Platypus cavorting in a ‘willow infested’ world!

Braidwood has a small population of platypus living happily along its “willow-infested” urban creeks. They have long been a feature of the town, as have the willows.

Until about 1997 these creeks had virtually no native vegetation. Around that time the urban Landcare group starting planting natives (and killing willows). But even today, these native trees are relatively-small and represent only a tiny fraction of the vegetation cover, the vast majority of which is willow (salix fragilis); others include poplar, elm and privet. This could be described as a ‘non-native’ ecosystem, but non-nativist ecosystem might be more accurate.

Monkittee platypus

Why? Because it still contains plenty of native species (the platypus are just one example), but these natives are living their lives as part of an ecology mainly supported by the photosynthesis of introduced vegetation. The presence of the natives means it can’t be described as a ‘non-native’ system, while the dominant presence of the introduced vegetation shows that non-natives can perform important ecological roles and help to maintain ecosystem function.

Hence, this system functions without conforming to nativist ideology; it’s a ‘non-nativist’ ecosystem rather than a non-native one.


Actually, this is an amazing example of an ecosystem that functions without conforming to any kind of ideology at all!

“How is that even possible?” many of you may ask. “Every book in my local NRM authority office says Australia will fall to pieces without nativist ideology to keep it running properly!”

I know, it’s mind boggling.

So, what’s really going on out there?

Why not have a look for yourself.

22 responses to “Platypus cavorting in a ‘willow infested’ world!

  1. Ben
    I think it’s a great pity that you are hijacking the landcare logo on an ideological, Jihadist rant.
    Took me a long time to realise that “any plants a good plant and let nature decide”. I have no problem with your blog site, just that you should do it under your own banner not the national landcare brand.
    Sure the platypuses survive and possibly thrive in the dismal state of Flood Creek. Not sure how you’ve reached the conclusion that there happy. What do you expect them to do, pack their poke a dot swags on a willow branch and head for native pastures?
    Have you done any water quality testing or even bug watching in the creek to ascertain what its base line condition is? By the sounds of it you’d think a toxic oil spill would be fine in the creek?
    As to the state of the small native planting I think it’s doing quite well as it was only planted in 2007. As for the privet, elms, willows, ivy and poplars they are slowly declining and hopefully dying off to be replaced by some champion planting natives. What’s wrong with wanting to restore the creek to some semblance of pre European settlement?

    • Thanks for commenting Richard! But this isn’t a hijacking at all. I’ve been a dedicated volunteer landcarer for 7 years now, and will continue to be so. Other member/supporters of Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare have been active in the movement for much longer than that. We have a right to continue to care for the land whilst voicing our opinion about nativism and its dark side. I’m not anti-natives, I’m anti-nativism. For me, Landcare is about caring for the land not about wrecking it. Nativism has nothing to do with environmentalism (at least nothing to do with ecology) and everything to do with bureaucracy. Reality on paper. It’s a broken approach and there are too many destructive examples out there to prove it. A lot of people are getting paid a lot of money to do a lot of unnecessary damage. The “dismal” state you mentioned is compared to what exactly? What’s that about an oil spill? Lawks Richard!

      Yes, I have done water quality testing. I personally tended those natives you mention with my own time and money as a dedicated volunteer so please don’t tell me about them. You ask “What’s wrong with wanting to restore the creek to some semblance of pre-European settlement?” If you mean ‘kill all the non-natives’, then the answer is: it’s impossible, it’s pointless, it’ll cost a lot of someone else’s money and it’ll make a god awful ecologically-unstable mess. If you mean ‘help it to form a functional and stable landscape again’ then you should support Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare.

      FYI: the logos are not hijacked either, they are provided courtesy of the good folks at Landcare Australia who recognise Landcare as a vital and dynamic movement. LIFE Richard!

  2. Well that got things off to an interesting start .
    I was at the very first meeting of Braidwood Landcare long ago .
    In those days the creek below the bridge near Braidwood Rural was called ” The Cathedral ” . It was a functioning gallery forest , planted in response to massive man made incision from 60 or so years previous . Old trees with lots of hollows . Birds made no distinction as to the species of the tree which sheltered their nests .
    When the Willow War fad began to gain momentum many fine folks wanted to blitz what they were told was a terrible species . I spoke for using them as a pioneer successional and manage them to bring through an analog of the long gone Casaurina / Tea Tree / Blackwood complex .
    Was shouted down for even suggesting that the Willows had a proven , valueable role in securing streambanks and beds and as a basis for bioengineering .
    Much money was spent destroying trees , without a clear and funded plan to replace them . So nature promptly replaced mature and non invasive trees with privet and Ivy. These much less desirable and much more invasive weeds have had a field day .
    Those weed are not dying off , no matter how hopeful we might be that they do . They are busily building a seed bank which will cause trouble for decades .
    The native plantings have by no means replaced the ecological services which the willows gave us . At their current annual increment that will not do so for 50 years . Of course we can step up herbicide application and pollute the stream with yet more spray drift and contaminated soil .
    From a perspective of 25 years the Flood Creek operations have been a dismal failure . If the plan was to replace exotics with natives , what has really happened is useful exotics have been replaced with nasty ones . If the plan was to demonstrate affordable , community scale riparian restoration then its spent a lot on diesel for little educational value .
    Now we know what not to do at Flood Creek , lets have a demo of how to use a wider suite of tools and techniques to fix degraded lands .
    By the way , using emotionally loaded terms like ‘ jihadist ‘ just slows down discourse . Jihadist murder and torture .
    I personally have not murdered anyone lately , but I have brought many Km of stream line back to life using the species that suited the job . Some were exotic , does it really matter ?

    • Thanks for your wise input Peter. You have a longer perspective on this site than I do, but the evidence for what you say is certainly there for all to see. I took some pictures from down on the Braidwood Common today of one of the last really big willows left. I’ll use it in a later post. Big tree, huge spreading canopy. Most of the creek is choked with smaller regrowth coming back after all the stem injection and felling that happened in the recent past. Smaller willows, many, many trunks now struggling to compete with themselves, along with the privet, box elder, etc…

      Mind you I have a certain sympathy for ALL of the vegetation down there. It’s a natural response to disturbance. Exactly what a resilient system should look like when a keystone species is removed/suppressed. But you’re right to question the historic action in light of the apparent outcome; is that what we were aiming for?

      What worries me is that despite the repetitive failure, some recidivists would say we just haven’t had enough (!) destruction and disturbance down there yet.

      I’m hoping the group might be able to trial some ‘non-destructive reveg’ techniques in future. Try increasing diversity and habitat value by adding something rather than pointlessly trying to get back to ground zero first. Will look forward to your input.

  3. Gentlemen. Thanks for giving me reason to reply. Having been a member of Braidwood Urban Landcare Group since 1997 and a participant in much of what has happened around the creeks of Braidwood in the name of BULG since, I would like to refute your version of history and also defend the efforts of everyone that has had anything to do with the group in that time, members or otherwise. My version of history sees a very careful and considered approach to all the issues associated with the management, amenity and use of Braidwood’s creek system.

    For example, Bicentennial Park, on Monkittee Creek, is today vastly more alive with bio and cultural diversity than it was in 1997. It’s a beautiful park enjoyed by many for it’s nature, scenery and depiction of the town’s history. It’s an environmental education resource, a salute to Braidwood and a salute to landcare.

    Similar good things are slowly but surely happening at Flood Creek too. Your references to willow poisoning are exaggerated and untrue. My recollection is that some were poisoned (but most were already dead or dying) and removed in the vicinity of the horse crossing that the Landcare group built – for safety reasons. I recall that the felled willows were chipped, transported to Bicentennial Park in Council trucks, and spread on the areas now hosting a fine variety of natives happily looking over a creek now lined with a good mix of species with good structural diversity.

    The functioning gallery forest at Flood Creek was, unfortunately, because I quite liked it, collapsing, possibly because we had a climax community situation going on. Those big willows are falling over all by themselves, unless guerrillas have been in there pushing them over. How can you link a phenomenon you are now observing, i.e. young willows coming up down stream, with an unsubstantiated assertion about willow poisoning? Have you interviewed anyone involved at the time? Maybe the young willows are coming up at the common because it is not visited upon as much by cattle today as it used to be.

    Guided by the Braidwood creeks management plan, the intention at Flood Creek was always an approach more along the lines of what you, Ben, are strongly advocating today. Ask the person who was president at the time Flood Creek kicked off. It was Arthur Baker. And I think I was the next president.

    Wasted money? I could not more strongly refute the assertion. I think it has been a great investment of a little bit of money, and a lot of volunteer time and effort, which has improved Braidwood and the experience of many of its residents and visitors, human and otherwise.

    And just maybe the series of events that leads to this point and this debate, which I hope will flourish, is a result, at least in part, of the history that BULG has now contributed 17 years towards. Everything is connected. Long live landcare.

    • Forever the contrarian Pete? This is annoying, you dingbat, because it’s an aside from the real discussions we should be having, but you can’t say “unsubstantiated claims” and not expect me to respond. I guess though that the history of the site is an important context, so we should get it clear.

      Firstly, I’d like to clarify a few things.

      My perspective of Braidwood Urban Landcare Group is of a group which has accomplished a great deal, but one which, through its active engagement, has also learnt a few lessons over the years. Lessons that others can hopefully benefit from. I’m very proud to be part of a group which is capable of such expansive learning. I was a decided nativist myself prior to joining, but through my participation and observation over recent years my perspective has broadened beyond just wanting to kill ‘weeds’, to taking an ecological view of Landcare and its activities.

      It was before my time, but I think BULG’s initial creek management plan, which included a survey of residents views, was a very enlightened beginning. The inclusion in the final report of various community inputs on the positive environmental and heritage values of the willows is a testimony to a considered and inclusive approach.

      I agree Bicentennial Park is a wonderful achievement (although the bizarrely-incongruous placement of that Bank advertising detracts significantly), but I also note that many riparian willows (now recovering) were pointlessly removed from this site. Further I note that today the willows form an important part of the genetic and structural biodiversity you mention. You’re right it is a great resource for environmental education.

      Regards your recollections of Flood Creek, you seem to be mixing up the timeline of works in this area (a little) and the relative outcomes to date between BP and FC (a lot).

      I’d be happy to hear from others for their perspectives, but I refute your use of the word ‘unsubstantiated’ in regard to the poisoning that occurred (it’s a strong word Pete!).

      When I joined BULG in 2007 we had a meeting to inspect previous works at Flood Creek. As a newbie, I could see no direct evidence of previous Landcare work other than an ivy-covered stump of a willow that had been felled with a chainsaw and a single surviving Eucalyptus ovata (not seen again since). During the inspection, Kate mentioned that stem injection had occurred as part of this first project, but she couldn’t recall which trees exactly. Years later, in around 2011, when cleaning out her garage, she asked me to take charge of BULG’s stem injecting kit, which I subsequently donated to Friend’s of the Mongalowe River. More recently, looking through BULG project records held by USLC, I came across budgets for herbicides associated with this first Flood Creek project, and reference to stem injection work. The project description I have on file states:

      “The project proposesd (sic) to address the problems of willow infestation, streambed erosion and a lack of public access along sections of Flood Creek and Recreation Ground Creek by: – Removal of problem willows by stem injecting Roundup biactive and mechanica….” (record incomplete).

      Pete, you yourself say some willows were poisoned!

      So these are certainly not ‘unsubstantiated claims’ they are a simple statement of our group’s history and they are further borne out by reality on the ground.

      Tell me, after beginning synchronous “natural” decline, do some trees in climax gallery forests die whilst others slowly begin to recover and regenerate leaving dead tops protruding from vigorous regrowth?

      Stem injection occurred! It is totally substantiated!

      I would like to hear some substantiation regards this “naturally declining climax gallery forest” theory. Bear in mind that older willow stands should always have some declining individuals and that stem injection DID occur. So on what do you (and Richard) base your assertion of “natural” forest decline?

      Now I’M calling YOU an ‘unsubstantiated claimer’!

      The ‘horse crossing project’ (mainly conducted by the CMA) began in 2008-9 and subsequently saw one of the best turnouts for a landcare group planting day ever (well done all!). Thing is, all of those plants would have died and disappeared just like the first lot from 2003 except that I felt an obligation to everyone that had helped to try to make their efforts count for something. As a result, I went over that site with the brushcutter 4-5 times over the following two years just to keep the pre-existing vegetation from swallowing it all. After a while I decided I’d given them a chance and gave it up as a bad job. In 2013 Kristy and the BCS kids did some more weeding at the site (good on you kids!). As it is, some of those plants have survived, but what learning do we take from this experiment?

      As a group, I think we decided that at least we seem to have established some native seed stock, but the idea of converting the whole thing to ‘pristine’ native veg by stem injection and bulldozers is misguided (putting it diplomatically).

      Mostly, these kinds of experiences are not learned from. They’re happening again and again Australia-wide (and World-wide!). Mostly, people make a big mess then go home and the site self-repairs again (with weeds) and (except for the paperwork in an office somewhere) it’s like nothing ever happened. Then later someone gets a new grant to do it all again.

      Wiser heads than mine are calling for a thorough investigation of environmental outcomes from all this, but where’s the grant money for this kind of evaluation?

      You’re right, I shouldn’t be confusing the Braidwood Common section of Flood Creek with the project area upstream, these have had significantly different management. But, my assertions are based on observation of age classes within both situations. The Common contains a few large living trees and a lot of dead ones lying around, as well as a generation of multi-trunk-ed regrowth all upwards of 15-20 years old; much older than when the cattle were removed (3 years ago). This suggests a period in time where a synchronous recruitment of new willows occurred. Did the large tree deaths occur at a similar time? I can’t say for certain.

      The Landcare project site has a similar differentiation of age classes, though this is not uniform throughout the whole reach of the crown land portion. This would be consistent with only-partially-effective stem injection in only some areas. Also, the younger willow regrowth at this site is much more recently emerged (along with the privet and box elder, etc…), maybe since about 2003?

      Compare both of these zones with Monkittee Creek’s willows where (speaking generally, across several property boundaries) there is a much wider range of sizes and inferred age classes. Where’s the synchronously declining climax gallery forest in this situation?

      I don’t think natural decline justifies destructive intervention anyway. I do think it’s clear that destructive methods have been trialed several times and that alternative approaches are called for. I know that there are native animals living in and using that site. I’m convinced we could intervene in non-destructive ways if we wanted to increase diversity and habitat values in the Flood Creek forest.

      No time or money is wasted and nothing is a failure so long as we learn from our experiences.

      Yes, Viva BULG! and Viva Landcare!

      And Viva Community Learning!

      BTW, Pete, if you or anyone else would like to contribute a post instead of just commenting send it in icare(at)

  4. This is my third attempt to write a reply. Thankyou, Ben, for your acknowledgement of BULG’s efforts over the years. I will continue to refute that willow removal work at Flood Creek had any other agenda than to improve access and safety across Flood Creek around where the horse crossing now is and along the high bank of Flood Creek where the path now is. I don’t see any evident connection between senescing willows elsewhere and stem injection.

    In closing, given this renewed focus on Flood Creek, I think it is important that BULG’s activities along Braidwood’s creeks are evaluated and recorded so that people inquiring in the future can form an informed view of the creeks’ history, the activities which involved BULG, and the learning that came from that involement.


    • Hi Pete,

      First up I just want to clarify to others that your difficulty in posting was because of technical issues at your end, not because of any censorship or related shenanigans.

      Thank you for acknowledging my acknowledgement, I should have provided it a little earlier.

      Group activities are always going to be the outcome of multiple inputs and certainly different people have different perspectives and motivations for their participation in activities which emerge from group processes. Safety can be one of these. If you say BULG did not stem inject beyond the immediate area of the horse crossing then that is certainly the case. I remain yet to be convinced that wider stem injection did not take place, but obviously, if it did, then it was not conducted by the Landcare group, which had no motive for such activity. It has not been mentioned so far, but there was also the outbreak of saw-fly larvae that occurred around that same time; willow saw-fly having been first recorded in Australia in Canberra in 2004, arriving from NZ. They seem now to be less prevalent, but this also needs to be factored into any conclusions around forest-wide ‘natural’ senescence occurring then, or today.

      I agree we need to do an evaluation of activity and outcomes to the present. This would be good for the group itself and it’s learning, but might also help inform Landcare more broadly, particularly if we could write up a couple of articles around Bicentennial Park and Flood Creek and post them here for others to access. They would no doubt provide cause for celebration and reflection. And, I hope, could be used to inspire continuing Landcare activity, here and elsewhere.

      Regards, Ben

  5. This is a question coming from genuine bewilderment , not any desire to offend motivated and hardworking people .
    But its time it was asked , not just for Flood Creek but for countless other Willow destruction sites .
    The first question ” Where is the Flood Creek Landcare site we are talking about ?”
    Today I stood at a sign opposite Braidwood Rural which has the names of five Gov bodies who supported the project .
    For 180 degrees in front of the sign I could see nothing which looked like landscape rehabilitation . I could see a mass of privet , ivy , ranunculus , hawthorn , box elder and fennel .
    Only a very few frog voices could be heard . Amazingly few compared to the site I left at home .
    The only obvious wildlife was starlings busily moving the invasive weed seeds off to new venues .
    Downslope I could see 13 poorly formed young Eucalypts and a bunch of empty milk cartons and wire mesh tubes dissappearing into the ivy .
    Where is the project please ?
    Second question . ” Were are the thousands of tons of carbon which were held on the site 20 years ago by the willow gallery forest , above and below ground ? ”
    Third question ” What were the qualifications of the original planners of the project and where may we see the plan ?”
    Fourth question . ” How much has been spent on the site ?”
    Fifth . Has any impartial third party ecologist been retained to assess results of the investment made by the parties on the sign ? ” .

    As for Monkittee Creek Park , more follows .



  6. Did you see the path? Have you seen the footbridge further down that now links the town much better? Did you know that there is now an armoured horse crossing and bed control structure amongst the creek vegetation, where beforehand this spot was at risk of erosion due to the trampling of the soft sediments in and around the creek? Did you know Council now mow and care for the area, whereas in the past, like Bicentennial Park, it represented a problem, due to collapsed willows, that may actually have resulted in them being clearfelled had the Landcare Group not taken on some responsibility for these areas? The sign acknowledges the agencies that provided funding for all of the activity I just mentioned.

    Flood Creek is a great example of how nature can respond to major past impacts when largely left to its own devices. I think that is what this Blog is trying to point out.

    On my very quick visit to Flood Creek this morning, I observed many plants native and non-native, all doing well. There is a good occurrence of fragmites, bull rush, carex, poa, lomandra, pin rush and a whole lot more – all contributing to the diversity and growing resilience of the area. The Acers are also starting to get up a bit too, perhaps happy for the extra sunlight coming through the gaps in the canopy.

    I’ve already said why trees around the horse crossing were removed. There are parts of the gallery forest still intact, but as willows tend to do, many have collapsed, possibly weakened by saw fly larvae, by other competing vegetation, by age, by the changing watertable resulting from the longterm stabilization of the area since grazing was controlled, possibly because of guerrillas (it can’t be ruled out) – though I couldn’t see any telltale axe marks. I did see plenty of evidence of where possums have been peeling back the bark to drink the sap.

    If you want to check the books, Peter, I am current treasurer of BULG. I’ll dig them out when I have time and you can have a look while we have a coffee together and talk about how we can save the world from over zealous interpretation of some current government policies.

    Peter Hazell

  7. Thanks again for your input Peter M. Again you raise some valid points and questions. On the other hand you seem to be discounting the existence of any real positives of the Flood Creek site, of which I think there are a few. Without repeating too much of what I said above, I joined the Braidwood Urban Landcare Group in 2007 and was involved in subsequent stages of the works completed down there. When I started I was very much a nativist (admittedly a ‘naive’ one, not particularly crusted-on). Over the years, I feel BULG has developed a reasonably pragmatic approach to urban Landcare engagement, which is always a group process (multiple inputs to be accommodated).

    It’s also very important to note that any work by volunteer Landcare groups takes place with an existing legislative, bureaucratic and funding (!!!) framework. There are no grants available for the purchase of non-native species for instance; however, there are quite a few which will cover machinery, herbicides and native plants. Also there are plenty of government-promoted guides on how to target and kill “bad” species, not so many (are there any?) on how to create a diverse and functional agro-forestry enterprise such as your own.

    After all though, Landcare is an ongoing and (I hope) evolving process (it will have to be). There have been several previous stages of work at that site. The best outcome–I’m very confident that you would agree–would be to see some learning emerging from those stages and a new Landcare approach put into action as we progress into the future.

    I’ve also gotta say, I think you’re being a bit negative about the privet, hawthorn, box elder, etc… You’re absolutely right, no one planned for what has emerged down there, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe those species are actually doing the repair work following repeated human disturbance, and maybe therein lies the lesson.

    Have received your email regards Bicentennial Park. I’d like to publish it as a separate post rather than a comment, with the addition of some pics. Will confer with you prior to doing so.

    Regards, Ben

  8. Pingback: So willows cause flooding on floodplains? | Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare

  9. Flood Creek Lessons Learned

    Ben . You can call my thoughts negative if you like , but that would devalue a perspective that comes from outside landcare orthodoxy .
    Which is sorely needed on the evidence of Flood Creek .
    Twenty years ago the Flood Creek gallery forest was sequestering a great deal of carbon , and it wasn’t a production and distribution centre for bird spread noxious weeds . Now days it doesn’t and it is .
    The positive take on this man made change would be that it is a learning experience for all . The Landcare movement does not , apparently , have a formal extension process for assessing progress and disseminating Lessons Learned . We are lucky to have this forum to aid that task .

    Here are some thoughts to help restart the learning process .

    The Site Before Intervention . Some Basic Operating Principles .

    ‘ If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it ”
    The China Plate Shop warning ” Break it and it’s yours ” .
    The Hippocratic Oath ” Do No Harm ” .
    More elegantly , Saint Exupery had the Little Prince say ” you are responsible , for ever , for that which you have tamed ” .

    Was Flood Creek in need of intervention ? If it was , who would undertake responsibility for the consequences of disturbance ?

    Extant was a sixty year old Willow Gallery Forest , functioning to sequester carbon , clean water , harbour wildlife and give us oxygen .
    Not the ideal mix of species one might wish for perhaps , but intact , resilient and delivering environmental services .

    There is no such thing as ‘ remnants of gallery forest ‘ . It’s no longer a gallery and no longer a forest after clear felling of big gaps .
    Individual trees , shorn of all the systems they are used to , are now standing in a new and unfriendly world .
    They were instantly exposed to a totally different environment to the one in which they have developed over sixty years .
    Deep shade and side cover gone , sunlight all around , wind regime utterly changed , supportive mycorrizhal links severed .
    Metabolite supply to rhizosphere and rheosphere were chopped off , shutting down the the very carbon flows which power the whole soil system . Fixed and labile carbon pools drained to atmosphere .
    .Nesting hollows were destroyed , root plate burrows gone . Nutrients once held in biomass now released to be washed to the sea .

    I can’t accept the proposition that no one could plan for what happened next . Every forester knows the massive disturbance would trigger onsite genetics to reoccupy the sixty year shaded , suddenly fully sunlit ground . Which in the case of a near urban site will be the huge bank of bird borne seeds of exotic garden plants .

    Ben , are you winding us up suggesting unleashing Privet and Ivy might be in any way useful ?

    – Privet . Bird spread , once unleashed will keep spreading . Gives little children asthma .
    – Ivy . Bird and creeping spread . Chokes out native seedlings and is extremely hard to eradicate once established .
    – Box elder . Prolific producer of wind borne seeds . A weed of significance in native planting projects in NZ and Victoria .
    – Cottoneaster , etc , ditto .
    ‘ One years seeding , seventy years seeding ”

    You might say that these plants are just nature repairing disturbance .
    Which begs the question , why disturb a functioning system in the first place ?

    The willow forest suppressed these weeds by heavy shading . ” hopefully they are declining ” is not a valid management strategy .
    Herbicides will be needed now , in the very riparian zone where they are dangerous and difficult to use .

    Now willow regrowth must be encouraged to grow back and close canopy . It is the only economical way of restoring deep shade to suppress weeds .
    Thanks goodness the original destruction was not more thorough , so there is growing material available .

    Planners have the responsibility to assess the onsite seed banks and think through the likely reaction to ‘ daylighting’ , which is a massive change in forest structure . They must assess risks and decide if they are worth it , and who will manage them .
    Better still , don’t make massive changes . Make sensible staged small changes . See what works and adapt to what the site is telling you .
    Cut light wells , establish prolifically seedling desirable shade bearing endemics to build a useful seed bank . Observe progress , learn site reactions and expand operations accordingly .

    Planting Procedures . Native Species choices .

    Chopsticks in milk cartons don’t survive in a heavily weed infested site . trees planted in 2007 should be 10 metres tall by now , not dead .
    The professional forester delivers 90% survival rate on large scale plantings or faces the sack . Better is achievable in a closely watched small site .
    Firstly the species must be matched to the task and planned future forest form . What was the original vegetation and can it survive an altered site , do you want it back ? Are there any seed trees nearby ?
    What are the dangers of genetic pollution from introducing non endemic but related natives ?
    Is there a danger of certain species creating a bushfire wick which could bring disaster into town ?

    In case of Flood Creek the original large scale forest structure was probably Casaurina , Tea Tree , Kunzea , Blackwood , Black Wattle and a suite of long gone broadleafs down in the dip , and assorted Acacias and Eucalypts higher up slope .
    Historians and museums can provide records and photos to aid species selection .
    Tea Tree is a shademaker , Blackwood a semi shade bearer , and Casuarina a favourite of most people .
    Eucalypts have a higher fire risk for a near urban site and are a high risk to public safety if not form pruned .The faulty trees growing at Monkittee Creek park illustrate the danger from limb breakage on still hot days .

    Some planting Techniques beyond the Chopsticks .

    – Tea Tree . Find a nearby stand and make friends with the landowner .
    Cut straightish stems with seed capsules on them . Tightly bind into fascines / brush bundles . Stake out as mattresses across sunnier slopes , in rills and gullies .Seedlings will appear through the mattress.
    -Blackwood . Local seed is abundant in a good year . Collect huge amounts and broadcast . Dab into clay balls and throw into blackberry bushes .
    Where light wells can be created better care of tubestock can produce a fast growing upright form to establish emergent canopy . Then wells can be extended .
    Ensure tubestock thrive by planting into 6″ sand beds retained by log cribs and hand weeding regularly . Form prune to advance apical dominance and occupy light well volume quickly .

    Planting procedures . Exotic species choices .

    Riparian zone repair requires large stocks of bulk materials . Poles and stakes are needed for fascines , logs for live weirs , woodchips for mulching . LWD to reestablish fungal sytems . Growing onsite sequesters carbon as it saves money and fuel .
    The outstanding producers of woody biomass at Flood Creek are genus Salix , Populus and Quercus . All fire retardent and safer to use near town than Eucalypts .

    – Salix .
    During intervention willow logs were ripped out by Kato , moved up slope , piled and later burnt . A system net loss of carbon , nitrogen , sulphur and money .
    The same amount of Kato time , properly sequenced , would have seen these logs turned into live weirs , wildlife harbours ( frogs and reptiles need somewhere to hide and hibernate ) , gully infills and park benches .
    Salix has the invalueable property of coppicing from stumps , sprouting from logs and becoming new trees from buried poles .
    Such resources can be harvested continually for bioengineering material whilst using for shade management .
    Stem injection or frilling can put a stop to any unwanted growth at any time planned .
    Salix babylonica is not a noxious weed and can be managed in the same way as S fragilis .

    -Populus .
    Not ‘ hopefully declining ‘ but actually thriving onsite . Poplar offers a very fast and cheap way of reshading the site to slow down noxious privets etc .
    Poles of 4″ – 6″ diameter and any convenient length can be planted directly into auger holes . Planting bands along the toe slope region at 2m x 2m spacing will occupy the ground and close canopy within two years . Pole material will be harvestable by then and for decades after .
    Poplar pole beds can also be managed as nurses to favour desired natives .
    The fluff from Populus deltoides might be unnacceptable to the community . Luckily P trichocarpa and P yunnanensis have the same site requirements , better timber and no fluff . Planting material is available at not cost , just for the labour of harvesting it . ( http://www.eartintegral .- Gorgeous Gullies )

    -Quercus .
    Easily established , even into weedy sites , due to the big seeds .
    Prime source of building materials and fungal foodstock.
    Some , such as Q accutissima , are food for migratory birds in the Northern hemisphere , therefore very familiar and acceptable to those birds when they arrive here yearly .

    Structures in the Stream .

    Yes , I did notice one small bed control structure and horse crossing .
    It begs the question , if it is such a good thing why is there only one , and so small ?
    Perhaps the answer is that it cost so much with brought in , high embedded carbon materials that there was no money for more ? In which case the answer would be to make more , but of cheap onsite materials .
    Another answer might be that the planners didn’t know how to make cheap , stable bioengineered live weirs ?
    This raises serious questions about the educational / extension values of field days , because many of those planners have seen just that thing at Reidsdale and other places .Is this a case of the Not Invented Here mindset ?

    Of course the bed control structure is a good thing , but the influence of one such structure on stream dynamics is very limited . On the other hand six or ten of them stacked crown to toe along the creek would have dramatically positive effects .
    The same logs that were wasted by burning would have served , or new ones from coppice with some geotextile wrap and solid staking . These become the skeleton for a stabilising filter matrix of willow root and Phragmites rhizomes .

    Biodiversity .

    Yes , I also noted the small area of Phragmites , Carex and other rushes and reeds . All very good things .
    It is about the same area that what was on the site before willow destruction so it’s hard to see the planners deserve any credit for their presence .
    These plants have a vital role and are a seed resource ready at hand to colonise the geotextile facings of live weirs , brush bundles , gully infills and pond margins .

    In fact the dominance of the site by disturbance induced woody weeds has dramatically reduced biodiversity by area and even more so by volume .
    Choking off metabolite by destroying the major structural elements and primary producers onsite has extinguished countless thousands of species of microbes and invertebrates , shutting down nutrient cycling and reducing the chance of reestablishing desirable diversity .

    Fluvial Dynamics and Bioengineering .

    Planners need to understand how water moves before being confident to move it to their own purpose . Much worthwhile work can be accomplished if the waterenergy and biomass can be harnessed to the projects aims .

    Money spent on water tray modelling is well spent . Planners would benefit greatly from a river rafting course .
    Twig , debris , wombat scat or a kayak all move to the same physical laws , and the insight is invaluable .
    A rafter who has experienced a river sieve will quickly understand that the same force can be used to quickly rebuild eroded river banks .
    Willow sieves were removed during intervention , remobilising trapped soil . They must be rebuilt .
    Poor understanding of water movement often leads to statements such as ‘ The willow tree caused bank erosion ‘.
    An understanding of back eddies and the power of water on the outside curve helps one see that the willow tree can be used to cheaply stabilise the bank .
    Drop the tree if you must , but chain it to its stump, not burn it . Next flood will swing the log into the bank and provide the skeleton for a sieve system and planting cribs .
    With such understanding comes confidence and better morale .

    Access to Tools . Safe , Reversible , Powerful Silvicultural Techniques .

    I wonder if the reluctance to take on mid level’ hands on ‘ management work ( half way between planting tubestock and calling in a Kato ) is grounded in a lack of understanding of the capabilities of intelligently wielded hand tools .
    Executing a riparian restoration project is well nigh impossible unless the operators are familiar with the use and maintenance of some of these tools .

    – Swiss secateurs .
    -Finnish or English bill hook .
    -Dead Fall Mallet
    -Japanese Style Pruning saw .
    -Corona Double Handled Lopper
    – Lithium Professional Electric Loppers and Saw
    -Fascine Straps
    -Pole Pruners
    -Herbi CDA Sprayer
    -Tie Wire and the Queensland Hitch
    -NZ Forestry ladder .
    -Japanese Hori knife
    – 50 metres 10mm static kernmantle rope . Slings and Z Drag pulleys .
    – 6mm mesh Geotextile

    Ongoing project Management / Succession Planning .

    A good restoration project is not a one shot . It must be resourced for years , with proper hand overs as personnel move on .
    If such continuity cannot be guaranteed it is very risky to proceed .

    Information Resources .

    Don’t know about Gov. guides to Agro-Forestry ? The centres of excellence we work with are mostly private and self funded .

    Please join the Australian Forest Growers and the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association . Go to their AGM s , they are lots of fun .

    -Yeomans Red Book .
    -Rowan Reid .
    -Master Tree Growers
    -Otways Farm Forestry Group.
    -Louis Bromfield
    -J Russell Smith
    -Friends of Waite Arboretum
    -Hackfalls New Zealand
    -Eastwoodhill New Zealand
    -Quivera Coalition
    -Fluvial Dynamics Books by Knight and by Leopold .
    -Anything by the US Soil Conservation Service before WW11 .
    -Ditto by NZ river control Board
    -UK Coppicing and Woods craft websites
    -Mycelium Running by Stamets .
    -Anything by Prof Jim Trappe and students Bonito , Elliot etc -Spanish word ‘ Cienega ‘
    -Meirs biography of Leopold .

    The usual caveat applies .I am not questioning anyones good intentions or work ethic .
    I just want to see more, faster , effective and cheaper landscape rehabilitation , before the planet burns up and kills our grandchildren .
    The nativist mindset is not delivering positive change fast enough to help .



  10. Hi Peter, plenty of great info and advice for any would-be landcarer here. Glad you mentioned the poplars. There are a few huge ones down near the community gardens that are the most magnificent and majestic organisms. You can see them in the header picture for this site. You’re right about the missing mid-level of intervention and the need for ongoing cultivation/nurture of these kinds of sites. Then again, I continue to defend the right of privet and any other weed to colonise a disturbed site. My background is in conventional horticulture and viticulture. I’ve seen under-vine soils so repeatedly sprayed-out that all that grows back on the lifeless crust is moss (and not much of it). Give me privet, ivy, vinca, anything! At least you know it’s alive; the patient is still responsive! I got to visit Tarwyn Park last week and saw privet, fig and willow (among others) forming an understorey to the resurgent and emergent casuarinas. Another example of a diverse non-nativist mix providing a wild riparian forest.

  11. Dear Ben ,

    I defend your right to defend the right of any bird spread vile asthma making privet to rapidly colonise catastrophically unshaded
    willow destruction projects .

    Will also defend the right of any useful tree or shrub species with comparable agronomic qualities and no tendency to spread rapidly and uncontrollably or develop hard seed banks to be considered by diligent and risk averse project planners .

    Eg .For Braidwood climate these are proven performers .

    Salix babylonica , S alba
    Populus tremula , P yunnanensis , P alba , P alba bolleyana ,
    P simoni , P deltoides .
    Phylostachys vivax , P viridis , P bambusoides , P aurea ,
    p nigra . P henonensis .
    Quercus accustissima , Q robur fastigiatia , Q canariensis ,
    Q macrocarpa , Q bicolor .
    Tagastaste .
    Acacia melanoxylon
    Leptospermum spp
    Kunzea spp
    Popocarpus spp.
    Casaurina spp .
    Pinus radiata , P muricata , P pinea.

    Plenty of choices for an analog gallery forest , successional system or a public amenity park . All available locally for little cost .
    None asthma makers like vile privet .

    All Best


  12. Some great insights Peter (Jess is reading over my shoulder and says she’s enjoying having you “unleashed on the internet” and sends her love).

    For me, the standard nativist argument works ok when the conversation doesn’t go beyond small Aussie birds (as long as we forget about blackberry as a wren apartment complex), but as you touched on, the current value of other potential environmental services often don’t seem to be factored into the equation, which is hard to fathom in a landscape which has melted all around us.

    For those who have read this thread and think Peter M’s some exotic plant lunatic, I’d just like to point out that he hasn’t planted willows along any of his main watercourses, and has only used them as an opportunistic tool where they already existed. Along most of his watercourses, macrophytes, tussocks, sedges and native shrubs and trees proliferate (where blackberry or cow pugged grass previously stood), their establishment supported by numerous low cost bioengineering approaches. If anyone hasn’t seen his place, I humbly suggested you do.

  13. You guys blow me away. If this is landcare I’m excited. But it’s not of course, it’s only part of it. What if the full spectrum of landcare were to be approached from such a platform. The potential is limitless.

    Also from this discussion one can see the worth of Project Design taking into account interest far beyond the ‘completion’ time-frame.
    A big thanks to you all for taking the time to share your thoughts and knowledge.

    • Thanks to you too Robbo! We’re really hoping to generate some more open public discussion around landcare and what it means, or could mean. The specific impetus for the blog was to question the outcomes of nativist approaches and generate some ideas for what an alternative might achieve, but other aspects of landcare and how it operates would be of interest too. Please feel free to comment on the site in future. Alternately get in touch about submitting a guest post of your own, email: icare(at)

      All the best, Ben

  14. Pingback: Native animals in a Non-nativist forest: results of a brief and random sample | Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare

  15. Pingback: Peter Andrews at Flood Creek | Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare

  16. It’s remarkable in support of me to have a website, which is helpful in favor of
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