Seventeen years ago we purchased 11 acres on the Sunshine Coast. The land included four acres of critically endangered rainforest with London Creek winding through it, creating depressions and water holes. This forest was surrounded by paddocks with cattle grazing down to the creek. We had found a magical spot we could improve.
In 2003 we joined Land for Wildlife and applied for restoration grants each year. Over the next 12 years we planted over 1,000 trees on the grassy paddocks fringing the remnant rainforest. With no vehicular access, we had to carry our tube stock and tools, making our way through tenanted horse paddocks and across the creek on a narrow plank.
We were working and raising three boys. In 2006, I was diagnosed with cancer. I even fell off the plank one day because my balance was not the best while on chemo. Regular flooding and frosts resulted in a fairly high attrition year in and year out. Huge tree trunks and logs would occasionally get washed through, smashing our new plants.
In 2013, we applied for a grant jointly with six other property owners for contractors to plant 1,000 trees on one acre of pastured land this time on the closer side of the creek. This was in a more accessible section, so for about 3 to 4 years we were able to use a ride on mower to mow between the trees until the canopy formed.
Outside of our property, we were alerted to the potential destruction of an iconic Sunshine Coast State Forest, home to ancient trees and endangered rainforest between Steve Irwin Way and the Bruce Highway. We spent from 2013 to the end of 2016 creating and managing the Save Steve Irwin Way Forest Campaign with online petitions, social media, submissions and meetings with ministers and government departments. During this busy time, Dave was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Thankfully, we have both now recovered and feel very fit and healthy. To our delight, the Campaign was successful and the road footprint had been reduced to 10% of its original impact, and the rest of the 744 hectare forest was declared a National Park.
Despite all our usual activities working and bringing up a family plus the curve balls coming our way, our Peachester rainforest is growing fabulously, especially the planted sections that are developing a healthy canopy and forest floor. In 2018 we decided to protect six acres of our property including the remnant and regenerating rainforests by entering into a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with the Sunshine Coast Council.
In early 2020, I started to coordinate a local Land for Wildlife group. This group was established five years ago by Christine McMaster who, up until this year, had organised activities where we visited each other’s properties, socialised and shared knowledge and experiences. Of course, with the onset of coronavirus, a change in activity was required to comply with social distancing rules.
Instead of gathering as a group, members of our local Land for Wildlife group started sharing before-and-after photos of our properties in emails, and as I write this, I am still exploring ideas to improve our connections and ways to inspire each other.
A visit by our new Conservation Partnership Officer, Kylie Gordon, during the coronavirus restrictions had to be performed without us present to comply with Council’s rules, so we emailed a virtual tour of our property including an Avenza map and before-and-after photos. They then did their socially distanced visit to the property and sent us their report and feedback including an Avenza map, photos and a report showing us their walking tracks and pinned areas of interest.
So despite all the unexpected issues that have arisen, we have still been able to achieve massive improvements in the environment that we have spent so much time caring for. And late at night when the wind is howling or the rain is pouring I know that there are plenty of safe cosy hollows, tunnels, dens and tree branches for the wildlife.
Stella (and Dave) Wiggins
Land for Wildlife members
Peachester, Sunshine Coast