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Natural Resources Northern and Yorke

3 November 2014


In this issue

A few words from the Regional Manager
Yorke Peninsula beach walkers trained up for Hooded Plover survey
A ‘hart’ night for a Spring Walk
Are you Bushfire Ready?
Elusive planigale reappears after 30 years
Early intervention – the key to olive control
Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park
Boxthorns given the boot on Juliette’s YP property
End of year wind-up for Youth Environmental Leaders
Wakefield River – caring for our country
Working with fire for a safer and more resilient landscape
New online portal for environment information
Enjoy reading our November edition of the Yakka

We invite you to contribute your news, stories and events from across the region.

Please forward this newsletter on to your neighbours to share the good news of all things natural resource management!

For more information regarding Natural Resources Northern and Yorke, contact our Natural Resources Centre on 08 8841 3400.

A few words from the Regional Manager

This space is usually reserved for our Presiding Member, but as we await the appointment of a successor to Caroline Schaefer, I welcome the opportunity to share a few thoughts with readers of Yakka e-News.

Following a State Government review of boards and committees, Cabinet have endorsed the continuation of all eight NRM Boards across regional South Australia.

I am pleased to advise that the Ministers Office are now in a position to progress the recruitment of our next Presiding Member.

In the interim, Northern and Yorke NRM Board member Eric Sommerville has been delegated the authorities of the Presiding Member, by the Board. Eric has been working closely with staff in the Natural Resources Centre in Clare.

On Tuesday evening October 21, I attended the Hart Spring Twilight Walk. It was fascinating to see the good science that contemporary farmers apply as part and parcel of their enterprises.

The Hart Field Trials Group is testing new varieties of wheat, barley, durum wheat, field peas and beans, to identify better yielding and more pest-resistant varieties. This work will be ongoing as the impacts of climate change become more pronounced.

Our colleagues in SARDI and PIRSA are doing really valuable work alongside the Hart Group and their work is to be commended. It was an inspiring evening.

With what is likely to be a hot, dry summer ahead, and with high fuel loads across the region, I urge all residents to review their bushfire safety plans and to ensure that their properties are fire safe. 

Your safety and that of your neighbours, your community and our precious pool of volunteers is important to us at Natural Resources Northern and Yorke.

Trevor Naismith
Regional Manager
Natural Resources Northern and Yorke

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Yorke Peninsula beach walkers trained up for Hooded Plover survey

Volunteers will be out on the beaches of Yorke Peninsula in early November counting Hooded Plovers, as part of Natural Resources Northern and Yorke’s (NRNY) biennial survey of the beach nesting shorebird.

Workshops were held recently at Hardwicke Bay, Port Wakefield and Port Hughes, to help volunteers learn how to identify the birds, tracks in the sand, plants, survey tips and to sign up for this year’s event, which will run from November 7 to 21.

Easily distinguished by its black ‘hood’, broad white collar across the back of the neck and black-tipped red beak, the Hooded Plover traditionally nests in spring and summer along the beaches of Yorke Peninsula.

NRNY community ranger Deborah Furbank says the region provides the perfect nesting place for the bird.

“Nesting on a busy beach may seem like a strange thing to do, but when the tiny chicks hatch they need to be close to their food – seaweed at the water’s edge - as they are unable to move far on their tiny legs.”

Hooded Plover numbers have been declining across southern Australia and the species is already extinct in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

The bird is considered ‘vulnerable to extinction’ in South Australia, and Ms Furbank says Natural Resources Northern and Yorke are working closely with BirdLife Australia and the local community to reverse this trend.

“Since 1980, nationwide Hooded Plover surveys have taken place every two years,” she says.

“The survey is coordinated by Birds Australia and includes the entire coast from Jervis Bay in NSW, to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.”

Ms Furbank says the surveys are an important way to gauge bird numbers, and November is an ideal time for counting them.

“Most Hooded Plovers breed in November, they are less mobile when they are breeding and stay around the same area of beach, which lessens the chance of counting the same bird twice.

“The survey involves walking along a stretch of beach and recording Hooded Plover sightings and any visible threats that may impact breeding success, such as foxes and ravens.”

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A ‘hart’ night for a Spring Walk

A hot spring evening was not enough to keep fifty people away from the Hart Spring Twilight Walk at South Australia’s premier field cropping site in mid-October.

“We had a great roll up despite the heat, but the refreshments certainly went down well”, said Secretary, Sandy Kimber.”

Twilight Walk participants inspected the trial sites and heard presentations from research providers from SARDI and the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), before gathering in the shed for drinks and a BBQ.

“It’s predominantly a farmer event with participants coming from the local Hart area, as well as surrounding districts like Burra, Spalding, and Balaklava. But we also get agronomists and others from further afield” said Ms Kimber.

Located between Blyth and Brinkworth in South Australia’s Mid North, the forty hectare property, owned by Hart Field Site Group Inc, is managed by farmers to provide independent information to the broadacre cropping industry.

Each year the Hart Group host two crop walks during the growing season, a field day in September, and a seminar in March. Tours can also be arranged by appointment, for student and farming groups.

Described on the Ag Excellence Alliance website (Agex) as a group with “a solid reputation for integrity and independence”, the Hart Field Group has grown from a modest demonstration site trialling post-emergent herbicides for medics (1982) into the state’s premier agronomic field site.

More than six hundred people attended this year’s Field Day in September, at which robotics and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstrations attracted a lot of interest.

‘Getting the crop in’ seminars range across all aspects of broadacre crop farming, including varieties, cropping systems, disease management, markets, finance and research. Next year’s seminar will be held on March 11.

The Hart Field Site Group also produce Hart Beat, a monthly newsletter which is available as a free download from the group’s website.

For more information about the Hart Field Site Group go to http://www.hartfieldsite.org.au.

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Are you Bushfire Ready?

Bushfires are an inherent part of the South Australian landscape, and bring with them the potential for life-threatening consequences. Preparation is the key to surviving a bushfire.

The key message from the CFS for this fire season is “it’s not that hard to be bushfire ready!” The CFS is appealing to everybody to do something rather than nothing.

“Know your risk, know what to do and understand your options this Fire Danger Season.” (CFS website)

The CFS recently launched its 2014/15 Bushfire Ready campaign with Bushfire Action Week. Activities were held across the state to encourage South Australians from urban and rural areas to prepare for the Fire Danger Season by knowing their risk, preparing their properties and knowing how to stay informed.

Gladstone, Koolunga, Kadina, Riverton, Stansbury, Wallaroo, Wilmington, Nelshaby and Napperby communities hosted Bushfire Ready Week activities across fire ban districts within the Natural Resources Northern and Yorke region.

The CFS has also developed an interactive online Bushfire Ready Assessment Tool to help residents assess their fire risk. Easy to use, the tool identifies level of risk and whether minimum requirements for a defendable space can be met, after basic information, like location, setting, slope, and extent, type and proximity of vegetation to buildings, is entered.

Anyone that lives, travels or works outside of the inner Adelaide Metropolitan area is at risk from bushfire. They should plan for their safety and do their part to prepare for the upcoming bushfire season.

Some key things to do:

  • Act now
  • Clean up around your property
  • Have a bushfire survival plan
  • Use the CFS Bushfire Ready Assessment Tool to determine if you have a defendable space

The dates of the 2014/15 Fire Danger Season dates were declared as:

  • Flinders - 15 Oct 2014 to 15 April 2015
  • Mid North - 1 Nov 2014 to 30 April 2015
  • Yorke Peninsula - 15 Nov 2014 to 30 April 2015

To use the Bushfire Ready Assessment Tool or for any other Bushfire Ready information go to http://www.cfs.sa.gov.au

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Elusive planigale reappears after 30 years

Australia’s smallest carnivorous mammal, the Narrow-nosed planigale (Planigale tenuirostris) has shown its face (and its teeth) for the first time in thirty years in Mount Remarkable National Park.

Last observed on the Black Range during a 1983 survey, two planigales were recorded on a recent biological survey in the Alligator Basin.

The survey, delivered jointly by Biodiversity and Endangered Species Team (BEST) volunteers and Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) officers, is part of a three-year program that will collect information about the impact of fire on plant and animal species in the Alligator Basin.

“We use prescribed burns as a management tool in Mount Remarkable National Park but need to learn more about fire frequency and how species respond after fire activity”, said Wendy Cliff, Volunteer Support Officer with Natural Resources Northern and Yorke and Secretary for the BEST team.

The spring survey was funded through a Northern and Yorke Natural Resources Management Board 2014/15 Community Grant.

Established in 2004 to protect and conserve threatened flora and fauna in Natural Resources Northern and Yorke region, the BEST group have worked across the region on Pygmy Blue-tongue and Fairy tern surveys, bat monitoring, biological surveys, and the award-winning Biodiversity Blitz in Innis National Park in 2011.

Miss Cliff described the BEST team as “a passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated group of volunteers.”

“They love nature and don’t mind getting their hands dirty, working late into the night and even suffering the occasional nip for conservation!”

Other species of interest recorded during the Alligator Basin survey include the Australian Coral snake (Brachyurophis australis), Ragged Snake-eye skink (Cryptoblepharus pannosus), Chocolate Wattled bat (Chalinolobus morio), and greenhood, sun and spider orchids.

“Volunteers play an important role in managing our natural resources”, Miss Cliff said. “There are many opportunities to get involved in volunteering in our region.”

For information about volunteering opportunities

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Early intervention – the key to olive control

Olives have been in South Australia since the British flag was first raised at Holdfast Bay.

When the colony’s olive industry collapsed in the late 1800s, olives went feral as growers in the Adelaide Hills abandoned their orchards. A Mediterranean climate and similar soils to those countries from where cultivars were sourced – Portugal, Spain, France and northern Italy – favoured the rapid naturalisation of wild olives.

Kevin Teague, Team Leader Landscapes, Natural Resources Northern and Yorke, thinks that the Adelaide Hills experience should be a warning to natural resource managers in the Mid North and Southern Flinders Ranges. 

Speaking recently with Annette Marner on ‘Late Afternoons’, Mr Teague said: “Once olive infestations are established, it can cost between $10,000 and $15,000 a hectare to control them.”

“It takes a while for feral olives to establish, so if landholders act quickly they can get on top of them before they produce fruit”.

Olives have been widely planted through the Mid North and Southern Flinders Ranges over the past two decades. Properly husbanded, they pose little threat to native vegetation. But neglected or abandoned olive groves pose a major threat to native woodlands.

“The problem is the unharvested fruit drops to the ground and foxes and emus have a field day”, said Mr Teague. “They swallow the fruit whole, then go up into the bush and spread the seeds.”

Birds also feed on the smaller fruit of feral olives, dispersing the pits from roosting sites.

Where a plantation has not been harvested for two years it is considered feral, and growers can be asked to remove the trees.

Although slow growing initially, once established, feral olives form dense stands that prevent the establishment of native vegetation. They can cause major biodiversity reductions in local areas.

Feral olive control work, funded through the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program, was recently completed at Napperby in the Southern Flinders Ranges.

“We did forty hectares of olive tree control in 2013, with a further fifty hectares this year, including ten hectares on council land” Mr Teague said.

The feral olive is a declared plant in South Australia and, under the NRM Act, landowners are required to control feral olive trees on their properties.

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Photograph of Formby Bay taken by Robyn Clasohm  
Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park

Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park is home to some of the state’s most spectacular and diverse coastal scenery and highly valued recreational areas.

Incorporating the rugged coastline of Southern Yorke Peninsula, the deep waters of Investigator Strait, the north coast of Kangaroo Island, and several offshore islands, Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park is a place of great contrasts.

Here, cold and warm waters meet and mix, producing dynamic ecosystems that support rich marine life. Habitats are diverse and include seagrass meadows, deep and shallow reef systems, sheltered gulf waters, exposed high energy coastlines, shorelines with backing dunes, cliffs, caves and overhangs.

Within these habitats, marine mammals, birds, whales, sharks, fish, crustaceans and a host of other marine creatures breed, spawn, forage, feed and nest.

Recreational opportunities in Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park are almost as diverse as its scenery and ecosystems. Visitors can dive, snorkel, sail, surf, swim, watch whales, beach walk, and fish offshore, inshore and on the beach.

Marine Parks have been established in South Australia to protect marine ecosystems and to ensure they are utilised sustainably. On 1 October 2014, fishing restrictions in Marine Park sanctuary zones came into effect.

Before visiting Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park, recreational fishers and other park users should familiarise themselves with the park’s management zones.

A number of resources are available for visitors to South Australia’s Marine Parks

  • Recreational Fishing in SA Marine Parks guide
  • Enjoy Life in Our Marine Parks DVD GPS Coordinates May 2014
  • Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park Management Plan summary - available as a pdf, with detailed maps and information about where to fish.
  • My Parx app – available for both iPhone and Android mobile devices, the app allows the user to ground-truth their exact location and check what activities are permitted in that zone. The app provides maps, information about access points and also highlights recreational activities on offer in marine parks. To download the free app go to http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/marineparks

Photograph of Formby Bay taken by Robyn Clasohm.

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Boxthorns given the boot on Juliette’s YP property

After an 11 year assault on African Boxthorns on her Flaherty’s Beach property near Warooka, Juliette Riddall has finally removed the last one and can truly say she has won the fight over the weed.

With her late partner Larry Tidswell, Juliette estimates they have removed literally thousands of boxthorns over the years on the 81-hectare property and now feels a real sense of achievement in reaching the milestone.

“Removing that last boxthorn I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and in actual fact was a bit dumbfounded that I had actually achieved the goal,” she says.

“Over the years there would have been thousands and thousands that we have removed with contractors and volunteers helping us, including some really big, old bushes that would have been at least 100 years old and we think originally planted as wind breaks.

“Some of the trunks were two hand widths across and the bushes as big as trees.”

The African boxthorn is a declared weed in South Australia and was introduced from southern Africa, originally planted in Australia as hedges for shelters and barriers to stock movement.

The perennial shrub grows up to 5 metres high and 3m wide with an extensive, deep, branched root system and if neglected, form dense impenetrable thickets.

Along with their persistent efforts in removing boxthorns, Juliette and Larry revegetated their property – of which 60 per cent is remnant scrub - planting some 3200 trees on the arable areas.

The couple worked with Natural Resources Northern and Yorke to achieve their goal, and early on received $4,000 in NRM funding, as well as a further $18,000 over the past two years in NRM Community Grants.

However, they invested about $40,000 of their own money to the fight, as well as thousands of hours, blood, sweat and tears and Juliette says seeing the last boxthorn removed made the effort worthwhile.

“While it’s a continuous job, and I’ll still be monitoring and removing shoots, it’s quite rewarding because in parts of the property now there are areas where there’s no bushes and none coming back and it’s just really amazing how quickly the native vegetation springs up,” she says.

“That last boxthorn that was removed at the end of August was just massive and was around a big, old sheoak tree that must be at least 150 years old.

“Already that tree has a new lease of life now that it’s free from the boxthorn and is sprouting again.”

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End of year wind-up for Youth Environmental Leaders

Educating the environmental leaders of the future is important to Natural Resources Northern and Yorke.

It’s the focus of much of what Julia Alessio (Lower and Mid North), Fabienne Dee (Yorke District) and Sarah Voumard (Upper North District) do as the region’s Community Rangers with Team Leader Kate Abraham.

The team manage and deliver Natural Resources Northern and Yorke’s Youth Environmental Leaders (YEL) program.

Funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, with support from neighbouring Adelaide Mount Lofty region, YEL provides opportunities for schools across the region to develop and implement environmental action plans.

Sixteen schools participated in the YEL program in 2014, which targets upper primary school students.

Although the focus of the program is the environment, it develops a much broader skill set that can be applied to learning generally. YEL builds self-confidence and leadership skills through knowledge sharing, team work, decision-making, and effective communication and reporting activities.

Stansbury Primary School recently hosted the end-of-year YEL forum for Yorke District (as pictured). “Each participating school did an IMovie or a Powerpoint of their project”, said Community Ranger Fabienne Dee. “Their work was creatively presented and it was inspiring to see how well they understood the issues”.

“From waste reduction through composting, to a worm farm, a sensory garden, a butterfly and other native gardens, the projects were diverse, just like nature” Ms Dee said.

Hawker and Snowtown Area Schools will host end-of-year forums for participating schools from Upper North and Lower and Mid North Districts in November.

For more details about these events don’t miss our next issue.

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Wakefield River – caring for our country

The efforts of landholders and volunteers in the Wakefield River region is having a positive flow-on effect on our environment, according to Natural Resources Northern and Yorke water officer Jennifer Munro.

Ms Munro says a native vegetation survey of the region – conducted thanks to a Native Vegetation Council research grant - found good levels of native vegetation along the Wakefield River, including a number of threatened species.

“The survey showed that the 25 kilometre section of riparian habitat between Undalya and Balaklava was in pretty good condition, with permanent flowing water and numerous permanent pools,” she says.

The healthy river system is partly thanks to the community efforts of landholders, volunteers and students involved in the Australian Government Caring for our Country-funded project, which has seen almost 100 hectares of revegetation on private and public land, fencing, off-creek watering points and weed control undertaken along the catchment since 2011.

Other initiatives included an Education Environment Day with local schools at Rocks Reserve near Balaklava and an information day at Balaklava.

The Wakefield River project was undertaken in collaboration with Greening Australia, Trees For Life, and in partnership with the Clare & Gilbert Valleys Council and Wakefield Regional Council.

Ms Munro says while the project has now officially wrapped up in the Northern and Yorke region, the efforts of the community continue to be supported through the Australian Government Biodiversity Fund project (Four Catchments) 2012-2017.

“This includes the Wakefield River catchment and continues to work within the same 25km stretch, as well as properties upstream on the Wakefield River,” she says.

Ms Munro says the project has a longer term planning element to it and urges landholders to ‘have their say’ by completing a survey on our website.

More details on the threatened species found as part of the vegetation survey, are available on our website.

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Working with fire for a safer and more resilient landscape

Prescribed burns are an important part of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) fire management program.

Used for both ecological and fuel reduction purposes, prescribed burns usually bookend the fire ban season in spring and autumn.

Autumn burns are often more effective than spring burns, because the soil and leaf litter has dried out over summer and a hotter fire can be achieved. Burning in spring has its risks, as tree stumps can smoulder for weeks reigniting into the fire danger season.

“It can be a tricky business’ said Stuart Beinke, Regional Fire Management Officer with Natural Resources Northern and Yorke “because we need to burn on the edge of the fire season for the greatest benefit.”

DEWNR personnel from Natural Resources Northern and Yorke recently undertook a prescribed burn at Gun Alley on the western side of Mount Remarkable. 

“This compliments a series of burns that we have put in along the high ridges of the Mount Remarkable National Park over the last six years” said Mr Beinke.

“Fighting any fire in heavily vegetated steep hills is always going to be a difficult job,” Mr Beinke said. “Whilst there will always be a lot of unknowns in any large fire event, we do know that prescribed burns reduce the speed of a fire.”

The right mix of conditions – fuel load, fuel moisture, temperature, relative humidity and wind speed – is required for a prescribed burn to be both safe and effective.

“Fires will always move faster upslope than downslope. If you can reduce the fuel on the top of the ridge it can slow a fire down significantly”, said Mr Beinke.

More than two thousand hectares of hills country, where prescribed burns had been undertaken, did not burn during the Bangor fire. These areas provided refuge for animals during and after the fire event.

“When we looked at the fire scar for the Bangor fire, we could see the benefits of prescribed burns done since 2009.”

Further prescribed burns are planned for Mount Remarkable National Park in autumn 2015.

To download a copy of the brochure ‘Reducing fire risk in gardens’, visit our website and follow the links.

The brochure provides advice about landscaping using low flammability plants to minimise fire risk.

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New online portal for environment information

A new online portal providing one-stop access to environmental data and reports is now available to the public.

Enviro Data SA was developed by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources as part of the Premier’s Open Data policy agenda.

Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Conservation Ian Hunter said new data sets and reports would continue to be added to the site, providing a wealth of information on the state’s natural resources.

“This will be of benefit to everyone from primary producers, environmental decision makers and scientists to interested members of the public and school students,” Mr Hunter said.

“Enviro Data SA brings together information from a number of agencies and institutions, including DEWNR, the Environment Protection Authority, Primary Industries and Regions, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Goyder Institute, the Murray Darling Basin Authority and the Department of State Development.

“It contains information on people and the environment, land, water, coast and marine issues, plants and animals, the climate, and economy and industry.

“You can find information ranging from real time water data collected around the state on groundwater aquifers to flora and fauna survey sites – and that is only the start.

“In the past, this information has sometimes been difficult for people to find because it was stored in a number of locations.

“By bringing it all together in one easily-accessible place, we hope to see not only better environmental decision making, but an improved public understanding of the reasons for those decisions and of the science behind them.”

Enviro Data SA complements www.environment.sa.gov.au and www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au, sites that provide information about the management of the state’s environment, water and natural resources, as well as practical information and services to help the community manage their own land.

For more information, visit www.data.environment.sa.gov.au

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