|Roper River Landcare Group members prepare to peg erosion control banks (Ian Rowbottom)|
I recently spoke to Roper River Landcare’s President Rosemary Sullivan and Facilitator Ian Rowbottom about the group’s history.
“The group started in 1994 after Parkinsonia aculeata was discovered on Elsey Station,” Rosemary explained. “People got concerned and realised that widespread action was needed. We had a meeting and things went from there.”
The community managed to reduce the spread of Parkinsonia before the problem got too big. Now their biggest weed concern is Bellyache Bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia). “About 30km of the Roper River and 20km of Hodgson River is infested with Bellyache bush,” Ian said. “It’s in gorges and escarpments, remote places you wouldn’t even get a quad into.”
The group has also controlled Chinee Apple and are worried about other weeds such as Hyptis and Mission Grass spreading onto the Sturt Plateau along rail and road corridors.
“I’ve started to wonder if Hyptis is helping other weeds like Neem establish by changing the fire regime” Rosemary said. “Hyptis is pretty fire-resistant and Neem seedlings might be killed by fire.”
Rosemary intends to spray some Hyptis this wet to start testing her theory.
One of the first funded projects the group ran was fencing rivers to protect riparian vegetation. “Fencing has really helped our river by keeping feral animals out, controlling grazing and protecting the banks from erosion,” Rosemary said. “It’s our biodiversity corridor.”
The group has also been involved in feral animal management including the removal of 12,000 donkeys from Elsey Station. Now they are concerned about feral pigs which appear to be increasing.
There has also been ongoing funding in partnership with the VRDCA to run grader schools with Darryl Hill from SoilSave. “Track and fenceline erosion is a big problem on properties with a large amount being inherited from past practices. The courses we run go a long way to addressing the problem,” Ian said.
The group’s main project now is helping the local Mangarrayi people build their capacity for employment and stewardship of the land. “Mangarrayi Traditional owners approached us and said they wanted to start a ranger group on Elsey," Rosemary said. “In 2009, we successfully applied for $1.4 million under the Australian Government’s Caring For Our Country. So now we employ 4 casual rangers, which has given us a strong focus again.”
The group keeps going thanks to dedicated people who believe in what they are doing. “Members come and go, but without a few key members its unlikely the group would have survived,” Ian said. “You need more than one champion.”