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