What Ian does in his holiday break at Yamba

Holiday help for Whiting Beach dune vegetation

Most Yamba visitors come to enjoy the many beaches, ride a few waves, catch a fish, stroll along the rock wall and headlands, dine out or simply relax and take in the glorious view from the pub on the hill. For one long-term return visitor, a couple of novel activities can be added  – weeding and tree planting!

With Clarence Valley Council approval, Ian Last from Gympie in Queensland is helping in his own small way to transition the vegetation on the dunes at Whiting Beach from a pot-pourri of invasive weeds to one dominated by local native species. Each Thursday during the month following Easter, Ian visited the Maclean Landcare Community Nursery at Townsend to select a ‘boot load’ of healthy seedlings raised by the small band of dedicated volunteers that put in the hard yards there every Thursday and Friday morning.

Ian Last, Wendy Plater, Pete Turland (Yuraghir Landcare), Anne Stanton, Nina Bowman

The first step was to pull out the heavy cover of weeds including painted spurge, annual ragweed, cactus,  asparagus weed, lantana and bitou bush, and flag and ‘release’ any native regeneration hiding among the weeds. Some ‘benign’ weeds (eg painted spurge) were mulched on site to help build up organic matter  while others (eg cactus) were removed off-site. Areas with little or no regeneration were targeted for planting with a focus on canopy species including tuckeroo, coastal banksia, coastal sheoak, cypress pine, pandanus and the odd cottonwood and Moreton Bay fig. To date Ian has planted over 600 seedlings from over 30 species - about 300 in May 2014 and 300 in April 2015. Over 95 per cent of last year’s plantings have survived, an encouraging start considering the seasonally dry, infertile sandy soil and the salt-laden sea breeze that young plants endure in a coastal dune environment . Some of the faster growing plants are now nearly 2 metres tall. A bamboo stake with pink flagging tape next to each seedling will help to re-locate the developing seedlings once the weeds come back - as weeds are prone to do! In the more exposed locations, some seedlings  are protected with tree guards to limit the impact of desiccating winds.

Ian planting natives at Whiting Beach

What Ian does in his holiday break at Yamba

Far from being ‘hard work’, Ian finds that an hour’s weeding, planting, watering or fertilising at the end of each day is a great way to relax. ‘It is very satisfying  to see last year’s plantings becoming established and starting to put on new growth. And best of all, when it comes to planting trees, there is now no such thing as ‘bad’ holiday weather. Drenching rain or fine sunny days are both welcome – in equal measure.’