The Armidale Urban Rivercare Group has been revegetating Dumaresq Creek in Armidale for the past decade. Angus Adair and Bruce Whan have been involved as volunteers from the very start, helping to fix up our ailing urban waterway.
How did the Armidale Urban Rivercare Group (AURG) get started?
Bruce: I’d been going to a lot of meetings in town, organised by Professor John Burton and others to get people interested in rehabilitating the creek lands. The input was great, but the views so disparate that for about five years, we were getting nowhere. In late 2000, out of frustration, I advertised in the papers and at UNE to start a Landcare group. From that, AURG was started with a lot of help from the Armidale Lions Club and the School of Natural Resources at UNE. Our aim was to do things that the majority agreed on – remove woody weeds, remove the chokes that were causing flooding and build-up of rubbish and planting native species beside the creek.
Angus: Bruce has been the champion for the AURG from the start. He was the one finding funding, getting media attention and bringing people to working bees.,,,
Bruce: I still remember our first working bee in 2002, at Ken Jones Park. There was something like 120 people there on the day – it was chaotic! That was Angus’ first encounter with AURG too. We learnt a lot from the first working bee; it was just fantastic.
What kind of work do you do along Dumaresq Creek?
Angus: We clear areas of in-stream ‘exotic’ vegetation – poplars, willows, weedy grasses – and gradually replace that exotic vegetation with native species. To compensate for the removal of exotics, Armidale-Dumaresq Council (ADC) has a policy of planting deciduous trees, like maples, to maintain the beautiful New England colours beside the creek but not in the creek. In 2009, ADC released the ‘Dumaresq Creek Rehabilitation and Restoration Plan’, which formalised how AURG’s work would fit into Council’s plan for Dumaresq Creek. ADC has always supported our group, with everything from expertise and advice to removal of green-waste.
Over the past few years, we’ve done a lot of planting with the support of the HiCUB Project. In 2009 alone, we planted 13,000 trees with volunteers between Rologas Fields and Elizabeth Park. Our plantings have since been complemented by the HiCUB Showcase Plantings along the bike track.
Since 2011, Council has provided significant funding to maintain AURG and HiCUB plantings along Dumaresq Creek. We also help co-ordinate the maintenance program, to ensure that the plantings become well established, aren’t overtaken by weeds, and the creek lands look beautiful. We’re proud of our work.
Why does AURG want to revegetate the creek lands?
Angus: From an ecological perspective, having deciduous trees in-stream poses a significant threat to the health of the creek. In particular, the autumn leaf drop leads to de-oxygenation of the water and stops normal ecosystem function. By removing in-stream exotics and replacing them with local native species, we are assisting the creek environment to return to its natural condition.
How are these projects funded?
Bruce: We apply for funding from State and Commonwealth Governments and rely heavily on support from the local community – groups like the Armidale-Dumaresq Lions, Ducats, Work for the Dole, Sustainable Living Armidale and other volunteers.
Angus: Bruce administered all of the funds for the first four or five years, until I took over for a while. It has gotten a lot easier since AURG affiliated with Southern New England Landcare in 2007. Landcare took over the administration of projects, which made a huge difference to the amount of effort Bruce and I can put into making projects happen. We’ve had some really good support from people at Landcare, like Jackie Bowe, Alice Devlin and Ellen Nyberg. It’s meant we can stop worrying about reporting and do what we know best. It’s also dramatically increased our success at attracting funding.
Where does the AURG work in Armidale?
Bruce: At the start, we did a lot of work clearing in Ken Jones and Elizabeth Park before we could do any planting. When we were working there, we cleared about 230 truckloads of green waste. It was a huge job! Some of the best plantings from that period are at Ken Jones Park and behind St Peter’s Preschool.
Angus: We have plantings all along Dumaresq Creek, from Sport UNE to Douglas St, in Martin’s Gully, Black Gully and next to the greyhound track. Now we are supporting the University of New England Landcare (UNEL) group project below Sport UNE, co-ordinated by Ellen Nyberg, and working with the university and Sport UNE to make it happen. We’ve done work on and off at the university since 2003, always with excellent support from UNE’s Facility Management Services. UNEL just received a Community Action Grant, so there’ll be plenty of action this spring.
What motivates you to keep volunteering with AURG?
Bruce: I’ve always thought the creek lands of Armidale are one of our greatest assets. Over the years, it became one of the greatest eyesores. I thought we needed to do something about it, so the creek can be viewed by everyone as an asset and not a liability into the future.
Angus: I want to return something to the community. I’ve got a significant interest in ecological communities, specifically birds and frogs, and I believe that restoration along the creek will enhance Armidale’s creek lands from both an aesthetic and ecological perspective. I like working with a really good crew of motivated and invigorated people with similar interests and the interaction with schools and other community groups and providing community education.
What does the future hold for AURG?
Angus: AURG just received a $44,200 grant from the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Future Biodiversity Fund for the next six years. With this funding, we will start to connect plantings along Dumaresq Creek, starting at Taylor St. We’ll keep supporting UNEL and its project at UNE. We hold regular working bees on the second Sunday of each month. The work can be hard, but it is fun and very satisfying. Bring your family and friends to the next working bee and try it out, and we’ll shout you a sausage sizzle lunch!
This story was published in issue 64 of the New England Focus