By ERWIN CHLANDA
A small Landcare group in the Old Eastside has proved that buffel can be beaten: After years of effort – absurdly some of them spent on obtaining permission – several hectares at the base of Spencer Hill are now a sea of yellow billy button flowers.
What’s more, the effort is proof that selected areas, including our major tourism assets, can be restored. Parks & Wildlife, under Minister Bess Price in the Giles Government, had all but thrown in the towel.
The Eastside effort – which is ongoing because after rain new plants need to be dealt with – has been spearheaded by Sue Morrish and Rosalie Breen.
Ms Morrish says the effort began in 2007.
“We had to get approval from the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA, as Spencer Hill is a sacred site), Department of Lands and Infrastructure, and needed to become an incorporated body for public liability purposes – this is why Alice Springs Landcare was formed,” she says.
“Jo Boniface from Alice Springs Landcare received approval from AAPA in October 2008, and Tim Collins started the first organised spraying from January 2010.”
Many people told the group they were on a mission without hope.
“That’s why it is so rewarding that we kept going,” says Ms Morrish.
The main method of control was spraying Roundup at times when the plant was growing vigorously, after rain.
Buffel burns very hot, killing native trees that can survive “cool” fires of native grasses.
Buffel – declared a weed in South Australia but not in the NT – displaces native plants which are now coming back to Spencer Valley: bluebells, swainsonia purple peas and golden everlasting.
The Landcare volunteers mostly use spray backpacks, but also mattocks and Landcare’s trailer-mounted spray unit, towing it behind Ms Morrish’s car to various spots in the area and using two spray hoses to go from plant to plant.
She says last year alone 695 litres of Roundup solution (usually mixed at 1 to 100) was used and volunteers worked an estimated 200 hours.
PHOTOS: Billy button flowers. The grey clump is dead buffel • Part of the treated area. In the background, on the other side of the track, buffel still reigns supreme.
Some before and afters, courtesy Alice Springs Landcare:
September 2012: Trees killed in buffel fire.
UPDATE October 28:
Eight St Philip’s community service students have been working on eradicating and managing dense areas of buffel and coral cactus in and around the Telegraph Station, Spencer Valley and the college grounds (photo below).
“That will give native grasses a chance to grow and reduce damage to trees during bushfire,” says the college.
The group is a finalist in the Natural Resource Management Awards.