Land Sector Package

Reconnecting native ecosystems for long-term impact

Biodiversity Fund Case Study

Location: Coorong and Tatiara districts, South Australia
Funding: $2,250,000 (excluding GST)
Partners: Coorong District Council, Tatiara District Council, local landholders, South Australian and South East Natural Resource Management (NRM) Boards, South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources

Two local councils have joined forces to manage large scale biodiversity projects over the next five years to help land managers protect and manage native habitats.

With 1,300 separate projects on the agenda covering 1.5 million hectares, empowering landowners and the community with the knowledge and skills to restore and manage the areas of biodiversity will be a key part of the process.

The Coorong and Tatiara District Councils cover an area stretching from Murray Bridge to the Victorian border.

"Protecting native vegetation is a high priority for this area," explains Graham Gates, Local Action Plan Project Officer at Coorong District Council. "There are fragmented habitats throughout, including remnant vegetation and native wetlands, so we have an opportunity to relink old corridors and address ongoing problems with weeds, rabbits and other feral animals.

The councils have already worked on over 150,000 hectares through various Caring for our Country and Natural Heritage Trust projects over the past 16 years. The Biodiversity Fund gives them an opportunity to build on these successes and ensure these projects continue to achieve biodiversity benefits into the future.

Mallee Fowl Nest Indigenous Food Garden Nationally endangered metallic Sun Orchid
Protecting native vegetation is a high priority for this area

Restoring native habitats

The projects will address three main areas of concern: revegetation, protection of remnant vegetation and threat abatement.

"Our first step is to protect what we already have and then enhance the corridors," says Graham. There are three endangered communities in the area listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act. Priority will be given to these sites as well as other sites containing one or more EPBC listed species. These include flora, such as the metallic sun-orchid and minato mint bush, and native birds such as the bush stone-curlew.

"We'll be able to reduce the impact of invasive species across connected landscapes," says Graham.

A significant number of activities have been planned, including:

Acting locally to build community skills and knowledge

It is unusual for a local council to take on projects of this scale, which are typically managed at a state level. "We're quite unique for local government - with no government offices in this region we offer specialist services to landholders. We have trained biologists and soil scientists on staff," explains Graham.

The district councils will work in partnership with two local NRM Boards and relevant state government departments. Graham sees this as a two-way collaboration. "We're all working towards the same outcomes, so we can support one another's efforts, like producing fact sheets for agricultural shows or other NRM work.

Raising awareness through workshops, field days and newsletters is also part of the planned work. These include targeted workshops on rabbit and fox control, plant identification and revegetation, and working with local landholders, schools and the Ngarrindjeri community.

Removing introduced species Removal of weed boneseed Propagation of local plant species
Two local councils have joined forces to manage large scale biodiversity projects

Opportunities for self-sustaining maintenance

"We already have a number of projects ready to go, with strong interest from landholders," says Graham. His team is now looking at existing remnant vegetation to determine potential threats.

They will also work to identify opportunities and best practice methodology for managing carbon storage.

"We know what we can do on the ground to increase carbon storage in soil, but we need to find cost effective ways to take advantage of new opportunities with legislation," says Graham.

He believes collective carbon income may provide a way to fund the long term maintenance of these projects, even if the returns are initially minimal. "By doing the work on a larger scale, we may be able to combine the administration to make it viable." One of the first revegetation projects will effectively join two national parks over an eight kilometre boundary - the Coorong National Park and the Martin Washpool Conservation Park. "This is an area with significant Aboriginal heritage - the movie Stormboy was filmed in the Coorong wetlands," says Graham.

"There's still substantial native vegetation remaining in this area, so it's relatively simple to connect the two parks. It will be more difficult in areas with wide, open farmland. We also need to ensure we're not allowing threats such as feral animals to migrate from one park to another. That's part of our risk management."

The councils will measure the impact of the project through statistics and condition monitoring. "As well as recording the amount of land restored, people involved and kilometres of fencing, we'll also track how the plantings from year one are faring in year five," says Graham.

This five year focus also allows the team to plan ahead for staffing and long term maintenance. With a willing community on board, Graham hopes the projects will deliver a sense of ownership in these restored areas and sustainable habitats on a large scale.