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Travelling down the creek
28 Oct 2008
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Mulgoa Valley Landcare Group

South-west of Penrith, on the western edge of the Cumberland Plain, the Mulgoa Valley illustrates the transition from rural landscape to urban settlement. Where once were grazing lands, orchards, vineyards, small farms and bush, now suburban development is creeping westwards. Central to the valley is Mulgoa Creek, a tributary of the Nepean River, which flows through rural lands and Mulgoa Nature Reserve. This Reserve was gazetted in 1994 and, following two subsequent additions, now covers 214 hectares. It contains shale cliffs that document the region’s geological history and remnants of Endangered Ecological Communities including Cumberland Plain Woodland supporting several threatened plant and animal species. Restoring the remnant vegetation along Mulgoa Creek is essential to provide a wildlife corridor between native vegetation remnants, contribute to links between Blue Mountains National Park and Mulgoa Nature Reserve and protect water quality in the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system.

Fortunately, over the last 10 years Mulgoa Valley Landcare Group has worked steadily to rehabilitate native vegetation along the creek and in protected natural areas. The Landcare group formed when a few members of the Mulgoa Progress Association recognised a need to become more ‘hands on’ in their approach to environmental issues facing Mulgoa Valley. They started work at Council-owned sporting fields adjacent to Mulgoa Creek and soon adopted a catchment approach to rehabilitating the Mulgoa Creek riparian corridor. Landcare member, Lisa Sinclair, remembers, ‘instantly our project grew from weeding bushland 150metres in length to weeding bushland seven kilometres in length – and involving at least 30 property owners’. Meeting once a month, the group has worked their way along the creek removing woody weeds and planting local native species. They have also produced a weed identification booklet and commissioned a Bushland Resilience and Restoration Strategy to guide their work.

This report states that ‘setting priorities for restoration work within the very large area of the Mulgoa Creek Corridor could be daunting … [and] will require a long term commitment’. Lisa Sinclair is young, dedicated and passionate about the local environment having lived there most of her life. After 10 years of hard work, she remains undaunted and ably leads the Mulgoa Valley Landcare Group onward along the creek. She considers the group’s greatest achievement to be gaining support from around 60% of property owners for the Mulgoa Creek Riparian Project, commenting that she never would met many of these ‘neighbours’ had it not been for the project – ‘and so many of them are really great people’. Lisa is also proud of their efforts lobbying for the development of wildlife corridors and additions to Mulgoa Nature Reserve. Above all else, she loves ‘observing change in the local bushland and feeling … that we are truly helping to protect native plant biodiversity and educate property owners to conserve the vegetation along the creek’.

Along the way Mulgoa Valley Landcare group has received government and corporate grants of over $250,000. After their initially modest investments in tools and herbicides, they have contracted bush regeneration teams to tackle big weed invasions especially in dangerous areas such as the shale cliffs in the nature reserve. This has had advantages beyond the work completed as the Landcare group has learnt a lot from these professionals. Lisa says ‘we used go in all gung ho and think ‘that’s done’ and then come back a year later and discover that more weeds have taken over. Now we know which weeds to concentrate on and regularly undertake maintenance work’. The Landcare group has also had help from other volunteers such as Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) as well as students from local schools and the local community on Planet Ark Tree Day.

There are occasional setbacks – just recently a new landholder arrived and tore down a recently installed stock exclusion fence along with the remnant bushland it was protecting. Visiting the site, Lisa gazes in despair at the destruction of years of work and an investment of over $4000 in fencing materials. She acknowledges that most creek neighbours are supportive of Landcare goals even if they don’t want to ‘get their hands dirty’ but regrets that some ‘property owners seem to have a very short term view of native vegetation management’.

But on the whole, Lisa’s enthusiasm and ‘a core group of very diverse, very supportive, very dedicated people’ keep her going. As she says she is driven by ‘a burning desire to protect what little of our natural environment is left for my children, and their children, to enjoy. … I see the work I do as ‘thinking globally but acting locally’ to protect the planet. I also see the work I do as akin to domestic chores – if you don’t do it yourself – It’ll never get done’.

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