In a small community in NSW’s Hunter Valley, a tree change is underway with farmers and landcarers busy planting thousands of native trees and shrubs to enhance wildlife corridors and safeguard the future of threatened birds and wildlife.
The project for Luskintyre, a farming community near Maitland, has been made possible thanks to a $38,000 grant from the Landcare Led Bushfires Recovery Grants Program, and is being guided by the recently established Luskintyre Landcare group.
So far, 30 volunteers have spent over 300 hours planting trees and shrubs on and around nine farms to help threatened birds like the Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater.
Their goal is to plant more than 10,000 trees to increase habitat and food resources for all native species, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects that have been displaced by land clearing or bushfires and who depend on the diverse vegetation structure.
The project site closely borders habitat that is used by the threatened Regent Honeyeater and Swift Parrot. Further plantings of suitable species will give more habitat to help the survival of these birds and other wildlife,” explained John Schultz, Luskintyre Landcare president.”
When early explorers arrived in this part of the Hunter Valley, it was richly timbered. But then the Luskintyre area was logged and cleared for agricultural use. It is now largely bare of trees and shrubs, and ephemeral waterways are also devoid of natural species because of grazing management.
Increased urbanisation in Maitland’s City Council area, one of the fastest growing areas in the state, hasn’t helped either, pushing wildlife to its limits with reduced habitat and food sources available.
But the trees should make a difference. To date, 6,000 have been planted with more native plants on the way for planting in the coming months. Spotted Gum, Ironbarks, Hakeas and Wattles are just a few of the varieties being planted.
The bushfire funding will help extend two existing wildlife corridors, allow volunteers to revegetate around two areas of the Hunter River, one of which is zoned E2 (Environmental Conservation), and create stepping stones of habitat across nine farms, covering approximately 15 hectares.
The trees will also help make the soil richer and more productive for the farms.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, each property owner has been planting out their own trees with no outside help. As restrictions have lifted, more volunteers have been able to get involved,” said Mr Schultz.
He said the project has really brought the community together and has been good for peoples’ wellbeing.
“In the 18 months since forming our group, our numbers have doubled, with new members joining each month.”
The Hunter Region Landcare Network (hunterlandcare.org.au) provided support in establishing the group, sourcing funding and getting projects on the ground. They provided volunteers teams to help plant the trees in Luskintyre.
Funded by the Australian Government, the $14million Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants are supporting 111 projects in regions impacted by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020.