My feet are dangling over a basalt rock formation that overlooks a spectacular 20m waterfall. The light breeze smells crisp and earthy; water vapour lingers in the air. Bursts of bird calls break the silence of the forest. In my hand I can feel the fleshy, velvety leaves and stem of a botanical specimen that I would soon find out was a highly endangered plant species. Above me, a glint of turquoise catches my eye as a Richmond Birdwing butterfly gracefully floats through the forest canopy. The scene is utterly mesmerising. Welcome to Laughing Waters.

Laughing Waters is a 24ha property which is nestled next to Kondalilla National Park in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Jane Abercrombie and Denis Wood have been custodians of the land for the past 19 years and were among the first Land for Wildlife members in the region.

After thinking long and hard about joining Council’s Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) program, Jane and Denis decided that they ultimately wanted to protect the remnant rainforest for future generations and the many trees they had planted over the years. The big catalyst for them was witnessing illegal clearing on a nearby property, where in less than two hours a bulldozer wiped out the equivalent of what had taken them 15 years to plant.

One of my first responsibilities when I started with Sunshine Coast Council was to oversee the process of surveying and registering a covenant on title as well as establishing the legal agreement and environmental management plan, which would form the framework for Laughing Waters to be protected through Council’s VCA program. These are what led to me sitting on the edge of that stunning waterfall that day.

I sent the velvety plant specimen to the Queensland Herbarium. They identified it as Plectranthus torrenticola – listed as Endangered at a State and Federal level and only known from a handful of sites in the world. A vegetation survey also detected threatened plants including the Gympie Nut (Macadamia ternifolia), Richmond Birdwing Vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) and ten hectares of the Critically Endangered Lowland Subtropical Rainforest ecological community.

Sunshine Coast Council’s VCA program provides annual funding for contractor assistance for habitat rehabilitation. After many years of slogging away at planting and weeding on their own the help from professional bush regeneration contractors was a welcome change.

Bush regeneration is rewarding, as is tree planting, but at times it is just plain hard work. So for me, Council providing contractors is a huge psychological boost and I don’t feel I’m alone anymore. And the on-ground results are really encouraging!” said Denis.

Under Council’s Environment Levy Partnerships program, FaunaWatch did a fauna survey on the property. Noteworthy threatened species identified include the Richmond Birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia), Cascade Treefrog (Litoria pearsoniana), Giant Barred Frog (Mixophyes iteratus), Tusked Frog (Adelotus brevis), Elf Skink Eroticoscincus graciloides) and Rose’s Shade Skink (Saproscincus rosei).

Jane and Denis are very active Land for Wildlife members. In the early years they attended many workshops to learn the knowledge and skills they needed to rehabilitate their property. Denis enjoyed the work so much he ended up making a career out of bush regeneration, becoming a contractor in his own right. Denis and Jane generously hosted a Land for Wildlife workshop recently to pass on their valuable knowledge and experiences, and to showcase their stunning property to inspire other like-minded landholders.

As I walked back along the trail from the waterfall that day I passed along the babbling network of crystal clear streams and it was evident why Denis and Jane had named this special place Laughing Waters. Large boulders adorned with a diversity of tiny ferns, mosses and lichen overhung the walking track. Massive remnant trees with abundant hollows that had escaped a legacy of logging on the Blackall Range formed multistorey dwellings for wildlife. I felt so grateful not only that my job was to protect this magical place from future destruction, but also to be able to work with such progressive and dedicated nature lovers such as Denis and Jane.

Article and photos by
Danielle Outram
Land for Wildlife Officer
Sunshine Coast Council

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