Partnership tackles beach scrub invader

An environmental threat to a patch of valuable endangered beach scrub near Ayr will be tackled by a long-standing partnership.

Local Aboriginal corporation, the Gudjuda Reference Group and Evolution Mining Mt Carlton Gold Operations are again in partnership to remove lantana and other invasive weeds threatening the health of the beach scrub.

With support from Natural Resource Manager (NRM) group NQ Dry Tropics, Gudjuda and Evolution Mining are concentrating on a 6ha patch of beach scrub on traditional Bindal land next to the Plantation Creek Boat ramp.

The NQ Dry Tropics project is a continuation of the partnership approach with Evolution Mining and Gudjuda to protect the natural environment in line with Evolution Mining’s values.

Chair of the Gudjuda Reference Group Eddie Smallwood, a Bindal man, is particularly pleased the project benefits Bindal country.

“The partnership is not just with Gudjuda, it’s also with the Bindal traditional owners, and we look at it as caring for country,” he said.

Four young Gudjuda trainees — potential rangers for the group — have been given extensive training in safe chemical handling to equip them to kill and remove lantana, rubbervine and other weeds from the understorey of the beach scrub.

Gudjuda trainee Stephanie Monday (left) and People, Culture and Community Administrator Julie Evans team up to remove a lantana bush.

They will also learn mapping and how to assess the condition of beach scrub vegetation.

“These four trainees could become Gudjuda rangers and this project will help them  learn about looking after country,” Mr Smallwood said.

Evolution Mining Mount Carlton provided $200,000 as project sponsor, in line with its continued sustainability commitment to support the local communities in which it operates.

Environmental Lead Lindsay Rohr related the beach scrub project to helping neighbours and friends in the community.

“Evolution supports the Burdekin community and we share a personal connection to the health of the region’s environment,” she said.

This work will be close to many hearts at our workplace as many local Burdekin community members work at Evolution Mining, permanent and contractors,” she said.

“This is definitely in our backyard and everybody has a really personal connection.”

Evolution Mining Indigenous Relations Officer Darryl Lightning and People, Culture and Community Administrator Julie Evans were also at the launch.

The four trainees — locals Jemima-Lee Sutherland, Stephanie Monday and John Zaro and Taylor Paul from Bowen — were stepped through the Biological Condition Assessment Tool (BioCAT) used to conduct a health check on the vegetation in the area by Botanist and Ecologist Chris Kahler.

NQ Dry Tropics Senior Project Officer Jaymie Rains said the first BioCAT would serve as a baseline against which the results of their labours could be measured at the end of the project.

“Lantana is a big risk to beach scrub, because it can overwhelm the vegetation, even trees, but it also increases the fire hazard,” she said.

“Beach scrub is particularly sensitive to bushfires and if the canopy is damaged, it allows grasses and other groundcover plants to intrude, making it impossible for it to recover.”

The trainees have also undergone a crash course in mapping and in their first few days in the scrub have already made significant inroads on the lantana that was threatening to overwhelm otherwise healthy beach scrub plants.

The launch was marked by a smoking ceremony conducted by Mr Smallwood.

Bandjin and Warragamay elder Russell Butler provided a practical demonstration of the value of beach scrub as a natural “supermarket” packed with food, medicine, even condiments and spices.

The mosquitoes, humidity and heat made it very unpleasant work, but once the preliminaries were over, everybody showed a lot of enthusiasm to pull some of the more accessible lantana plants.

The trainees will work full time for four five-day weeks to spray the intrusive shrubs, mapping their progress as they go.

Ms Rains said another BioCAT assessment at the end of May would help to assess the ecological value of the project.

Chair of the Gudjuda Reference Group, Eddie Smallwood performs a smoking ceremony during the launch of the Evolution Mining Beach Scrub Project.

Botanist and Ecologist Chris Kahler (left) explains the process of conducting a Biological Condition Assessment Tool in beach scrub.

Gudjuda trainees (from left) Jemima-Lee Sutherland, Stephanie Monday, John Zaro and Taylor Paul with NQ Dry Tropics Senior Project Officer Jaymie Rains during the chemical handling course in Ayr.

Elder Russell Butler offers bush tucker to sample.