Species re­in­stated

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - BY JUSTIN JENVEY jjen­vey@ne­me­dia.com.au

BEECHWORTH Ur­ban Land­care and Sus­tain­abil­ity (BULS) are cel­e­brat­ing the con­clu­sion of a restora­tion project un­der­taken over the past 18 months.

The group’s mis­sion was to re­in­state pop­u­la­tions of en­dan­gered plants within Beechworth Ceme­tery and to pro­tect them by con­trol­ling rab­bits which caused the de­cline.

Threat­ened species in Beechworth Ceme­tery in­clude species of gre­vil­lea, flax-lily, daisy, good­e­nia, and orchids.

The project saw species re­planted and a rab­bit-re­sis­tant fence erected around the ceme­tery, the first full bound­ary fence in its 162year his­tory.

BULS worked closely with the Beechworth Ceme­tery Trust and Beechworth Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre’s Pris­oner Land­mate Pro­gram to de­liver the project thanks to a $24,000 State Gov­ern­ment grant.

Project man­ager John Hawker said it was the big­gest task the BULS group had ever un­der­taken with hun­dreds of hours spent on the project.

“Lo­cal seed was col­lected, the plants prop­a­gated in nurs­eries, and have now been re-es­tab­lished in the ceme­tery,” he said.

“There were three plant species, a Gre­vil­lea, a Dianella and a Senecio, sur­vived in small fenced gravesites where they were pro­tected from rab­bit brows­ing.

“Rab­bits were con­trolled and all war­rens re­moved.”

The new bound­ary fence goes to ground level to pre­vent rab­bits dig­ging un­der.

“Clear­ing the fence-line in­volved sub­stan­tial weed re­moval, and the translo­ca­tion of a lovely old post-and-rail fence,” Mr Hawker said.

“On our big­gest days we had as many as three groups of up to eight from the prison do­ing five hours labour a day, plus three su­per­vi­sors, some­one from the ceme­tery trust and my­self.”

In all 1.3 kilo­me­tres of rab­bit-re­sis­tant bound­ary fence was rolled out while the project also in­cluded the in­stal­la­tion of an in­for­ma­tion sign about the nat­u­ral ecol­ogy of the 8.6-hectare site.

Dur­ing the project Mr Hawker said he found flora not com­monly seen in the area and also dis­cov­ered an in­ter­est­ing link with a sig­nif­i­cant lo­cal laid to rest in the ceme­tery, Dame Jean Mac­na­mara.

“Dame Jean was born in Beechworth in 1899 and while she was well-known for her work in or­thopaedics it was her drive and her de­ter­mined na­ture in an­other area which had a huge im­pact on Aus­tralia,” he said.

“She had an affin­ity with the land and for farm­ers and did not like see­ing the land eroded or de­graded and de­stroyed by rab­bits, which were in plague pro­por­tions.

“Dame Jean hit upon the idea of us­ing the myx­o­mato­sis virus to com­bat the rab­bit plague which was backed and took ef­fect in 1949.

“In un­der­tak­ing this project Beechworth Ur­ban Land­care and Sus­tain­abil­ity ac­knowl­edges the work of this re­mark­able lo­cal wo­man and also the sim­i­lar­ity of in­ter­ests.”

De­spite al­ready cel­e­brat­ing the com­ple­tion of the project, Mr Hawker said there were still some small tasks to fin­ish off.

“We’ve got a lit­tle bit of plant­ing still to do,” he said.

“The threat­ened species that we got ba­si­cally weren’t in cul­ti­va­tion so I had to get a spe­cial per­mit and then grow them in a hot house.”

“It was the first DELWP (De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Wa­ter and Plan­ning) threat­ened species per­mit that they had been is­sued in 18 years and af­ter col­lect­ing seeds and cut­tings we’ve hope­fully grown enough to safely bring all species back.

“Were de­lighted with how it’s all gone, we’ve ba­si­cally met all the goals within the project man­age­ment plan.

“What we’ve done will al­low for bet­ter man­agem­net of the ceme­tery and we be­lieve that Beechworth now has a ceme­tery it can be proud of for its his­tory as well as its ecol­ogy.”

PHOTO: Coral Cook­sley

MIS­SION COM­PLETE: Happy with the new rab­bit-re­sis­tant fence erected around the Beechworth Ceme­tery as part of a Beechworth Ur­ban Land­care and Sus­tain­abil­ity project. are (from left) Nicki Munro, Bryce Muller, John Hawker and Freya Muller.

PHOTO: Coral Cook­sley

HIS­TORIC: An old post-and-rail fence was re­cov­ered and moved to the pi­o­neer sec­tion of the ceme­tery as part of the restora­tion project.

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