One of Gordon’s first memories of his property was of crawling on his hands and knees under impenetrable thickets of tree-sized groundsel along a wallaby track until he happened upon a rare sighting of a family of Black-breasted Button-quails. That was in 1973, the year he purchased his property in the upper catchment of Wonga Creek on Savages Rd, Brookfield.
Gordon’s property is protected under a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) with Brisbane City Council’s Wildlife Conservation Partnerships Program. He joined the program in 1996, and set to work restoring approximately seven hectares of land that had been logged for timber or cleared and farmed for banana, paw paw and other crops. Over the next 20 years Gordon has done what can only be described as a phenomenal job, tackling the weeds, restoring the soil fertility, stabilising the slopes, and revegetating the area with native plants.
The topography of Gordon’s property does not make for a typical revegetation project. With the average gradient of slopes around 1:2.4, and in some places as steep as 1:1, careful consideration must be given to what, where and how plants could be planted. Previous land uses has caused tremendous soil loss on the slopes and required remediation before planting or natural regeneration could occur.
Rainfall also plays a critical role in determining what can be done. Gordon’s rainfall records, collected since 1984, show the property gets on average 1000mm a year, with the highest rainfall of 1769.25 mm charted in 1988 and the lowest of 605.25 mm in 1999. The aspect of the slopes means they dry out rapidly and ongoing grazing by wallabies make establishment of plantings particularly difficult.
These maps show the transformation of Gordon Wilkinson’s property since 1946:
Gordon has come up with some particularly resourceful and practical strategies to tackle the challenging circumstances the property presents.
To start with, Gordon chooses to work with the Glycine (Neonotonia wightii) growing on the slopes, rather than seeing it as a weed to be removed. He does this by cutting the foliage and digging out the roots of the Glycine from about a 1 square metre area, plants a native plant, then re-lays the Glycine foliage around the planting as mulch. The Glycine does not reshoot and is used to build up soil fertility as it is impractical to drag mulch up slopes. Glycine is also used to cover chicken wire guards around plantings to create a protective micro-climate.
Woody stems of the weed Anzac Daisy (Montanoa hihiscifolia) and home grown bamboo are used as stakes for plantings. Periodic weeding of the Glycine is done with a brush hook and after 3-5 years the Glycine thins and gradually disappears as the canopy grows and shades it out.
Perhaps the most inventive strategy that Gordon employs is his watering system. This utilises approximately forty 44 gallon drums with 2 sheets of corrugated iron laid on the slope above. The corrugated iron is attached to each drum, collecting rainwater to drain into the drums, where it can be dipped into with a watering can (refer to photograph above). This is a simple but elegant solution for watering on inaccessible slopes where it is impractical to have a tank or to drag hoses through dense Glycine.
When asked what he liked most about the being a Land for Wildlife member, Gordon said that the greatest benefit was that the program was community orientated. It was the sharing of knowledge and experience with like-minded people who are involved in the program, the swapping of ideas and knowing that you are not on your own when faced with trying circumstances, be it drought or wallabies, that made it worthwhile.
Gordon has had a deep and practical interest in nature since early childhood. Trained in agriculture and environmental science with extensive experience in land management together with 20 years working on nature conservation with Queensland National Parks and Wildlife have all helped to equip him to tackle the difficult task of regenerating his property.
Gordon estimates he has planted almost 4500 trees on his property, with a 50% survival rate. Considering the challenges that he has faced along the way, and that every single plant needs to be protected from wallaby grazing, the sheer enormity of Gordon’s endeavours comes into focus.
Today, when you look around Gordon’s property, you can see a canopy of Red Kamala as the dominant regrowth plant – a gradual restoration of dry rainforest where once it was clear land. On the opposite slope there are Brushbox and further up Spotted Gum forest with a diverse shrub layer that is naturally regenerating.
When asked what he thought his greatest achievement was, Gordon’s response was to say, “Seeing the tangible results – seeing the canopy form. It’s been a big tough struggle. It will be worth it to see the forest become self- perpetuating.”
Article by Amanda Maggs and Cody Hochen
Land for Wildlife Officers
Brisbane City Council