The Blacksmiths Beach Dunecare Group formed in June 1990 following a public meeting sponsored jointly by the Lake Macquarie City Council (LMCC) and the Dept. of Land and Water Conservation (DLWC). The Group was charged with the task of dune regeneration in the area from Awabakal Avenue in the north to the Swansea-Belmont Surf Club in the south – approximately 1 kilometre in length and 200 metres in width.


The LMCC and DLWC identified the following problems to be addressed by the Group:
  •  A major infestation of Bitou bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera subspecies rotundata);
  •  Severe damage caused by vehicles;
  • Infestations of other exotic plants eg. Asparagus Fern (Protasparagus aethiopicus), Lantana (Lantana camara), Yucca plant (Agave americana), Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia), and various succulents such as Mother-of-Millions (Bryophyllum delagoense);
  •  A lack of formal access ways for members of the public to access the beach without further degrading the dunal system;
  •  The lack of a natural dunal system due to previous mineral mining operations;
  •  Vandalism (mainly broken glass);
  •  The lack of new generation native flora being established in the dunal or hind dune zones due to the presence of exotic flora.
Nigel, the Team Leader of Blacksmiths Dunecare outlines how the group has worked to address these issues

"The restoration of a degraded dunal system was in its infancy in 1990: there were only 5 Dunecare groups in NSW in 1990 – there are now over 100. Therefore a lot of experimentation to improve the dunes occurred in consultation with the (then) Dept of Land and Water Conservation.
In 1990 over 90% of the dunal zone in NSW was infested with bitou bush. At Blacksmiths it was not possible to walk from Ungala Rd east to the beach unless one of the tracks was used. Bitou was so thick that a machete or like cutting implement was needed to cut a way through. Bitou used vegetation such as Banksia integrifolia or Banksia serrata as a support and grew to heights exceeding 3 metres in some places.
To overcome this problem the Group obtained the services of unemployed youths over three Commonwealth Government schemes in the early 1990’s to help remove the Bitou and other weeds. These groups used manual techniques to remove the majority of the Bitou infestation. They worked during the week and the Dunecare Group worked of a Sunday. Over a period of 24 months about 80% of the infestation was removed. The remaining Bitou required constant attention over many years using herbicides and manual removal methods. In 2009, 99% of Bitou had been eradicated.
On the beach itself most of the damage was caused by vehicles, destroying any growth of beach Spinifex (Spinifex sericeus) that may have been on the dunes, and causing ‘wind tunnels’, where the tyre tracks allowed the wind to create channels which blew the sand off the beach towards Ungala Rd. To address this, a treated pine fence was erected along Ungala Rd to stop vehicular access to the beach and LMCC provided signage which advised that vehicles were not allowed on the beach south of Awabakal Ave vehicular access way (which was built by the Group in the early 1990’s in consultation with the Newcastle 4WD Club). This was a success from the start. The damage to the beach from vehicles ceased immediately. We now have a very good growth of spinifex on the foredune, which acts as a buffer against storm damage.
The lack of a dunal system was a major problem, as, whenever a major storm occurred, there was nothing to stop the waves from breaching the dunes and flowing through to Ungala Rd. In 1993 the LMCC funded the manual formation of a fore dune and hind dune using heavy machinery from the Swansea Belmont surf club north to Awabakal Ave. The reconstructed dunes were planted out with Marram Grass by the Landcare Group to stabilize the bare sand dunes. To introduce native vegetation, 20 kgs of Acacia seed (Acacia sophorae) was scattered over the dunes.
Bitou was planted as a stabiliser after beaches were mined for minerals up to the 1970’s, and it has been recognised for some years that the use of Bitou was a major mistake, with an estimated 80% of the coast now suffering from Bitou infestation. Following the formation of the two dunes we have been able to stabilise the beach, and after several major storms since the dunes were created in 1993, the beach has survived any major damage, and native vegetation is establishing naturally along the dunes. Once we had removed the Bitou Bush from the hind-dune forest region, the native seedlings were able to establish surprisingly quickly, and the region is now thriving, resulting in the return of many types of birds and reptiles, and even an Echidna has been sighted in the dunes. It is a much healthier system now, and improving year-by-year.
The Landcare Group has planted hundreds of tubestock over the past 20 years, but most of the new growth is natural. We are trying to re-introduce species of trees such as the Tuckeroo Cupaniopsis anarcardioides and Smooth Barked Apple Angophora costata to increase the diversity of the flora population.
Vandalism was a problem in the early years, but has reduced to only minor incidents over the past 10 years as our work has become recognised and appreciated by the public. Broken glass has not been a problem for over 10 years, and our fences are no longer damaged. In 1991 we built formal access ways along Ungala Rd utilising the existing tracks which had been used by beachgoers for many years. By restricting people from the hind-dune area the native plants are able to establish without being damaged.
Our major work is now the removal of the Asparagus Fern, which is done manually. We also continue to remove the Bitou manually, especially on the dunes. Bitou seed remains viable for up to 7 years, so new growth is expected. We continue to maintain the access ways, remove other exotic plants and perform other necessary duties such as rubbish removal (unfortunately a major problem). The Landcare Group has worked closely with the Landcare Resource Office (LRO), funded by the LMCC, providing us with much valued assistance and materials.
In October 2009 a bushfire destroyed the dunal system from Belmont South to Maneela St in Blacksmiths. The Landcare Group has been undertaking remedial works to restore the dunal system with the continued assistance of the LRO. A Community Action Grant has also assisted with the regeneration of the affected dunal system."
Regenerated foredune looking South from Awabakal Ave track (2014)


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