The Gecko is a newsletter produced by Blue Mountains City Council to keep volunteers up to date with current news, events and information. If you have any interesting environmental stories, Bushcare moments or successful how to’s that you would love to share and would like to contribute to this newsletter, please contact the Blue Mountains City Council Bushcare Team Leader on (02) 4780 5528, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Bushcare Team there have been a number of exciting changes in recent times. We have Tanya Mein joining as the Bushland Projects Officer whilst Erin Hall is on Maternity Leave and due to start at the end of the month will be Mick Owen, the new Bushcare Team Leader. Mick will be keen to catch up with the individual groups once he starts, and we’ll introduce him more fully in the next issue.
Tanya joins the Bushcare team as Bushland Project Officer after spending a year working as the BMCC Waste and Resources Project Officer where she did education and engagement activities. Prior to that, Tanya spent 7 years working at Hornsby Council on Community Gardens, Bushcare and in the Native Nursery. Tanya has also worked at NPWS and Conservation Volunteers Australia. Tanya will be sharing the position with Erin when she returns from parental leave.
Tanya Mein joins the Bushcare Team as Project Officer
– Eric Mahony, Bushland Operations Co-ordinator, for the Bushcare Team
Minnehaha Falls plunge pool – full of sediment washed into Yosemite Creek from many years of urban development
This year at the annual NSW Local Government Awards, the Blue Mountains City Council and the local North Katoomba community was recognised for its outstanding work over many years, winning the Division C and Overall Category Winner of the Natural Environment Protection and Enhancement: On-Ground Works Award, for the project the Return of the “Bottomless Pool’ in Yosemite Creek, North Katoomba.
The result is the culmination of decades of work addressing urban stormwater runoff and weed invasion, which had previously resulted in sedimentation, erosion and decline of Yosemite Creek’s water quality, as well as loss of habitat and aquatic biodiversity across the Katoomba and Minnehaha Falls Creek.
Local residents lamented the loss of their favourite swimming hole, as the ‘bottomless pool’ at the base of Minnehaha Falls had filled with sediment. A coordinated and collaborative approach with the Blue Mountains City Council, government agencies, businesses and the local community resulted in the successful restoration of Yosemite Creek and the return of the pools including Minnehaha’s ‘bottomless’ plunge pool.
Key to the success of the project has been the long term involvement of a number of Bushcare and Landcare groups in the broader Katoomba and Minnehaha Falls Creek both through on ground action and the coordination of annual sub catchment planning meetings. These groups have, through the leadership of Lyndal Sullivan, provided a well-coordinated approach to catchment management working closely with Council and NPWS through their yearly planning meetings.
The work of the Minnehaha Falls Bushcare Group needs special mention for its unfailing commitment and the positive results it has been able to achieve in significantly improving the health of the bushland and aquatic habitat of this stream.
The same pool – now clear of sediment and staying that way – thanks to bush regeneration (both paid and unpaid) and improved stormwater management throughout the Yosemite Creek catchment.
Back row from left: Matthew Steele, Jane Anderson, Matthew Rudge, Aaron McKellar, Sue Cunningham. Front row John Parkinson, Helen Munro, Justine Vella. (Team Leader). Absent: Lynn Godfree, Stephanie Chew, Robert Hajjar.
Did you know that Council has its very own team of bush regenerators quietly beavering away behind the scenes? As there have been some changes to the team we thought it a good time to shine the spotlight on them!
We are very lucky to have a very capable and experienced crew led by the newly appointed Justine Vella as Team Leader and Matthew Rudge as Bush Regeneration Project Officer.
The team is currently working on a number of high conservation projects restoring the rare forests of the lower Blue Mountains and Blue Mountains Swamps in the upper mountains.
They are often called upon to support our Bushcare program and Council’s new organisational structure is providing more and more opportunity for them to work more closely with the Bushcare Team. We hope you’ll get to meet them in person on site one day soon!
Over the past century, average land surface temperatures have risen by almost 1° C across the Australian continent. Models suggest this may have already had significant impacts on Australia’s ecosystems and biodiversity in some areas, but these impacts have not been systematically investigated.
CSIRO Land and Water and the Department of the Environment and Energy are undertaking an exciting project to collect stories and anecdotes that will help build a national picture of ecological change (or lack there-of) that has been observed in the past 10-20 years or more. We are looking for people with strong links to Australian environments (e.g. farmers, natural resource managers, ecologists, naturalists) to share their stories for an area they know well, including perceptions of the presence or absence of different types of recent ecological change.
To participate, you would need to be able to select a natural area (e.g. your local region or farm, a Nature Reserve, urban bushland) that you have been familiar with for at least the last 10 years. Note that we are interested both in areas where change has been observed and where change has not been observed.
The survey will take about 30 minutes – please click here to undertake the survey.
Food A pollinator habitat garden is more than just flower beds. By providing an assortment of plants, which flower throughout the year, you are providing a consistent food supply which will encourage pollinating insects and birds to stay, feed, drink, shelter and even reproduce. It is recommended that you plant swathes or large patches of flowers, rather than scattering them randomly through the garden. By planting flowering food-crops in large patches, you encourage specialist pollinators such as bees to forage within these patches, cross pollinating the plants as they move efficiently from flower to flower.
Shelter The next thing you need to do is provide potential shelter. You can include hollow logs, pieces of thick bark and crowds of rocks which will provide shelter and nesting substrate for a variety of pollinators. Resin bees, leafcutter bees and solitary wasps will nest in large drilled holes in wood, which mimic the natural cavities produced by wood-boring insects. Hollow or pithy stems can be collected and bundled up when plants are pruned. These will attract reed bees and masked bees as well as small solitary wasps and ants. By providing small cavities in rockeries or with layers of rolled bark, you will be providing shelter for ladybeetles, resin bees and other pollinators.
In Australia, gardeners are encouraged to mulch their plants, to maintain soil moisture. However, some of our pollinators, such as solitary bees and wasps, nest in the ground and find it hard to dig through the thick layers of mulch. So leave an area of bare ground, at least a metre squared, to encourage ground-nesting bees into your garden.
Water is necessary for honey bees and birds so include a shallow bird bath, with a large rock in it to reduce the chances of insects drowning. A bowl filled with wet mud will provide minerals and water for some butterfly species and rocks provide insects with a warm place to bask.
Maintenance of your habitat garden is important if the plants and the pollinators are to thrive. Water deeply and regularly to ensure flowers produce plenty of nectar and pollen. Don’t use insecticides. If a plant is infested with many pests, it may need feeding, pruning or pulling out. A healthy garden will not only encourage pollinators, it will encourage wasps, shield bugs, spiders, dragonflies and other natural pest-predators. Keep the water and mud bowls topped up and place a seat out in the garden so you can sit, observe and enjoy your wonderful pollinator habitat garden.
From 1st July 2017 the NSW State Government has replaced the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 with the Biosecurity Act 2015. Under the Noxious Weeds Act all landowners had a responsibility to control noxious weeds on their property. Under the Biosecurity Act the same responsibility will apply and will be known as a General Biosecurity Duty.
General Biosecurity Duty
Under Part 3 of the Biosecurity Act 2015, landowners or land managers have a “General Biosecurity Duty” to prevent, eliminate or minimise the “Biosecurity Risk” posed or likely to be posed by priority weeds.
What is a Biosecurity Risk?
A biosecurity risk exists where priority weeds have the potential to negatively impact on agriculture, industry, the liveability of our city, human health or the environment.
The new name for invasive weeds
Under the Biosecurity Act 2015 invasive weeds are known as “Biosecurity Matter” or “Priority Weeds”.
The Greater Sydney Local Land Services have created a list of State and Regional Priority Weeds with expected outcomes and recommended measures for each species. Council has also nominated Local Priority Weeds that are a problem within the Local Government Area and specified expected outcomes and control measures for these weeds.
Council has partnered with Water NSW and the Environmental NSW Trust “Swamped by Threats” program to fund the installation of bio-filtration systems for storm water entering Wentworth Falls Lake.
These bio-filtration systems are designed to catch nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, significantly improving water quality. The system includes a treatment train of settling ponds for catching silt, multi layered filtration basin and a sandstone rock armouring, which has been repurposed while excavating the waste cell at the Blaxland Resource Recovery and Waste Management Facility.
Decreasing this nutrient load also helps to reduce the spread of weeds, which can push out local native plants and reduce swamp biodiversity. The swamp is an Endangered Ecological Community and home to several threatened species including the Giant Dragonfly and Blue Mountains Water Skink. Swamps play a vital part in water management as they store water and release it slowly over time in the creeks and streams.
It is with a very sad heart that we say goodbye to John. He was dearly loved by his family, cherished by his many friends and his dedication to the community is a loss that will be felt by everyone who had the privilege to know him. I can only imagine part of the loss that his family is feeling and pass on our sincere condolences and support.
I met John many years ago when we teamed up to walk our dogs. I say “our dogs” but really, John was walking his neighbour’s dog as the neighbour did not have time and the dog needed exercise. It was a classic example of the help that John gave without fuss or any strings attached. During these daily walks I not only marvelled at his fitness but also his pride in his family and commitment to the community.
He was a long standing and well regarded member of the Warrimoo Bushfire Brigade. He held many positons in the Brigade and at all times provided non-judgemental support and wise counsel to all members. Many of the members referred to John as “father” as a mark of their respect. The Brigade recognised him as a life member, an award that must be earnt by at least 10 years of meritorious service. John was a more than worthy recipient of this award.
John was an inaugural member of the Cross Street Bushcare and the Long Angle Landcare groups. He regularly attended work days for many years while he was physically able. His dedication and concern for us and the protection of the bushland was appreciated by all. He had a sense of humour that lifted our spirits and we enjoyed his contributions to our conversations at the afternoon tea. We have missed him at the volunteer BBQs held in recent years but still remember his joyous company of past times. I am sure we will continue to contemplate the “good old days” of John’s company of past times for many more years.
There were many other groups that John generously gave his time to. These included the Warrimoo Citizens Association and Warrimoo Tennis Court and Hall Committees. John was also a proud volunteer for the Sydney Olympics. It gave him great satisfaction to reflect on the time that he was the driver for the Israeli athletes and officials. This was a demonstration of John’s character as he enjoyed helping others in need without any expectation of personal reward; the opportunity to help was reward enough.
John and one of his many friends
Many probably do not know that John was also a skilful negotiator. On two occasions, as a result of John’s manoeuvring, I ended up owning dogs that I had not bargained for. On the first occasion after waiting for his chance (it was a well-timed manoeuvre) , John suggested that I take a rescue dog home to see if it would fit into the household. Of course the rest of the story was predictable. On the second, we were at a BBQ and were trying to convince John and Doreen to take on a dog that a family reluctantly had to give up. John was too wily a negotiator for us and when my wife Joan, in frustration said that if no one else wanted the dog we would take it on, he made his move. Before we could change our minds John arranged for the dog to be delivered to us. Of course he knew we were dog lovers and that they would be well looked after. He also knew we were in need of the dogs and so, while he was quick to strike, he also knew that both the dogs and us would benefit from his match making. These ordinary examples of John’s insightful and compassionate nature are a tribute to his character and my fond memories of him.
I have treasured memories of the afternoons that Joan, Doreen, John and I spent relaxing on his porch in pleasant conversation while watching the happenings in the street. John would occasionally greet passers-by and some would call in to catch up. John loved Warrimoo and was surrounded by many dear friends who have had the good fortune to have a shared the life of a modest, genuine, caring man.
To respect John’s legacy, we should strive to continue with his high standards of commitment, compassion, practical help and loyalty that was at all times willingly volunteered. This is the very least that we can do to honour a very dear mate.
The view of the Megalong Escarpment provided a fabulous backdrop for the annual Bushcare Picnic
As always, the Bushcare Team had a very difficult time deciding which of our very many fabulous volunteers should be recognised with a Mayoral Award this year but after much deliberation (and next year’s short list already drawn up !) the following dedicated, hard working, committed and all round wonderful people were chosen:
Helen Rose and David Churches Leura Park
John Hill accepted the Hard Yakka Award on behalf of Helen Rose David Churches
Members of both Leura Park Bushcare and Prince Henry Cliff Walk (attending twice month). Since discovering Bushcare by attending a bird walk and talk organised by Gordon Falls Bushcare several years ago, David and Helen have regularly attended and actively participated in bushcare in the Leura Falls Creek catchment. David and Helen are also strong advocates for Bushcare involvement at Springwood Bushwalking Club and frequently contribute to submission writing and often plan their holidays around Bushcare commitments !
Alan Dean (left) with Mayor Mark Greenhill and Chris Watson (right)
Chris Watson & Alan Dean, Jackson Park Faulconbridge
Chris Watson– Chris is a long-term member of Jackson Park Bushcare Group, but he undertakes a lot of additional work and monitoring in his own time. His tenacity, stoic approach and excellent strategies keep this site looking fantastic!
Alan Dean – Alan is a founding and long-term member of Jackson Park Bushcare Group (almost 20 years). He is extremely dedicated, hard-working and has been pivotal in transforming this site over time.
Both Alan and Chris undertake any work required on site, despite most weather conditions and difficulties of the terrain or weed infestation challenge. They don’t even bother with an afternoon tea break!
JUNIOR BUSHCARE LEGEND
LiamBooyens 12 years old – Garguree Swampcare
Liam Booyens with Jasmine Payget and Mayor Mark Greenhill
Liam is a young and enthusiastic Bushcare member who has been involved with Garguree Swamp care for 7 years. He has spent these years connecting to country in many ways by watching and listening, playing and working to restore country.
He has a great sense of place at Garguree and his confidence is growing as he does.Liam has also spent 3 weekends wrangling sycamores at Jenolan
He has been involved in making Bee Homes and has attended a habitat workshop in Bilpin and the night before the Bushcare Picnic he spent the night camped out enjoying the bio blitz and spotting arboreal mammals.
All of these experiences enhance his natural ability and love of the natural world around him and we hope he is involved with Bush care for many years to come.
LANDCARE LEGEND: Karleen Waldron
Growing up in the lower Blue Mountains helped develop a love which has inspired this person to both advocate , volunteer and work for protection of our bushland and all the creatures that live in it. This passion has led to volunteering over many years with Bushcare, Landcare & WIRES.
Karleen started Long Angle Landcare group & is a core member of the Fitzgeralds Creek Catchment group. She has strongly advocated for the protection of the Sun Valley / Fitzgeralds Creek catchment over the past two decades.
Karleen’s tireless advocacy has paid off over the years, with her work together with the Long Angle Group being instrumental in convincing Sydney Water not to proceed with plans to discharge sewage outfalls into Fitzgeralds Creek, and leveraging multiple grants to target weeds from their source points in Sun Valley all the way down the catchment to the confluence with the Nepean River.
Working in the bush regeneration industry for over 15 years, she has also extended herself to transfer her considerable skills to volunteer groups and to many Blue Mountains TAFE students, teaching Cert 3 Conservation & Land Management. She is well beloved and respected by many students & volunteers she has worked with over the past 10 years and through them has made a significant contribution to the local bush regeneration industry.
BUSHCARE LEGEND OF THE YEAR: Shirley Brown
Shirley Brown, Bushcare legend of the Year
Shirley first started Bushcare over 30 years ago with the National Trust at Middle Harbour (Roseville), in the early 1980s when living in Sydney. She then worked occasional days in the Blue Mountains with ACTV (Australian Conservation Trust Volunteers).
Shirley Brown is a true Bushcare legend … she is currently a consistent member of 5 Bushcare Groups as well as many swampcare events. Her commitment extends well beyond those individual sites through her contribution to catchment coordination and a myriad of other small but important tasks. Most importantly Shirley has introduced many people to bushcare, bringing them along to one of her many groups – she has been involved with 10 groups over the years (at one time it was 8 concurrently).
After moving to the mountains, Shirley joined up with the Friends of the Blue Mountains which began in 1989, to weed around Echo Point, Jamison Creek, Darks Common and the lantana in the Lapstone Tunnel area.
She became a regular member of 2 local groups from their beginnings in the mid 90s – Lindemann Rd in 1995 and Valley of the Waters in 1996.
After her family commitments reduced she became more involved from 2004, joining another 5 groups, (2 of which she was a founding member):
MINNE HA HA BUSHCARE
GOVETTS ST BUSHCARE
KATOOMBA CREEK BUSHCARE
BRAHMA KUMARIS, and
UPPER KATOOMBA CREEK BUSHCARE
Shirley is always keen to get stuck into the bush, and is always the first to head off and start work while the rest of us faff about getting ready and chatting in the morning. She keeps us Bushcare Officers in check, making sure we are aware of any significant weed or native species present in the work area, and letting us know if anyone in the group needs to get a lesson or reminder about plant id.
Whilst not keen on meetings, Shirley does recognise the importance of planning and coordinating and has contributed to the Govetts & Katoomba Creek Catchment Coordination Group since Sept 2006. Shirley has been untiring in promoting Bushcare and sustainable living. For many years she assisted with editing our newsletter and she has been an instrumental advocate for disseminating the Safe & SustaInable Gardening booklet she helped to develop.
Bushcare Legends Steve Barratt and Shirley Brown hand on the Golden Trowel
Everglades Landcare Group
Coates Park Bushcare Group
Woodford Glen Bushcare Group
Mount Irvine Landcare Group
Explorers Reserve Bushcare Group
Cross St and Rickard Rd Sports Common Bushcare Group
Bellata Court Bushcare Group
Katoomba Creek Bushcare Group
Sublime Point Bushcare Group
Centenary Reserve Bushcare Group
David Coleby and Rae Druitt with Councillor Chris van der Kley