Bushcare Major Day Out 2016
House of Representatives
12 September 2016
I rise to acknowledge in this parliament the hundreds of Bushcare volunteers who work across my electorate to protect our stunning local environment and care for our remnant urban bushland.
The lower North Shore of Sydney is one of the most densely populated parts of our global city. Yet through the foresight of local residents, councils and occasionally the state government it remains the home of considerable tracts of native vegetation.
These are, of course, now jealously guarded as both refuges for native flora and fauna and havens for the residents themselves.
It startles many visitors to my area that, so close to a major CBD, it is easy to turn a corner and find yourself in the middle of the Australian bush. In my own suburb, I marvel at the beauty of the bushland of Balls Head, where it is possible to feel a million miles from civilisation—until the commercial towers of Sydney occasionally puncture the views to remind us that we are just a stone’s throw from the city centre.
These experiences are replicated around my electorate—be it along large tracts of our harbour foreshores and those of the Lane Cove River and Middle Harbour, or in places like Flat Rock Gulley or suburbs like Castlecrag, whose founders—and, indeed, the founders of Canberra—Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney saw a bush setting as an essential part of their design for the suburb they created.
While the proportion of our area that remains as bush is small, it provides an environment for an incredible diversity of plants and animals. In the North Sydney municipality, for example, 190 native terrestrial vertebrate species have been recorded. Populations of bush turkeys are becoming increasingly common, and they often confidently walk the footpaths of residential areas and threaten the gardens of many residents. Bandicoot numbers are on the rise, and one resident even told me of her excitement in discovering echidnas returning to her garden.
While our areas of bush are much loved, they are under constant challenge from invasive species and feral animals. We have our fair share of foxes, rabbits and cats, and weeds like privet, lantana and asparagus fern that constantly threaten to crowd out native plants and animals. This is why the work of our Bushcare volunteers is just so important. Our local councils do an incredible job in maintaining our open space and bushland, and programs like fox baiting have led to the return of many species. However, the task is so great they would not succeed without the support of so many local residents who are prepared to dedicate their time and energy to protecting native vegetation. Bushcare groups and volunteers from my electorate are making an exceptional contribution across our four council areas. In fact, 93 groups exist, supported by almost 1,000 volunteers.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to join the Mayor of Willoughby, Gail Giles-Gidney, to see and participate in the work of one of those Bushcare groups when I joined 30 volunteers in Castlecrag to give them a hand on Bushcare’s Major Day Out. This is a national event for Bushcare groups across Australia and it is their opportunity to promote their work and share the satisfaction of being involved in such a worthwhile cause.
The Bushcare Major Day Out has grown every year since its inception in 2010. From 12 sites in that year, the event has grown to over 280 locations across Australia supported by thousands of volunteers. I am proud of the fact that the Major Day Out was started on the lower North Shore in the Willoughby City Council area.
With the support of council, local residents Don Wilson and Matthew Keighery saw the value of a day that celebrated the Bushcare movement. Don Wilson is typical of the type of person who supports Bushcare. With little interest in gardening, he found himself roped into a weeding trip on Lord Howe Island—I think by his wife—to remove asparagus fern. The experience motived him to get involved back in Sydney, and his enthusiasm has seen him dedicate hour upon hour to establishing and expanding Bushcare’s Major Day Out.
So successful have he and his colleagues been that the event is now almost beyond the capacity of volunteers. I am hoping that, recognising the importance of their work, there might even be the opportunity for some federal support in the future to maintain the momentum of all they do.
We can be proud of the commitment that so many residents have in all our major cities to protecting our local environment. We as a society must make sure that our beautiful local icons are looked after, for our generation and for future generations.
That spirit is well and truly alive in my own electorate, and I extend my thanks and congratulations to all those who are prepared to don gloves and gumboots to protect our precious natural heritage.