Hillside salvage a true team effort

To many, it might simply look like hillside scrub.

But to Irene Champion, the plants on the soon-to-be-cleared site for the Lamberts Beach Lookout expansion were too good to lose.

She had attended a public consultation meeting on the site as secretary for Native Plants Queensland, Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP).

From that, she suggested Mackay branch members could salvage more than a dozen different native species growing on the site.

Realising any salvage operation on the precarious site was bound to be hot and hard work, Mackay Natural Environment Centre nursery supervisor Sue McCormack decided to recruit some helpers.

An “A-Team” of native plant enthusiasts gathered last week (Wednesday, March 1).

The team included nine members of council’s Natural Environment team, five Mackay Regional Botanic Garden’s staff members, two members from the coastal division of Reef Catchments and three branch members from SGAP.

Economic Development and Planning Committee chair Cr Amanda Camm said it was a fantastic team effort and many of the staff present benefited greatly from the project.

“By including the Botanic Gardens staff and three of our Horticulture, and Conservation and Land Management trainees, we were able to upskill them in the collection and propagation of native plants, as well as nursery procedures,” she said.

“With the Gardens soon to have its own onsite nursery, this invaluable learning opportunity came at a great time.

“And having an expert like Ms Champion and the other members of SGAP on hand was a real privilege – their knowledge of native species in our region is second-to-none.”

Ms Champion said the morning was a productive team effort.

“We paired off and each pair concentrated on collecting the one particular species assigned to them,” she said.

“This proved to be an efficient process as each couple could concentrate on finding and bagging ‘their’ plants.”

The ground on top of the headland is rocky and hard. However, a heavy drenching shower helped loosen things up.

The majority of plants being salvaged were herbaceous species so, where possible, they were dug out roots and all.  

Lots of cutting material was collected, mainly from woody plants, and occasionally there was fruit ripe for the picking.  

Cutting material gathered from target plants was collected from more than one individual of the species to add to the genetic diversity.

Bags of plant material were then ferried to the Mackay Natural Environment Centre (MNEC) on Swayne Street for processing.  

There they were cleaned, labelled, sterilised and potted up with the help of MNEC volunteers and Pioneer Catchment Landcare volunteers.

By the end of the morning, about 200 whole plants had been potted, seeds had been sown, many hundreds of cuttings had been processed and everything was labelled with species, common name, date and place of collection.

Cr Camm said the salvaged plants and cuttings would be used in a variety of locations, including as revegetation around the redesigned lookout, at the Botanic Gardens and as specimens and stock plants for SGAP.

“Salvaging plants that would otherwise be destroyed was the main aim of the exercise. However, it wasn’t the only one,” Ms Champion said.

“The whole exercise was intended as a sharing, learning and fulfilling experience for all concerned, and I think this was achieved.”

Contact: Mackay Regional Council

Phone: 1300 MACKAY (622 529)