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Australia’s national parks, botanic gardens, wild places and green spaces are swarming with an invasive pest that is largely flying under the radar. This is yet another form of livestock, escaped from captivity and left to roam free.
Contrary to popular opinion, in Australia, feral colonies of the invasive European honeybee (Apis mellifera) are not 'wild', threatened with extinction or 'good' for the Australian environment. The truth is feral honeybees compete with native animals for food and habitat, disrupt native pollination systems and pose a serious biosecurity threat to our honey and pollination industries.
As ecologists working across Australia, we are acutely aware of the damage being done by invasive species. There is rarely a simple, single solution. But we need to move feral bees out of the 'too hard' basket.
The arrival and spread of the parasitic VarroaVarroa mite in New South Wales threatens to decimate honeybee colonies. So now is the time to rethink our relationship with the beloved European honeybee and target the ferals.
What makes a hive feral?
European honeybees turn feral when a managed hive produces a 'swarm'. This is a mass of bees that leaves the hive seeking a new nest. The swarm ultimately settles, either in a natural hollow or artificial structure such as a nesting box.
With up to 150 hives per square kilometre, Australia has among the highest feral honey bee densities in the world. In NSW, feral honeybees are listed as a 'key threatening process', but they lack such recognition elsewhere.
Feral honeybees have successfully invaded most land-based ecosystems across Australia, including woodlands, rainforests, mangrove-salt marsh, alpine and arid ecosystems.
They can efficiently harvest large volumes of nectar and pollen from native plants that would otherwise provide food for native animals, including birds, mammals and flower-visiting insects such as native bees. Their foraging activities alter seed production and reduce the genetic diversity of native plants while also pollinating weeds.
Unfortunately, feral honeybees are now the most common visitors to many native flowering plants.
Are feral bees useful in agriculture?
Feral honeybees can pollinate crops. But they compete with managed hives for nectar and pollen. They can also be an reservoir of honeybee pests and diseases such as the Varroa mite, which ultimately threaten crop production. That’s because many farms rely on honeybees from commercial hives to pollinate their crops.
So reducing feral honeybee density would benefit both honey production and the crop pollination industry, which is worth A$14 billion annually.
Improved management of feral honeybees would not only help to limit the biosecurity threat, but increase the availability of pollen and nectar for managed hives. It would also increase demand for managed honeybee pollination services for pollinator dependent crops.
What are our current options?
Tackling this issue will not be straightforward, due to the sheer extent of feral colony infestation and limited tools at the disposal of land managers.
If the current parasitic Varroa mite infestation in NSW spins out of control, it may reduce the number of feral hives, with benefits for the environment. Fewer feral hives would be good for the honey industry too.
Targeted strategies to remove feral colonies on a small scale do exist and are being applied in the Varroa mite emergency response. This includes the deployment of poison (fipronil) bait stations in areas exposed to the mite.
While this method seems to be effective, the extreme toxicity of fipronil to honeybees limits its use to areas that do not contain managed hives. In addition, the possible effects on non-target, native animals that feed on the bait, or poisoned hive remains, is still unstudied and requires careful investigation.
Where feral hives can be accessed, they can be physically removed. But in many ecosystems feral colonies are high up in trees, in difficult to access terrain. That, and their overwhelming numbers, makes removal impractical.
Another problem with hive removal is rapid recolonisation by uncontrolled swarming from managed hives and feral hives at the edges of the extermination area.
Taken together, there are currently no realistic options for the targeted large-scale removal of feral colonies across Australia’s vast natural ecosystems.
Where to now?
For too long, feral honeybees have had free reign over Australia’s natural environment. Given the substantial and known threats they pose to natural systems and industry, the time has come to develop effective and practical control measures.
Not only do we need to improve current strategies, we desperately need to develop new ones.
One promising example is the use of traps to catch bee swarms, and such work is underway in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. However, this might be prohibitively expensive at larger scales.
Existing strategies for other animals may be a good starting place. For example, the practice of using pheromones to capture cane toad tadpoles might be applied to drones (male bees) and swarms. Once strategies are developed we can model a combination of approaches to uncover the best one for each case.
Developing sustainable control measures should be a priority right now and should result in a win-win for industry, biosecurity and native ecosystems.
If there is something to learn from the latest Varroa incursion, it is that we cannot ignore the risks feral honeybees pose any longer. We don’t know how to control them in Australia yet, but it is for lack of trying.
We would like to acknowledge the substantial contribution made by environmental scientist and beekeeper Cormac Farrell to the development of this article.
Amy-Marie Gilpin, Research Fellow, Ecology, Western Sydney University; James B. Dorey, Adjunct Lecturer, Flinders University; Katja Hogendoorn, Research fellow, University of Adelaide, and Kit Prendergast, Native bee ecologist, Curtin University
A group of residents in West Pymble took Ku-ring-gai Council to the Land and Environment Court for a judicial review of the decision to proceed with the construction of a stormwater mitigation system and synthetic turf soccer field at Norman Griffiths Oval. A group called Natural Grass at Norman Griffiths (NGANG Ltd) was registered in order to conduct the case and receive community donations.
This follows council’s decision to proceed with the project in early March 2023 after the release of the Review of Environmental Factors (REF), version 8, two weeks earlier. The haste in starting work was a cause of much frustration in the community and a fiery public forum meeting. After all we had had to wait over 14 months to see the details of the design and the REF. The time available to review the REF was inadequate; much shorter than promised. The councillors dismissed the relevance of the environmental issues raised by the community on the grounds that the REF provided assurance that the issues were not significant.
An injunction was accepted by the court to stop construction past the stormwater mitigation system stage until the case was decided. The case was expedited so there would not be a long delay before contractors started laying the turf.
Over $120,000 was raised towards the costs of the case and expert witnesses. This is a demonstration of the high level of public interest and concern about the use of synthetic turf.
The gross pollution trap and diversion to underground detention ... but what about the water flow from the hill above the field?
Last minute amendment to the REF
NGANG was right! The time allowed to review the REF was too short. The REF was missing some of the analysis required about environmental impacts following an amendment to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). Council decided it was okay to make a last minute amendments so version 9 was published on
4 July. Sadly, the L&E Court did not see that this expediency was an issue that could prevent the project proceeding but it is another demonstration of council’s poor governance.
Court case begins on 2 August
The main arguments submitted by NGANG were that:
Not all required environmental issues were considered to the fullest possible extent
The case was a judicial review where the relevant task is the consideration of the decision made by council. The judgement explained that a challenge may be made on the basis that the decision-maker should, acting reasonably, have made some additional inquiries. Expert evidence as to what the outcome of those inquiries would have been is, in some cases, admissible. Expert evidence was provided by Dr Scott Wilson, a microplastics expert and Dr Martens, a stormwater expert. Council also engaged three experts on flooding, pollution and ecology.
NGANG argued that council had not examined and taken into account to the fullest extent reasonably possible all matters likely to affect the environment following the installation of the synthetic turf. This is a duty imposed under section 5.5 of the EP&A Act.
NGANG’s case was that there should have been inquiries covering:
- a pollutant load study to assess microplastic pollution;
- a flood study to understand the flood impacts on the area and whether the stormwater detention proposed would function in the manner intended; and
- an investigation and understanding of where the overland stormwater flow path would be located in circumstances of an extreme rainfall (1 in 100 year event); and the investigation of the impact of the overland flow path upon the Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest below the field.
There was disagreement between NGANG’s expert and council as to the adequacy pf the onsite stormwater detention system (OSD). As an observer of the case, it appeared that much of the discussion of the OSD was at cross-purposes in referring to the existing system versus the new system. A new system had to be installed because the hard surface of the synthetic turf could not retain the stormwater. The old grass surface acted as the OSD.
The court ruled that the judicial review could not consider the merits of council’s decision and could only review whether it was acting reasonably. The judge rejected the evidence of Dr Martens and Dr Wilson that was sought to be tendered to establish the duty to make further inquiries in the circumstances of this case.
Dr Martens advised on the requirement to undertake a study to understand the flood impacts on the area and whether the stormwater detention proposed would function in the manner intended. The report in the REF by Optimal Stormwater Ltd determined that the proposed system was capable of operating in the manner and to the specifications for which it was designed. The judge ruled that, in the circumstances, there was nothing on its face that would cause a decision-maker to consider that the opinions expressed were not reliable or not properly formed. The suggestion that the council was not entitled to take ‘at face value’ the information in the Optimal Report has no foundation. The question remains as to whether the specifications are adequate.
The ruling in relation to this issue indicates that the wrong question was being asked. On the evidence contained in the REF there is a goal of minimising microplastic loss from the synthetic field and identifies the measures to be adopted to achieve such goal. It is acknowledged that 100% capture is not possible, especially in extreme rainfall events but no further inquiries were recommended.
There is an obligation to commission an environmental impact statement
The other main ground argued by NGANG was the failure to comply with section 5.7(1) of the EP&A Act. This provision contains within it two obligations, first to determine whether the activity has a significant effect on the environment and secondly, if so, to not carry out the activity or grant an approval until it has obtained and considered an environmental impact statement (EIS):
In submissions NGANG formulated this ground on three bases:
- If the court found on the evidence that there was a prospect that the flood mitigation scheme being an integral part of the activity did not work as asserted by the manufacturer, either in not acting as an OSD system or not sufficiently capturing the overland flows, the court would find, on the evidence, that the proposal was likely to significantly affect the environment.
- If the court found on the evidence that the OSD system would not work as designed the infill and microplastics will not be sufficiently captured or retained on-site and will be washed down into the receiving environment, including Quarry Creek.
- A separate impact which has not been assessed from the overland flow path, which is the water diverting to the south over the field and then discharging into Quarry Creek, and the potential impacts on the adjoining STIF and Quarry Creek from that overland flow.
The judgement stated that consideration of significant impact on the environment is so broad and far reaching that it was unlikely to be determined as an objective fact by the court in judicial review proceedings. Therefore the question of whether an activity is likely to significantly affect the environment is not an objective jurisdictional fact but is a matter for the determining authority (the council) to determine acting reasonably. It seems that the precautionary principle doesn’t have any weight in this case whereby uncertainty does not justify inaction.
In this case the Judge found that council had acted reasonably. Statements by Dr Martens that the impacts may occur were insufficient to permit a finding of a likely significant effect on the environment. Modelling of changes in the hydraulic performance had not been done to enable the Court to make its own assessment.
Full steam ahead but what will happen when the plastic grass needs to be replaced?
So sadly, the construction of the synthetic turf field is now proceeding at maximum pace with completion possible by the end of this year.
The synthetic surface will not last forever, the lifetime with normal levels of use is 8 to 10 years. The question is, will council be able to replace the surface with synthetic turf? Now that a stormwater mitigation system is in place the flood risk from the field that acted as a stormwater detention basin has been substantially ameliorated. So it would be an excellent base for a natural grass field.
Currently there is no effective system for recycling the materials in synthetic turf so the large volume of material ends up in landfill. The evidence of environmental harm from the use of synthetic turf overseas is growing as is community opposition to its use because of the heat and injury risks. Several states in the USA have banned future installations of artificial turf because it contains dangerous chemicals such as PFAS compounds.
The Chief Scientist’s review into the design, use and impacts of synthetic turf in public open spaces highlighted the need for more research into human health and environmental impacts. Microplastics are a becoming more and more pervasive in our waterways. They can also interact with soil fauna, affecting their health and soil functions. Synthetic turf breaks down with people running over it and general deterioration from sunlight exposure. This breakdown increases as the turf blades age. The Norman Griffiths REF acknowledges that it is not possible to capture all the microplastics that will break off the turf. They will be washed off the field by rain but also blown away by wind due their small size of less than 5 mm.
We understand that council will be testing Quarry Creek for microplastics but the soil within the STIF forest and bushland below the field should also be tested.
The outcome of the chemical analysis must be taken into account when the replacement of the field surface is considered. Also we hope that the guidelines developed from the Chief Scientist’s review will provide meaningful decision making processes.
Ultimately the question that has to be asked is about the appropriateness of adding a large area of plastic to the environment when there is a viable natural alternative; that is real grass!
There has been such strong community opposition to synthetic turf at Norman Griffiths and in other parts of Sydney it will be difficult for councils to ignore in making future decisions.
The synthetic hockey surface was installed about 30 years ago and is now worn out. The Northern Sydney and Beaches Hockey Association (NSBHA) has been working on a project to renew the surface and upgrade the players’ amenities. They originally proposed a totally new facility at Barra Brui oval in St Ives on the edge of Garigal National Park. That was eventually knocked back because car parking space was too limited. So the project is proceeding at Ku-ring-gai High.
The project is being funded through a NSW Office of Sport – Sporting infrastructure Grants ($2,720,000), NSBHA funding ($480,000) and a Ku-ring-gai Council contribution for specific carpark works ($1,000,000), giving a total of $4,200,000.
The council meeting in August voted to proceed with the joint project at Ku-ring-gai High. We cannot provide more details as all the reports presented to the meeting were confidential. The meeting minutes note that council is accepting the risks and costs associated with the project and the general manager is to be the delegated authority to execute the draft Heads of Agreement on behalf of council. What are the ‘risks and costs’? The grants are intended to cover the construction and installation costs.
Car parking is an unknown element of the project. A new parking area on the school grounds requires approval under Part IV of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, for which council would be responsible. It is hard to see how the car parking can be increased without affecting the broad area of bushland in the school grounds that abuts Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and contains some rare plants.
The meeting minutes note that the development of the field will occur irrespective of whether development consent is obtained for the car park upgrade. In the staff report for the meeting it is stated that the project is justified because the project will lead to better containment of impacts on-site and hence reduced impact on the local community. We can’t see how impact will be reduced with more traffic on Bobbin Head Road. If the car park upgrade does not occur there will be more demand for parking on Bobbin Head Road.
There has been much angst expressed at Ku-ring-gai Council forums and meetings about the grandstand project. Sure there is a need to improve the facilities at the ground but the proposal is over the top. The cost of the proposed 300 seat grandstand plus café, change rooms, offices, treatment rooms, corporate and media facilities has gone beyond the estimate obtained in August 2022 of $5.5 million. A recent quote obtained by Council was $7.76 million. The proponent, the Northern Suburbs Football Association (NSFA) thinks the $7.7 million figure is overly conservative, but $5.5 million is still enormous!
At the council meeting on 28 July a detailed debate occurred over whether council should proceed with a Heads of Agreement and accept the risks, costs and benefits. The motion put before the meeting noted that the project may not be financially feasible but is driven by ‘economic, social and environmental value offered to the community’. This is an odd statement as the community has objected vociferously about the social impacts in particular (increased traffic, noise, bushfire risk).
The NFSA is bearing the construction and operating costs. They were advised that two grants were approved, one a Female Friendly Community Sports Grant for $500,000 and the other from Multi-Sport Community Facility Fund for $3.6 million. So the NSFA is fronting up at least $1.4 million.
There are still several concerns with this ambitious project:
- The cost looks likely to be higher than covered by funding.
- As pointed out by Cedric Spencer in a motion presented to the August council meeting, it is not clear that the grant applications had council’s consent. This is a prerequisite to grant approval.
- Council will seek assurance that a grant that benefits football, is not inconsistent with the key objectives of the Multi-Sport Community Facility Fund.
- The long-term master planning for NTRA when it was developed in 2011 never contemplated a facility of the scale and nature proposed by NSFA. It was a multi-year project funded from development contributions, general revenue and a special rate variation levied on all residents of Ku-ring-gai. The project cost some $30 million. It was not carried out for the benefit of one dominant sporting group which is what it would become with the implementation of the grandstand proposal. The NSFA would be the primary users of this site at the expense of all other users.
- There is conflicting information about the longer term plans for the site in reference to the amount of usage and the traffic that would be generated. It seems a very expensive project if, as declared by the NSFA, the usage of the three fields is not going to increase.
- There are rumours that there are intentions to convert one or more of the other two playing fields to synthetic turf, which would be strongly opposed.
Typical low maintenance plantings on public land have low diversity, visual appeal and function. Monocultures of strappy plants such as Lomandra longifolia and Dianella or single shrub species like saltbush are often the plants of choice that provide little contribution to biodiversity.
Since 2015 Melbourne University, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, has been trialling a novel low-cost and resilient approach to urban greening, using natural shrubland structures as templates to create beautiful, diverse plantings of Australian shrubs which are maintained through coppicing.
The idea is that coppicing (hard pruning to 10 to 20 cm high) every two to four years will promote flowering and rapid canopy closure to exclude weeds and reduce maintenance. With their high number of flowers, woody meadows encourage insects such as native bees, small birds and other wildlife.
Woody meadows are highly adaptable and can be used in a wide range of urban settings including railway easements and roadside verges, roundabouts, parks and gardens, and as part of water sensitive urban designs like raingardens and retention basins. Their low water use and maintenance requirements, coupled with high visual appeal and adaptability make them an attractive, cost-effective solution for councils and urban land managers challenged by climate change and often limited green space funding.
Councils, government agencies and developers are embracing this idea, with more than 6,000 m2 of woody meadows established around Australia that include approximately 40,000 plants from 150 different species.
With more 25,000 m2 of plantings planned for 2023, you’ll likely be seeing woody meadows popping up in your neighbourhood soon.
In August council’s environmental staff and 14 local volunteers planted 400 tube stock in Transmission Park in St Ives Chase to create the trial woody meadow. The plantings will develop over the next 12 to 18 months and staff will monitor the site to test whether biodiversity is increasing through more sightings of insects, birds and animals.
The evidence from this initial planting will help decide whether to extend woody meadows to other public land in Ku-ring-gai.
At the August council meeting it was decided to trial the introduction of a new recycling service of items that are currently not included in council’s recycling contract. After a two year trial period its cost effectiveness will be assessed. Items covered by the service include:
- soft plastics
- clothing and linen
- small household appliances such as electrical tools, hairdryers, irons, toasters, laptops and game consoles
- coffee capsules, batteries, medicine containers, printer cartridges and sealed paint tins
Residents are able to book a collection from their home direct to the recycling depot. Residents can use their own bags to separate recyclable items from their general waste. Bags can also be provided by RecycleSmart. Make your booking via the RecyleSmart app.
Collection of larger items can be booked as an add-on to an existing pickup.
Prepare to appreciate the world under your feet (well, your feet grounded on the earth, maybe not on a concrete slab).
There is a network of mycelia that belong to their own kingdom: Fungus. Lacking chlorophyll, they grow from the tips of microscopic hyphae and digest nutrients externally (underground) before absorbing them into the mycelium.
One hypha is a microscopic filament but together they form a fungus mycelium (the network). Hyphae can not only branch but also fuse, or ‘anastomose’ and exchange genetic material. The cell walls are made of chitin, a hardness also found in arthropod exoskeletons. The mycelial scaffold essentially mirrors exponentially the life forms above ground. Mycelial networks bind soil particles while also aerating the soil, creating spaces in the soil. This architecture allows water to penetrate soil’s deepest horizons.
The fungi also form alliances with plants, or even digest other organisms. Fungi and algae, forming lichens, create soil on rock – as on exposed rock left by the retreating Vatnajökull ice cap in Iceland.
Many plants depend on mycorrhizal fungi – the fungi forming beneficial relations with roots: hyphae extend the roots’ absorbable surface; the tree provides sugars from photosynthesis while the mycorrhizal fungi make nitrogen and phosphorus available to the tree.
The author gives us good reason not to clear-fell, nor burn our forests in super-hot conflagrations, nor overheat the earth with global warming, nor over-fertilise and apply weedicides to our monocrops; even the high-velocity gale of the leaf-blower dislodges spores, let alone grasshoppers, beetles and frogs. It kills the fungi.
Some ‘old growth’ trees reach hundreds of years of age; but the fungi beneath them are at least as long-lived. Old forests support a greater diversity of fungi than young, or obliterated, forests.
Interesting allusions – Pouliot mentions her US Northwest rented V8 Dodge Charger not being the ideal field vehicle ‘with the clearance of an echidna’.
The ninth chapter Women as Keepers of Fungal Lure fills a gap. I searched for books on fungi and nearly all the citations are of men’s studies.
The tenth chapter Restoring Fungi is apposite given the fungus talks by Emeritus Prof Michael Gillings and Vanessa McPherson of Macquarie University. They observed that sites where works such as a drainage pipe had been laid hosted far fewer fungi than undisturbed (or merely weeded) sites. A property owner demonstrates that we need to create diversity and reduce stresses. On her property she supplied diverse organic matter of different species, size and age, and eliminated tilling, digging, excavating, heavy machinery and even hard hooves of stock.
Mistletoe contributes to restoration, providing nectar for butterflies, gliders and possums; and when it dies its leaves enrich the soil with phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
Lichens colonise bare earth and are part of the cryptogamic crusts essential for forming a film that reduces wind and water erosion. This crust of fungi, algae, cyanobacteria and mosses over the soil fixes carbon and nitrogen – and is destroyed by stock. The property owner, Kazuko, observes ‘We should be starting with soil crusts rather than trees when restoring ecosystems’.
Fungi have infiltrated Landcare! Officially restoring waterways, agricultural and natural areas since 1989, the movement now recognises the necessity of healthy fungi.
The author has travelled the globe and gives examples of mycophiles’ world-wide fungus hunting throughout the book. There is a species register with common and scientific names of fungi and lichens, plants and animals; a glossary, selected sources and an index. The editor might have picked up the constant misuse of ‘among’ and ‘between’. Despite the listing of 11 images, there are no photographs. Our desire for pictures and descriptions of so many intriguing species and descriptions probably needs a mini-encyclopaedia!
Alison Pouliot, NewSouth Publishing, 2023; 278pp (reviewed by Margery Street)
Finally there is the prospect of real action on feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park – please make a submission by 11 September 2023.
Penny Sharpe, NSW Environment Minister has announced a proposal to amend the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Management Plan to permit aerial culling of feral horses. There is an urgent need for action as the number of horses has been increasing rapidly. The government says the most recent official count estimate was that there are between 14,501 and 23,535 feral horses across the park.
Under the management plan agreed to under the previous government, the number of horses had to be reduced to 3,000 by 2027 in order to limit the damage they are doing to the sensitive alpine ecosystems. About 30 endangered native species and their habitats are at risk of extinction due to introduced animals, including wild horses.
However the current management methods used such as on ground shooting, trapping and rehoming are not effective. The numbers are still increasing. More effective action must be taken before the situation gets even more out of control.
The proposal is open for submissions until 11 September. Submissions need only be short. There are various ways to submit, listed on the government's Have your Say page.
This book was of great interest having lived in Perth for 9 years and worked and travelled at length in WA for more than 40 years, including in many areas covered in the book, set predominantly in the south-west and south of the state. It's written by freelance ecologist and writer Vicki Cramer, whose research and publications through institutes like Curtin University and the CSIRO span a wide range of WA ecology, from bats and marsupials to Western Australia’s management, exploitation and clearing of eucalypt forests. In 2021 she was awarded a Dahl Fellowship from the charitable organisation Eucalypt Australia. Though set almost entirely in WA, the book mirrors the natural vegetation situation in other states and the threats it faces.
The Memory of Trees is divided into long, quite detailed chapters dealing with topics such as Jarrah forests and their threats, the West Australian Wheatbelt and salinity, the amazing Great Western Woodlands with their vast areas of trees growing in climates so dry that trees really shouldn’t grow at all. And, of extreme importance for us in NSW, the subject of bushfire, of hazard reduction and cultural burns and their history and arguments for and against. Relevant to fire and overshadowing everything covered in the book of course is climate change, the biggest mover of the goalposts that we face.
How many plant species are native to the south-west of WA? Well, the book cites 8379 would you believe (but of course new species are discovered every year so that’s by no means the final figure). Of that number, 1750 are native to Fitzgerald River National Park for example, a big park of nearly 3,000 km2 flanking WA’s south coast, big yes, but that’s very, very rich! (Blue Mountains World Heritage with around 1500 species is three times as big). And then the Stirling Ranges: full of endemic species, some of them isolated to individual peaks. These are examples of the fragile communities surviving as large islands of natural vegetation flanked or surrounded by land cleared for agriculture? What species have been lost through the clearing process? We will never know the full number, plant or animal.
Stirling Ranges and Fitzgerald River are flanked by the WA Wheatbelt. Vast areas of forest and woodland were cleared through waves of settlement, and managed on a broadacre basis with no treed remnants allowed to remain that get in the way of the massive harvesters. Farms have merged over time and families have moved away, much as is happening in Europe. The ancient impoverished wheatbelt soils were boosted, and have to be regularly topped up with superphosphate and trace elements. Natural vegetation over most of the wheatbelt is restricted to corridors and fringes along boundaries and roadways, plus isolated small copses. Mass tree removal, their roots no longer pumping, led to gradual rise in salinity – covered by a chapter in the book that highlights the recovery efforts of landowners and community groups but also political sidestepping, ignorance and neglect. Governments like to bypass salinity, highlighting grain yields, but a brief Google search will tell you that the WA wheatbelt yields a ball park figure of around 2 tonnes of grain per hectare – Ukraine by comparison, in its heyday, achieved roughly double that.
The Jarrah forests, featuring Eucalyptus marginata, were a backbone to WA’s historic economy. The rich, deep red, termite resistant timber is hard to source today except through recycling, but it was used in building and construction, in termite proof railway sleepers and in flooring and furniture, and it was exported globally. But it grows on iron and alumina rich laterite terrain large areas of which have been mined for bauxite. Bauxite, a chemically extreme end member of a soil profile, is typically only a few metres thick and so vast areas have to be stripped and mined to yield a commercial tonnage. Companies however are obligated to stockpile and restore the surface material, and the author describes traverses with colleagues in areas ranging from pristine and even rare old growth forest to sites in various stages of restoration. But one comes away with the impression that nothing can truly replace the lost forests. And then of course there’s climate change pushing winter rainfall southwards, and Phytophthora dieback!
Now for the Great Western Woodlands: these are truly vast but exceptionally vulnerable, made up essentially of eucalypt species some of which recover from fire, like the numerous species of mallee, while others are obligate seeders and are incinerated. If you’ve travelled the wheatbelt and the southern goldfields you’ll be familiar with the copper-red trunks of salmon gums. If you’ve driven east of Norseman you’ll have seen fine examples of Great Western Woodland, and perhaps be stunned to learn that the seemingly healthy trees are growing in less than 300mm mean annual rainfall. The author's field descriptions in areas east of the wheatbelt town of Hyden are both illuminating and saddening: overall the vast woodlands are threatened by climate change, reduced rainfall, human activity and most especially by fire.
Later in the book the author veers towards positive aspects: the Gondwana Link and the Nowanup Cultural Community. Gondwana link, which involves Bush Heritage among other groups, acquires land to revegetate to eventually form a chain of natural vegetation from the coastal forests of the south-west 1000km to the east to join up with the Great Western Woodland. Nowanup on the other hand was established to rally behind and promote Noongar cultural elements of which include cultural burning, which is perhaps the only way to mitigate and soften the devastating effects of climate change and fire on the woodlands and forests within a realistic time frame.
Viki Cramer, Thames and Hudson, 2023, paperback, 292 pp (reviewed by John Martyn)
The Chief Scientist’s report, Synthetic Turf Study in Public Open Spaces has finally been released but fails to give definitive guidance.
Main conclusion is wrong – we cannot treat synthetic turf as an experiment!
The report developed a set of recommendations that it states will (p vii):
allow NSW to adopt an accelerated ‘learn and adapt’ approach to the use of synthetic turf under NSW conditions … If applied, they will allow NSW to set the scene over the next decade, using new fields as a testbed to contribute to innovation and data-driven decisions.
This statement is totally at odds with the precautionary principle. New synthetic fields should not be approved if the major issues cannot be addressed.
The Natural Turf Alliance is calling for the NSW government to put a stop to all plans for synthetic turf on playing fields until there is sufficient information to enable more evidence-based decision making processes. It is only right to take a precautionary approach to ensure that there are no regrettable long-term impacts on human health and the environment. Also, many of the highlighted issues could have significant financial consequences.
In the meantime, there is an urgent need to upgrade some playing fields, and natural turf can be used. Councils are already managing hundreds of natural grass fields. There are ways of doing a better job of upgrading and maintaining these fields. The report acknowledges this but then says nothing more.
There has been considerable community concern about the installation of synthetic turf on playing fields, particularly in environmentally sensitive locations, and bad experiences with the planning process. Following a public enquiry in early 2021 that amplified these issues, in November 2021, Rob Stokes (then) Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, asked the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer to provide an independent review into the design, use and impacts of synthetic turf in public open spaces.
It was promised in mid-2022. It took the Greens to issue a standing order in the Legislative Council for it to be finally released on 9 June 2023. The report was dated 13 October 2022. Who was trying to hide the results? Was it the Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts whose desk it was sitting on? The excuse given was it that was ‘cabinet-in-confidence’ and consultation was taking place with councils and sporting bodies about the guidelines that should be issued for synthetic turf installations. In the meantime lots of decisions are being made without this information.
What the report says about natural turf
The first item of the terms of reference is:
- Identify, describe and provide advice on:
(a) key scientific and technical issues associated with the use of synthetic turf compared with grass surfaces in public spaces
The report states (p v.):
Best practice guidelines for improving the performance of natural turf have been developed in NSW. If applied to installation and ongoing management of natural turf sporting fields, these practices may allow increased performance of natural turf fields to meet demand.
In the more detailed discussion of the recommendations, in reference to an example of the guidelines developed for the Lower Hunter, the report states that analysis in the guidelines reported:
that when lifecycle costs and carrying capacity were considered, natural turf fields built to best practice were more cost effective than alternative options including synthetic turf.
Nowhere in the report is there a comparison of the scientific and technical issues that apply to the use of natural grass and synthetic turf. It is frustrating that there is no discussion about making a choice between the two. They are treated as separate entities.
Natural turf is already proven to be a better option
At the community forum organised by the Natural Turf Alliance on 23 June the speakers demonstrated that natural turf will be successful in terms of available playing hours if the correct soil preparation and drainage system is applied. Councils just have to improve their practices.
Demand for synthetic turf
According to the report, which is at least a year out of date, there are currently about 181 synthetic turf fields in NSW in public and private (eg schools) spaces. This compares with about 30 in 2018. The support for these installations has been driven by the soccer associations that are arguing that available playing hours are too restricted on grass fields to meet demand. This has been the case in the past couple of years that were abnormally wet.
Demand is increasing with population growth and it is argued by the soccer associations that the game is becoming more popular as women are taking up the game.
There are other arguments about several issues such as relative life cycle cost and water use that still being debated.
The concerns about use of synthetic turf
The report describes many issues with the use of synthetic turf and many where more research is required.
Many synthetic sports fields in NSW feature long synthetic blades supported by infill, the most commonly used infill is styrene butadiene rubber crumb sourced from recycled tyres. The crumb is imported and there is a lack of information about potential contaminants such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Currently, there is insufficient information and a lack of standards about the materials and chemical composition of synthetic turf. Other types of infill such as cork, are being used in newer fields but the review does not provide detail about these.
Longevity of synthetic fields
Overall, it is not clear how Australian climatic conditions will affect expectations about the longevity and carrying capacity of synthetic fields compared with overseas experience that is the basis of current decision making about installation and cost-benefit considerations.
Practices and standards for recycling and disposal are changing locally and overseas. Australia banned the export of waste tyres including tyre crumb from January 2022 so this component of synthetic turf has to be recycled locally or sent to landfill. The process of separating turf into components that are reusable is highly complex. Plans for a recycling facility near Albury have not yet been established.
Heat impacts are a priority area for research. The commissioned reports and literature review did not identify major health risks associated with the use of synthetic turf, although it was noted that significant knowledge gaps remain and research should prioritise the potential health impacts of chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and some heavy metals. The health impacts of the high heat levels of synthetic turf are not discussed in detail but the closure of fields in hot weather is canvassed especially for younger children.
The report notes that per- and poly-fluoroalkyl compounds have been found in low concentrations in the turf blades and base carpet. They create a risk of cumulative harm to aquatic and soil life, the environment and ultimately human health.
Social and wellbeing effects
Important considerations for planners and councils will vary with each site and include reduction in community access, odours from synthetic materials and increased artificial light.
Many potential impacts are raised that need to be mitigated. Microplastics and infill have entered waterways. Design guidelines are now in force to control leakage but their success still needs to be monitored. Older fields have been observed to lose a lot of rubber crumb especially as they age. The impact of escaping infill and turf fibre (microplastics) on local soil and ecology needs to be researched.
Fragmentation of animal habitat and disruption of ecological functions will occur through the loss of natural grass, increase in heat and additional light at night. The report states that synthetic turf is unsuitable for locations with flood and bushfire risk or in sensitive ecological locations.
Community groups concerned about the increasing use of synthetic turf have highlighted several issues. Many of these are the subject of recommendations in the report.
1. Planning approval process
In most cases a development approval process is not required from the local council. The assessment required is a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) subject to requirements defined in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations.
The report looked at a sample of REFs and found many gaps in coverage of these requirements, for example:
- climate change impacts on surface heat and stormwater
- impact of impermeable surface on soil health
- waste disposal at the end of life of the turf
- micro and nano-plastic contamination
- impact of increased light and heat on fauna outside the footprint of the field
The approval process does not provide clear requirements for community consultation. The report highlights this gap in the process:
Early community engagement that continues through the planning period enables discussion and representation of all stakeholders.
2. Mitigating environmental risk
A plan is needed for the development of appropriate standards for best practice installation and use, consistency with net zero targets and end-of-life solutions via industry engagement with government and researchers.
In addition, fields in proximity to sensitive ecosystems should be independently assessed to assist with management of identified environmental issues. Risk assessments should be undertaken so that synthetic fields are not approved in areas of high environmental risk including bushfire prone areas or those with higher likelihood of flooding.
3. Future data and research
The report recognises that the scale of public investment in sporting infrastructure requires a more systematic and data-driven approach to decision-making. There is a vast amount of existing information from different sources about the design, management and performance of sporting fields, but these are not readily available or collated. A more accessible and reliable source of verified information is required.
Data collection should be complemented by the research program to address key knowledge gaps in human health and environmental impacts. A key research priority is understanding the characteristics and composition, including the chemical composition, of materials used in synthetic turf and associated layers.
We congratulate former STEP treasurer and councillor on Ku-ring-gai Council, Anita Andrew, on receiving the W.R. Browne Award for 2023. This award is presented to a person for distinguished contributions and demonstrated impact to the Earth sciences in Australia.
Anita has been joint editor-in-chief of the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, the official journal of the Geological Society of Australia, for 13 years, and has been instrumental in maintaining the high standard of this international publication.
The medal honours the life and work of geologist William Rowan Browne, 1884–1975 who was a field geologist with a love of the high country and its glaciated terrain. He was a major supporter of the need to conserve Kosciuszko for all time, against much opposition.
High net immigration is putting huge pressure on governments to get more housing built. But do we need to do this at the expense of planning rules that are intended to create housing areas where people might actually enjoy living?
The new NSW government has announced that it will scrap local council and planning panel processes for developments worth more than $75m if they include at least 15% affordable housing. Developers will be able to go straight to the Department of Planning via state significant development rules so that decisions will made more quickly.
Further, these developments will also gain access to a 30% floor space ratio boost, and a height bonus of 30% above local environment plans.
Councils have been assured by the Minister for Planning (Paul Scully) that they will be consulted about the strategic merit of these proposals and council local environment plans will not be overridden.
The reforms are set to take effect later this year and are a part of the government’s commitment to construct 314,000 homes over five years.
Huge growth in population over 2022
It is not hard to see why we need so much new housing. Australia’s population grew by almost half a million during 2022 to reach 26,268,000 people at 31 December 2022. The annual growth was 496,800 people (1.9%). Annual natural increase was 109,800 and net overseas migration was 387,000.
There has been a lot of publicity about the proposed development of an area of land known as Lizard Rock. The outcome could be significant development for other areas of bushland in the Northern Beaches Council area. First some background.
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 established Aboriginal land councils to manage land to provide an economic base for Aboriginal communities as compensation for historic dispossession and ongoing disadvantage. The Metropolitan Local Land Council (MLALC) owns several areas of land in the northern beaches area. Any development of this land is subject to an approval process with several stages.
Development delivery plans
In September 2019 the MLALC requested the Aboriginal Land SEPP be amended to include its land holdings in the Northern Beaches Council planning processes. This is facilitated by a Development Delivery Plan (DDP), a strategic plan that sets out the development objectives for priority land owned by local Aboriginal land councils. The DDP will help Aboriginal people develop their land to support their community and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage. It will also provide new homes and jobs for the wider community.
Nine sites (six initial sites and three future sites) were identified in the Aboriginal Land SEPP and a draft DDP. Click here for a map of the sites. These documents were exhibited by the Department of Planning for public comment prior to approval. Many submissions were made on issues including bushland and environmental impact, traffic, infrastructure, open space, bushfire and Aboriginal heritage. However these detailed issues will be considered in respect of each individual planning proposal and subsequent development application.
Lizard Rock planning proposal
Of the six sites, Lizard Rock on Morgan Road, off Forestway in Belrose was earmarked as the most suitable opportunity.
Lizard Rock site
Since October 2022 the proposal for development of this 67.7 ha site has been gone through the stages of the planning approval process, namely a planning proposal and then a gateway determination that have been reviewed by a planning panel and approved subject to various conditions.
The proposals have been opposed by politicians on all sides and the Northern Beaches Council on the grounds of the loss of pristine environment, bushfire risk, the significant congestion created and insufficient regional infrastructure. The mayor, now local MP, claims that the northern beaches already has plans to build sufficient housing in better locations
In June 2023 the planning proposal was supported at gateway determination, subject to several gateway conditions. This is for 450 low-density residential lots with 10% allocated for affordable housing. Approximately 19 ha of the site will be preserved and restored as conservation areas or public open space.
Next steps for Lizard Rock
The amended planning proposal will soon be publicly exhibited for a minimum of 30 working days to allow feedback on the proposal. Then the updated planning proposal will submitted to the department for finalisation assessment and the local environment plan and amendment will be drafted and made.
Next steps for the remaining sites
The remaining five sites require further investigation. Future land uses could include residential, industrial, employment and environmental conservation. These sites could have planning proposals or development applications submitted over the next five years.
The local orchid Genoplesium baueri (endangered), also known as Bauer’s Midge Orchid, was added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species last year at COP 15. It is currently also listed as endangered under the NSW and federal biodiversity conservation legislation.
This classification means that it is at high risk of extinction in the near future. The inclusion in the Red List adds international significance to the classification and opens up international funding opportunities for people working to conserve these orchids.
There are some populations in the St Ives Showground precinct in the vicinity of the Wildflower Garden and nursery. This may restrict development because the plan of management mentions the possibility of road connections and increased parking between the Wildflower Garden and Showground.
Reasons for endangered classification
The NSW Scientific Committee (2012) has identified the following reasons for the endangered classification.
The main reason is the orchid’s highly restricted geographic distribution that is projected to continue to decline. The number of populations of G. baueri is uncertain. Based on records from herbaria and sightings, there are estimated to be between 20 and 30 populations between Port Stephens and Ulladulla and likely to be less than 250 individuals.
Geographic distribution is precarious for the survival of the species based on severe fragmentation of populations; continuing decline inferred and projected due to current threats of disturbance from trail bike riding, rubbish dumping and urban development; and extreme fluctuations in the number of mature individuals.
The species does not produce a new tuber at the end of each growing season but instead persists from the same tuber-like perennial root. Jones (2006) suggests that cultivation is ‘impossible’.
Plants do not regularly appear each year, despite favourable seasonal conditions. When plants do appear, they are only above ground for approximately two months before dying back to a dormant state. Whilst the appearance of plants above ground may fluctuate from year to year, individual plants may remain dormant in the soil. Nevertheless the number of plants of G. baueri is considered to be low.
Jones DL (2006) A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia including the Island Territories. Reed New Holland: Sydney
Ku-ring-gai Council has recently completed a recreation needs study. The June meeting agreed to put the study out for public exhibition but it is not there yet.
The outcomes are important for putting the demands for the use of our natural areas into perspective.
Ku-ring-gai’s population is growing and becoming more diverse. Current population is 124,000. Around 17,000 more people will live in the LGA by 2041 (Department of Planning population projections, 2022). In 2021, around 25% of residents live in apartments, 28% speak a language other than English at home, and families with children and young people make up 46% of households.
People want more spaces to participate in informal recreation for fun
Fun and enjoyment (90%), fitness and exercise (88%) and getting fresh air (88%) are the main reasons residents use recreation spaces. Walking (87%) is the most popular recreation activity followed by bushwalking (75%). Other popular activities include picnics (64%), relaxing (58%), walking the dog (48%), fitness activities (44%) and running (44%).
Sports are still in high demand, but non- traditional sports are emerging
Local sporting clubs and peak bodies indicated that participation in organised sport remains popular, reporting a 41% increase in participation in the past five years. There is also increasing demand for spaces for informal social team sports, emerging games such as Padel and pickleball, as well as demands for more spaces for women’s sports.
A review of the facilities against benchmarks indicates that there are adequate sports fields but their quality should be improved. This is a major barrier for participation with the issues being lighting, amenities, maintenance, safety and unfit facilities for female participation.
There is an oversupply of tennis courts and a need for more basketball courts.
Analysis of council’s formal booking data shows that natural turf sports fields operate below capacity throughout the year, indicating the opportunity to improve their capacity and utilisation. However there are questions about whether the booking data is a true indication of actual usage. It can be observed that tennis courts get a lot of informal usage.
Sports fields and sports spaces can no longer be single purpose or single code to meet needs. The availability of suitable additional land is limited and expensive. This means planning for more diverse and equitable open spaces and recreation facilities that are designed for shared uses by children, older people and dog owners.
Council should undertake a study to determine which sporting codes can share effectively and how to optimise existing sports fields and sports courts to make them more multi-purpose.
In our view synthetic turf is not the answer. Upgrading existing grass fields and improving maintenance will meet the needs of existing organised sports. The study highlights the need for more flexible and multi-purpose use of these fields. This cannot occur with synthetic turf that is focussed on facilities for a single sport.
Open space and parks
There is a need for more open space especially near the railway line. Based on the benchmark of 1 ha per 1,000 people Ku-ring-gai is well below the minimum requirement of 124 ha of parks to support the current population in 2021.
It is acknowledged that natural areas are predominantly conserved or preserved for passive recreation. There are limited opportunities to provide recreational spaces in natural areas. There is still a need to better connect them to the public open space network, as well as expand the recreational trails, where possible. The emphasis should be on ‘where possible’. The walking trails could be improved in many ways such as signposting and better linkages but there is little opportunity for new trails and bike tracks without compromising the quality of bushland.
Ku-ring-gai Council is developing a masterplan for the St Ives Showground and Precinct that will guide future improvements and define a longer term vision for the precinct.
This follows the Plan of Management (PoM) that was finalised in October 2021. The PoM sets the overarching principles and direction for the masterplan and must be adhered to as a regulatory document. We have already reported on the fraught consultation process of development of the PoM.
As a first stage council is seeking input from the community about the masterplan with the objective of creating a plan that will:
… ensure it meets the needs of current and future users and the wider community.
Online survey and submission website
Click here to respond to a survey about the current facilities. You can also provide written comments or upload a letter. The closing date is 17 July, 5 pm.
There are several issues that STEP will be commenting on that are not included in the survey. The written submissions will contribute to the contents of the masterplan. It seems that it is difficult to influence council to change a draft plan once it has been published. This will take place in August with the final draft going before council in September 2023.
User groups such as bike riders and soccer players are likely to be commenting so it would good to hear the views of those of you who value the biodiversity of the precinct (as was demonstrated during the STEP walk led by Mark Schuster in February).
What is being surveyed?
The survey asks questions that are narrowly focussed on opinions about the facilities at the showground including suggestions for changes or improvements. There are also questions about the capacity to hold larger events for more than 300 people.
Parking and traffic movements are the most obvious issues. The showground is already highly congested on weekends given the popularity of the playground and regular events such as the markets and horse riding. The PoM states that:
The lack of formal parking and users creating informal parking areas can cause soil erosion and compaction, which impacts negatively on the environment, vegetation, and water quality.
A major part of the parking area near the entrance is actually in amongst vegetation that is classified as Duffys Forest that is endangered and should be protected. It is a dust bowl or muddy mess depending on the weather. It is only going to get worse if more facilities are going to be developed.
The PoM gave a high priority to defining parking controls and preparing a landscape plan to guide the rehabilitation of the Duffys Forest but no plan has been seen yet.
Some sort of public transport system has to be developed as well as a safer way of exiting onto Mona Vale Road especially when major events are held such as the Medieval Faire.
We are also concerned about the health of the trees that are supporting the high ropes course.
The current PoM is not actually a plan for many parts of the Showground precinct. For areas like the nursery and former Greenfields tip it is merely a set of suggestions or ideas. One concern is the plan to upgrade the link between the Wildflower Garden and the Showground. The area contains prime Duffys Forest vegetation as well as the endangered Genoplesium baueri.
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of this years’ award is Margarita Gil-Fernández for her project entitled Mycorrhizal Fungal Diversity Associated with Small Mammals in Response to Anthropogenic Disturbance.
Margarita has provided the following description of her work.
I received my Master of Research degree from Macquarie University where I am currently completing my PhD degree. I am interested in mammal ecology, from small mammals to big carnivores, including invasive species. I have experience in research planning, experimental design and implementation, as well as data collection, management and data analysis. To date, my research projects have primarily been field-based, including projects for small mammal trapping and monitoring, camera trapping, and forest health research.
Anthropogenic (e.g. agriculture and urbanisation) and natural (e.g. wildfires and insect outbreaks) disturbances are currently increasing. One of the main strategies plants employ to cope with these stress conditions is to form mutualistic associations with mycorrhizal fungi, which enable them to better acquire water and soil nutrient resources. The distribution of mycorrhizal fungi is tightly linked to animals, with rodents and several Australian marsupial species being the key dispersers of these fungi.
Therefore, the composition of small mammal communities could influence the make-up of mycorrhizae communities and in turn the composition and resilience of vegetation communities.
We aim to examine the relationship between anthropogenic disturbance and mycorrhizal fungal diversity associated with small mammal communities around Sydney, to help inform management strategies that will enhance forest resilience to disturbance as well as inform the conservation practices of native small mammal species.
The study will take place in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, which is bounded by urban development and hence is exposed to increased anthropogenic disturbances. We will trap small mammals at 10 sites in and around the park and scats of the captured mammals will be collected to assess mycorrhizal fungal diversity. We will then extract the DNA from the scat samples to identify mycorrhizal fungi species being dispersed by these mammals using genetic analyses known as next-generation sequencing barcoding. Our results will provide new insights into the impacts of anthropic environments on small native mammal communities and the mycorrhizal fungi they disperse, with implications for the management of native plant species that depend on these fungi.
We have decided to expand our commitment to environmental education, and this year we have awarded our first ad hoc research grant to Vanessa McPherson from Macquarie University for her project Fungal Biodiversity: Diversity, Distribution and DNA.
Vanessa will examine club and coral fungi in the Lane Cove Valley and surrounding regions, using DNA barcoding to identify and characterise novel and existing species.
New specimens will be prepared for Herbaria and characterised microscopically to unify morphological and DNA data. Existing Herbarium specimens will be processed for DNA analysis. This project will definitively identify diverse species of clubs and corals, assemble a reference collection of specimens and photographs, generating DNA databases and morphological keys for identification of Australian species. New species, phylogenies of fungal taxa and distribution maps will be published in the scientific literature.
Have you ever wondered about all the little creatures that may visit your garden at night? A wildlife camera has been on our wish list for some time but we finally got round to getting one when former STEP president, John Burke, showed us the photo of a wallaby he’d caught on his camera. His garden backs onto a huge bushland area but behind us we have only a very small bush reserve surrounded completely by homes so we knew any of our visitors would be far smaller.
Our first experiment resulted in the usual suspects: a brush tail possum, a ringtail and a rat. There was also a pair of bright eyes across the fence watching from our neighbour’s tree.
The next location we chose for setting up the camera was a series of snuffle holes close to the gate adjoining the bushland and the first images taken that night revealed a very healthy-looking bandicoot. We were so delighted but what chilled us was an image taken not long after of a large cat sniffing the bandicoot’s trail.
It really brings it home how vulnerable our native animals are. There are districts like the Blue Mountains where owners are required to keep their cats in at night. Although it’s not mandatory in metropolitan Sydney, it’s a matter of management — sticking a pot plant in front of the cat flap, saying no to Tiddles. There are mixed reports as to whether collars with bells are a solution because it has been found that some cats are clever enough to move so stealthily that their bells don’t alert their prey. So if you own a cat and live near bushland, please consider keeping it in at night.
Our latest camera experiment has been to set it up to watch the nesting box on our paperbark tree and see if it has any occupants at the moment. The box was designed for a glider but we did suspect that little ringtails had used it and the bark approach to the box showed signs of traffic. So far, we have seen nothing emerging or disappearing into the box (maybe we did not set a long enough timeframe) but our camera has caught a very active ringtail on the tree.
We would encourage STEP members to think about getting a night camera (can be used for general security, too) especially if you have a family. Encouraging kids to understand more about the world of our precious native animals and to appreciate how precarious life can be for these little creatures in our urban environment is one of the ways to safeguard them for the future.
STEP families may be interested in Country Town, a children’s picture book that will be coming out soon. Isolde Martyn (one of our long time members), Robyn Ridgeway and local illustrator Louise Hogan have created an imaginary inland town that reflects the experiences of many real towns over the last 200 years. From a First Nations People’s camp by a river crossing, young readers can follow the ups and downs in the town’s story right through to the present day. Many themes of Australian history are woven into the artwork and text so it’s a great way to learn about the past and it will be useful in triggering discussions in class and at home.
Why imaginary? Well, say the creators, it would have been very rigid having to tie it down to one location. This way it has a far wider appeal and can hopefully inspire kids, wherever they live, to think about what came before the buildings around them and how the land has been changed.
ISBN 9781922696342 (HB) 9781922696359 (PB)
Publisher: Ford Street Publishing