History of the Macclesfield Bushcare Group

by Sue Bradstreet, founding member, past Secretary/Treasurer, and Chairperson 2006 - present

The Group formed when on the 24 April 1996 a group of people met to consider a Macclesfield Bushcare Project. Those present were Jeff Whittaker, Glenn and Vicki Williams, Sharron Harkin, Liz Bromilow, Betty White, Dave Mack, Lesley Guster, Dan Burt, Rod McBeath, Mark Bradstreet, Nigel Kirby, Tim Kerby, and Ken Barrett.

Many options were considered and the fact that only 3% of native vegetation remained in the Macclesfield area was good reason for residents to undertake actions to care for what we do have – whether it be on private property, public land in reserves such as Stone Reserve, the Cemetery Reserve and the school parklands, or closed road reserves such as the Gummy Track or on roadsides such as Magins Rd. There were possibilities of individuals taking on the care of roadsides near their homes, or groups undertaking work in one or many of the reserves.

After an informal walk around Macclesfield looking at the various areas of native vegetation, the Macclesfield Bushcare Group was formed on 6 June 1996 with a committee consisting of Liz Bromilow, Dave Mack, Sharron Harkin, Sue and Mark Bradstreet. The Macclesfield Community Association gave support for the group’s activities at a meeting on 20 June. A constitution was agreed on July 11.

Andrew Crompton ran a Bushcare Workshop on 21 July with information about the Bradley method of bushcare, principles and techniques required for minimal disturbance weed removal and management of native vegetation and information on indigenous plants that might be mistaken for native species. Various Department of Environment and Natural Resources officers visited the site which has become known as the Day Paddock, acknowledged its significance and created a species list.

The first working bee was held in this reserve after stock had been removed from the area on 26 October 1996. Equipment and herbicide were supplied by the Mt Barker Council and a donation was received from the Macclesfield Community Association. On the 6 April 1997 mapping of the Day Paddock began (without the assistance of a GPS unit) by walking the area, dividing it into quadrats (typically one square metre), and determining the quality of the vegetation in each quadrat - ie. rating it as good vegetation or weed infested on a scale of 1 to 5.

Although the group became incorporated as a sub-committee of the Central Hills Soil Conservation Board this ceased on 31 July 1997. The group then became a Landcare Group, and was covered under Landcare insurance and given seed funding to establish the group. At this time the Friends of Macclesfield Cemetery and a group who were looking after Magins Road became sub-groups of the main Macclesfield Bushcare Group. At the AGM it was reported that the Group had started the year with $50 and finished with $20.90!!

Discussions were held with the Mt Barker Fire Prevention Officer who agreed not to continue slashing through the centre of the Day Paddock but a contractor would slash the perimeter. It became known that the Day Paddock land was zoned Deferred Urban, and so moves were made to get better protection for the area.

Over the next few years the Group wrote a basic management plan for the Day Paddock, opened bank accounts, became incorporated and held field days for public education, erected signs and grew local indigenous plants. As well as working to remove gorse in the Day Paddock, we removed weeds in the Gummy Track and the cemetery and began to work on projects to improve the health of the Angas River as it passed though the town including in Davenport Square and by the Sturt Street bridge. The assistance of Greencorps, Green Army and Australian Conservation Volunteer teams helped enormously. In 2006 a portion of the eastern side of Crystal Lake park was fenced and horse agistment removed enabling work to start to restore and enhance the native vegetation along the Angas River.

Work has continued consistently since then especially in the Day Paddock, which has the highest biodiversity of the reserves, where the group holds a working bee on the first Sunday of the month. Each year we patrol the cemetery for small pine trees - (the local Girl Guides who used to do it disbanded), and Monadenia, the South African weed orchid. We have been fortunate to gain funding to allow contractors to undertake some of the work and we have been able to have blackberries sprayed on the Gummy Track walking trail; broom and other woody weeds removed from the Cemetery Reserve; willow and ash trees, ivy and periwinkle removed or controlled in Lord Robinson/ Crystal Lake Park and gorse removed from the Day Paddock and the Stone Reserve.

It is very exciting that in 2012 Liz Schofield, the Angas River Catchment Group Project Officer gained a $19,910 Federal government Caring for Our Country Grant and again in 2015 gained a Federal 25 Anniversary of Landcare Grant for work to be undertaken in the six reserves around Macclesfield. This enabled the group to build on the work undertaken over past years and make significant reduction in key weeds enabling enhanced regeneration.

The Group was involved in consultation with the Mt Barker Council and designers for name signs for the reserves and walking trails in Macclesfield which were installed in 2013, and Council has assisted with support from Council staff and periodic grant funding for weed control in the reserves. We are also lucky to have support with equipment and herbicide and more importantly new, interested volunteers through the Trees For Life Bush For Life programme – some who don’t even live in Macclesfield, and have also had the continued support of Angela Cullen, the Regional Co-ordinator. The Group encourages community involvement through displays at local events, newsletter articles and periodic talks on topics of interest.

Thank you to all who have been involved over the past decades and we look forward to success in the future. Thank you to the Federal and State governments for their grant assistance, the Angas River Catchment Group, Trees for Life, Bush for Life Program, the District Council of Mt Barker for their on-going support and the Goolwa to Wellington LAP for their technical support.

Hugh Possingham has stated that to decrease further extinction of species we need to manage bushland, and re-vegetate strategically to increase effective habitat. This is our aim. I also believe that native vegetation and animals and birds have a right to exist for themselves, not just for our pleasure.