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May 11, 2021

Rare orchid found in Kingscliff reserve

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Richard Johnstone, seed collector for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, collects seeds of the rare orchid on Lot 490 last week. Photo supplied
Richard Johnstone, seed collector for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, collects seeds of the rare orchid on Lot 490 last week. Photo supplied

Luis Feliu

The campaign to save Kingscliff’s last coastal reserve, known as Lot 490, has been given a boost with the discovery of a rare orchid on the site.

The endangered ground orchid, Geodorum Densiflorum, is to be preserved in the prestigious Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) in London and its seeds are now on their way to the Millennium Seed Project at the gardens.

They were collected by Richard Johnstone, the official seed collector for Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gradens at Mt Annan, which collects endangered Australian plant species on behalf of the RBG in the UK.

Lot 490, a 40-acre coastal reserve between the Cudgen Creek bridge and the Salt development, for years has been controversially proposed to be developed into a resort, but the developer pulled out of the plan earlier this year.

Tweed Shire Council will meet with the state government’s Crown land administrators early next month before holding a public meeting over the future of the reserve.

More than 8,000 people have since signed a petition wanting the site kept as a nature reserve and wildlife corridor.

Save Our Lot 490 spokesman Jerry Cornford told Echonetdaily that the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, based at the Wakehurst branch of the Kew gardens in Sussex, is the world’s largest off-site plant conservation project and has so far involved more than 80 countries.

‘It concentrates on global plant life faced with the threat of extinction and plants considered to be of the most use for the future,’ Mr Cornford said.

‘The project has already banked 10 per cent of the world’s wild plant species and aims to bank 25 per cent, or 75,000 different endangered species, by 2020.’

Members of the Save Our Lot 490 group discovered the orchid last year, shortly after the NSW Planning Assessment Commission had approved the now defunct Leighton Properties’ proposal to establish a tourist resort on the site.

‘After seeing a David Attenborough special on the Millennium Partnership shortly afterward, one of the group contacted the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to see if they had any Geodorum seeds in their vault,’ Mr Cornford said.

‘The partnership supervisor, Dr Michiel van Slageren, immediately responded saying they did not have any of the orchid seeds and he was very keen to add them to the collection.

‘He arranged for the representatives from the Mt Annan Botanic Gardens in Sydney to collect the seeds during this year’s brief window between flowering and seed-pod maturity.

‘All seeds destined for Royal Kew are collected under sterile conditions and stored in a temperature-controlled underground vault dedicated to the Millennium Partnership,’ he said.

Mr Cornford said that whatever the future of the disputed site, ‘a small part of it will now be preserved forever’.

He said the future of Lot 490 ‘remains in limbo despite the petition signed by more than 8,300 people, 18.8 per cent of the Tweed’s voting population, calling for it to be retained as Crown land and a coastal wildlife reserve, open to all the public’.

Tweed mayor Barry Longland told councillors last week that the proposed public meeting over the site’s future had been called off twice and, given the level of public interest, the meeting should be held ‘sooner rather than later’.

Acting general manager Troy Green said a meeting between council staff and Lands Department officers had been scheduled for 3 October in Sydney and the public meeting should be held after that to take on board the department’s advice.

Councillors agreed the public meeting should be held soon after councillors and staff had held a workshop on the issue on 10 October.

Pro-development Cr Carolyn Byrne suggested the site should be renamed  and given a ‘proper title’, but Cr Longland said that would only confuse people ‘because everyone knows it as Lot 490’.



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