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Aiding Bushfire Recovery on K’gari

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On the morning of 2 June 2022, a team of volunteers recruited by the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) converged on Eurong to participate in the K’gari Coastal Foreshore Rehabilitation and Pandanus Project.

The Department of Environment and Science-funded project was a collaboration between FIDO, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), and Community Rangers from the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation (BAC).

Map: Burnt area is indicated by red hatching (Image taken from the Assessment Report)

These organisations, as well as Cooloola Coastcare, are all partners in FINIA, an umbrella group dedicated to the protection of the natural integrity of K’gari. The project’s purpose is targeted rehabilitation of the coastal, foredune vegetation complex, as recommended by the Queensland Government’s Post-fire Assessment Report and associated Action Plan, following the extensive Duling bushfire of 2020. The bushfire burnt a staggering 85,000 hectares, over half the world heritage island.

The volunteers included three members of Cooloola Coastcare, as well as experienced bush regenerators and nursery people from the Coolum area on the Sunshine Coast. The team was under the expert direction of Suzanne Wilson, a long-time FIDO member, currently at Mooloolah River Landcare Native Plant Nursery. Suzanne was involved in re-establishing a native plant nursery for FIDO at the QPWS ranger station at Eurong in 2015, in response to persuasion by the late John Sinclair.

On day one, the FIDO volunteers met with the Butchulla Community Rangers at the Eurong nursery for a pleasant morning of introductions, planning and orientation. Those with experience in native plant propagation and bush regeneration shared some of their knowledge, while the Butchulla representatives shared some of their knowledge of the deep, indigenous history of the island, including the three Butchulla lores:

Minyang galangoor gu djaa, kalim baya-m – What is good for the land comes first.

Wangou nyin gaminda biralundar, nyin wumga-n – Do not take or touch anything that does not belong to you.

Minyang waa nyinung, waa bunmalee dhama-n – If you have plenty, you must share.

Good advice for all of humanity!

In the afternoon, the BAC team, Suzanne, and the Cooloola Coastcare group explored for seed along tracks around Eurong, finding a good haul of Banksia aemula. In contrast, the Mt Coolum group ventured further afield, collecting seeds of Pandanus tectorius and some woodland and forest species.

Day 2 was devoted to nursery work, including processing and recording the seed collected on day 1. Banksia cones were burnt to open the follicles, allowing the seed to be extracted, while the flesh was removed from the fruit by washing through a screen. Hard, woody capsules were stored dry to allow the seed to be released with dehydration.

Thanks to QPWS having upgraded the automatic watering system in the propagation tunnel, the Banksia seeds were sown, representing a new start for the nursery program and secure from water supply problems that caused losses in the past. Coastal sheoak tube stock and pandanus seed were prepared for planting on day 3.

Day 3, planting day, dawned calm and sunny, with a flawless blue sky, as the teams met at the nursery to load the vehicles with plants and buckets of Pandanus seed. The leading re-vegetation site was a badly-burnt fore-dune area south of Dundubara (see map above).

By the end of the day, an impressive 653 Casuarina equisetifolia tube stock had been planted, about 50 other more advanced plants of other fore-dune species and 500 Pandanus seeds had been direct-seeded. There was good, deep moisture in the sand, and best of all, there was a dump of about 30mm of heavy rain early the following morning!

Everyone was very happy with our achievements regarding the revegetation work over the three days we worked together. However, just as important were the sharing of knowledge, contacts made, and friendships kindled.

Article contributed by Linda Tabe, Cooloola Coastcare

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