Australasian Plant Conservation
A shorter version of this article was
published in Australasian Plant Conservation 14(2), September -
ANPC rehabilitation workshops in regional NSW - 2005
We're now drawing breath after completing a series of workshops focusing on ecological rehabilitation of
disturbed native vegetation, held in regional centres of inland NSW.
The first in the series was on montane
restoration, held at various locations in alpine areas of the ACT and southern
NSW on 28-30 April 2004. Three more workshops were held during 2005, in Armidale
(19-20 July), Wagga Wagga (14-15 September) and Dubbo (25-26 October).
A core group of presenters contributed
to the full workshop series, explaining and demonstrating fundamental principles
underlying ecological restoration. Other topics included: planning a
rehabilitation project, ecological stability and degradation thresholds of plant
communities, the role of soil-symbionts, rapid assessment of soil health,
genetic research relevant to the perennial provenance debate, roadside
vegetation management, review of remnant fencing projects, monitoring,
evaluation and adaptive management.
Preliminary sessions provided updates on
reforms and changes to native vegetation and threatened species legislation, and
the local Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) gave overviews of their goals
for native vegetation and current implementation activities.
Presenters from the workshop regions and
beyond added a diversity of experience and covered a range of issues. Presenters
included staff from government agencies, local Councils, environmental
consultants, Landcare groups and industry. The participants also came from such
groups, as well as other interested land-managers and individuals.
Learning from experience
Some case studies drew on projects
re-visited after 40 years, such as some alpine restoration work undertaken
during the early 1960s, when 'ecology' was a brave new word. Lessons learnt from
these and later experiences have improved current rehabilitation practice, and
shown the necessity of an ecologically sound approach from the earliest planning
stages. Local case studies demonstrated hardships, successes, the need for
persistence and our dependence on the dedication of volunteers.
Pines to bush
The workshop structure included an
afternoon activity, with the participants working in groups, applying ecological
principles to plan the conversion of a harvested pine plantation back to a
functioning native vegetation community. As this had been a real project, the
participants benefited by hearing what had REALLY been done and what had been
Field visits to local sites added depth
to the workshop and gave opportunities for exchanging ideas and experiences,
raising and discussing issues, quizzing specialists, seeing techniques
demonstrated, debating initial approaches and ongoing management, testing
assessment techniques and networking, networking, networking.
One of the highlights was David
Tongway's demonstration of his Landscape Function Analysis technique, designed
to readily assess soil health. Amy Jansen guided participants through a rapid
assessment technique of riparian condition on the Murrumbidgee River at Wagga
Wagga while other vegetation assessment methods were trialled in the Sanctuary
at Western Plains Zoo. The local Council showed the group the successes (and
failures) about 12 years after direct-seeding a road realignment out of
Armidale. Active management of protected native vegetation was discussed at
visits to a private property near Armidale and local reserves at all locations.
The ANPC made its first foray into
teaching grass identification techniques, with a one-day course following the
Dubbo rehabilitation workshop. The Ibis Room at Western Plains Zoo was filled
with 48 eager participants. After introductory sessions on grass morphology and
terminology and the use of keys, the participants broke into eight groups,
working with tutors and using stereo microscopes, laptops loaded with the
CD-ROM AusGrass, published keys (particularly Grasses of NSW and Flora of Australia vol 4), hand-lenses and dissecting needles. Swathes of
grasses filled the room and their floral parts were examined minutely to reveal
their taxonomic secrets.
The groups also looked at grasses
growing around the zoo, to learn what to look for when identifying them in the
wild. Towards the end of the day, one eager group re-visited this field
examination work, returning hot and tired, but still enthusiastic.
We were lucky to have one of the two
authors of AusGrass, Donovan Sharp, journey all the way from the
Queensland Herbarium to lend his expertise to those unfamiliar with this
interestingly intuitive identification method. All the 'grassy gurus' provided
invaluable guidance and teaching, and had no chance to sit back and relax, as
did presenters at the rehabilitation workshops!
How many came?
An unexpected 105 people attended the
Armidale workshop, coming from as far afield as Queensland, Walgett and the Blue
Mountains. These numbers exceeded our experience in running workshops in
regional centres; the Namoi Catchment Management Authority partly contributed by
viewing this as an important training opportunity for staff.
At Wagga Wagga we had 40 attendees, with
one coming from Adelaide; others came from Victoria, Hillston, Sydney and the
central coast. Despite a last-minute announcement of a clash with a related
workshop on exactly the same days, 49 attended the Dubbo rehabilitation workshop
and 48 came to the grass identification course (28 of whom were at the preceding
Since late 2004, the ANPC has been able
to offer accreditation contributing towards Conservation and Land Management
Training Package diplomas and certificates. Our workshops are considered to
provide knowledge underpinning a range of units in this package. Some
participants also seek accreditation to build evidence to gain 'recognition of
prior learning'. Of the total of 214 participants at the 2005 workshops, 89
sought accreditation (= 41.6%).
The evaluation forms have still to be
fully analysed, but the responses were overwhelmingly positive, with
consistently high scores on the evaluation sheet questions. Feedback since, both
direct and indirect, has been enthusiastic. One participant, quite unsolicited,
announced 'this is the best workshop I've ever attended!' One grass participant
was glad to find that 'learning can still be fun'. Constructive comments were
also provided to assist with future workshop planning. Of course, it's
impossible to fit everyone's wish list of topics into a two-day workshop.
Many thanks to the core presenters for
the rehabilitation workshops: Roger Good, Andy Spate, Stuart Johnston, David
Tongway, and to the guest presenters: Wendy Hawes, Andrew Steed, John Nagle,
Paul Hutchings, Tim Watts, Chris Nadolny, Ian Oliver, Ruth Tremont, Rob Kooyman,
Peter Thrall (Armidale); Julie Hoare, Keith McDougall, Mike Dunn, Emmo Willinck,
Paul Scannell, Linda Broadhurst, Ian Lunt (Wagga Wagga); Sarah Munro, Brendon
Neilly, Jen Shearing, Peter Sullivan, Donna Johnston, Anne Kerle, Cathy Waters,
David Bagnall and David Goldney (Dubbo).
Thanks also to those (not already
mentioned) who assisted with field sites for the rehabilitation workshops: John
Lewis, Richard Morsely, Mike O'Keefe, Rob Johnson (Armidale); David Read, Jim
Rees, Pat Murray, Owen Whitaker, Amy Jansen, Janet Wild, Erwin Budde (Wagga
Wagga), Lynton Auld, Tim Sinnott (Dubbo).
Many thanks to the tutors ('grassy
gurus') for their extremely valuable guidance in the grass identification
techniques course at Western Plains Zoo (Dubbo): Anthony Whalen, Donovan Sharp,
Isobel Crawford, Geoff Robertson, Miranda Kerr, Tim Sinnott, Anthony
Enormous thanks also to our workshop
volunteers who were on the spot for any number of requests: Ian Simpson, Kate
Boyd (Armidale); Lynne McMahon, Ross Smithard (Wagga Wagga); and Sue Buik and
Kerry Palmer (Dubbo). Jan Hastings and Richard Bomford gave sterling service at
the ANPC office in Canberra.
Many others helped in numerous ways, in
providing the support of their agency, organisation or Council, advice, staff
assistance and contributing to the development of the program content and
Equipment and resources essential for
the grass identification course were lent by the Centre for Plant Biodiversity
Research, the Australian National University, the University of Canberra and the
Warrumbungles Environment Education Centre, as well as individual tutors. The
course would not have happened without their generosity.
Without you all, these workshops would
not occur! If I have omitted anyone, humble apologies; your contribution is
nonetheless highly valued.
Thanks are also due to the NSW
Environmental Trust, whose generous support ensured the delivery of these
workshops to regional areas of NSW. Our goal is to now take them to areas not
ANPC Project Manager