Rapid Creek Landcare Group volunteers spent their August working bee watering saplings at the “red footbridge” site across the creek from the Jingili Water Gardens.
The group has been restoring the site since 2002. Back then it was dominated by gamba grass. With assistance from Darwin City Council the site was slashed and sprayed a few times to break the gamba stranglehold. Once this was achieved, weeds were spot sprayed without killing native grasses that were regenerating, and this approach has helped to keep broad-leaved weeds at bay.
There have since been numerous community planting days to help restore the natural vegetation, with the most recent in December 2011. Finding the right mix of species has been a challenge due occasional penetration of saline water on high tides. Also, fast moving floodwaters through the area has affected establishment. The Group recently trialled “long stem planting” that involves growing nursery plants in a manner that encourages long stems to form, and planting these lower into the ground below the top of the pot. The method appears to have been successful.
Dry season watering generally occurs in the mid to late dry season to help minimise seedling mortality. However, watering needs to be restricted to make sure plants develop an adequate root system to withstand floods and storms. So a balanced approach is required.
The landcare group also works on two other sites along the creek, and Darwin International Airport maintains a 75m wide conservation area further upstream. The goal for each site is to establish native vegetation at a density that provides a competitive environment for weeds and reduces their ability to invade. This reduces the volunteer hours required for each site and allows work to start on new sites.
Group member Michael Schmid said that one of the benefits of being involved in the group was the personal satisfaction of helping to maintain a natural creek system within a well-developed city setting. “A healthy creek helps to maintain the water quality in Darwin Harbour. It also makes a nicer environment for the community. It’s nice to see people riding around, walking dogs and having a good time.” Michael said that volunteers can also learn about native plants and weed management.
Michelle is a recent arrival in Darwin and was attending her first northern working bee. “It’s a good way to meet people and help with the environment.”
You can visit the group's website here