contributed to the flourishing population of butterflies around Steve’s property.
Inspiring our next generation through Land for Wildlife
Silkwood’s Bushcare and Landcare Leader, Kalindi Brennan said after receiving those funds from City of Gold Coast, they were able to leverage additional funds and build the works into the school’s planning budgets each year. Their efforts have resulted in more than 30,000 plants being established throughout the school site since 2011.
“Our regeneration zones are all in good health and mostly weed free,” Kalindi said.
“We now have a Bush Interaction for Learning policy with protocols/procedures to ensure the spaces are carefully maintained, whilst allowing for active engagement by students and the wider community,”.
The School has been involved in the Land for Wildlife program for more than ten years with efforts focussed on sustainability and environmental education, riparian restoration, water quality testing and habitat protection programs across the school’s 20 acres.
“There is a strong culture of mentorship established at Silkwood School so that diverse expertise can be accessed and integrated,” Kalindi said of the program. “Developing and managing habitats native to Silkwood’s locale is a priority, with particular reference to Indigenous knowledge; including but not limited to butterflies, frogs, native bees, glossy black cockatoos, native birds, macro-invertebrates, healthy waterways and riparian corridors.”
“Silkwood students and community volunteers support the site team and participate in riparian corridor regeneration and restoration and bush/landcare projects. They also participate in planting days at other ecological restoration zones, weeding/cleaning up along the road leading to the school site and beach clean-ups. We have also participated in the Land for Wildlife Open Property Scheme in 2014 and hosted onsite the recent Land for Wildlife Celebrating 20 years event.”
Silkwood School has actively explored the notion that in order to protect the environment, people have to connect with it, both physically and emotionally.
“The respect and intuition our Traditional Owners have for the land and the interconnectedness of all elements is an inspiration for us,” Kalindi said.
She also praised City’s Land for Wildlife team.
“It is a pleasure and privilege to work with all Land for Wildlife officers in ecological restoration contexts,” she said. “They are nothing short of exceptional in terms of accessibility and advice, enthusiasm for the work they do, training and workshops provided and we are very grateful for their dedication to and support of Silkwood’s conservation endeavours.”
Steve Davis agrees, saying one of the biggest benefits to land managers of signing up for Land for Wildlife is access to Council’s team.
“Easy question,” he said. “Training, access to resources and being able to pick the brains of the amazing nature conservation team at council.”
The past and current Land for Wildlife officers are fantastic. I can ask questions, they will come visit, nothing seems too much of a hassle for them.
“It is great that cities in the past, present and hopefully the future see the value of improving the state of our natural environment,” Steve said.
The local Land for Wildlife program is funded and administered by City of Gold Coast. For more information, visit City of Gold Coast website.