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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

Shearwater students swarm Bitou Bush site

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A group of 50 students from year 9 at Shearwater School cleared the last patch of Bitou Bush, at the Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare site at the south end of New Brighton Beach. Photo supplied.

Like grasshoppers, a group of 50 students from year 9, Shearwater School, ‘swarmed’ into the last patch of Bitou Bush, at the Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare (BSCFL) site, south end of New Brighton Beach.

Geared up with gloves and loppers, they spent last Tuesday morning enthusiastically removing the plant from the dunes, leaving behind only chopped branches for mulch. BSCFL has been caring for this crownland under Byron Shire Council management since late 2016 when the group was invited to work on a little over a quarter hectare of dune that was densely covered by Bitou Bush, a weed of national significance.
‘We had a dead line for June 30 and we are so pleased it is done – there was no need to spray,’ explained Nadia de Souza Pietramale, project coordinator, adding that the volunteers are committed to protect land from contamination by pesticides, a common tool used to control environmental weeds in all ecosystems, including sensitive wetlands and creek lines.  

Volunteers a the site were under pressure to finish the work by June 30, the date set by Rous County Council who enforce the Biosecurity Act. This act determines a containment zone in which all Bitou Bush must be removed north of Cape Byron to the Queensland border by the set date.

Ellen White, the project mentor, spoke with the students about the history of this coastal area, and explained how this plant became a problem after sandmining when it was used as a sand stabiliser on the dunes. Nadia also identified Bitou Bush and native plants for the students and showed them the simple crowning technique for the removal of the Bitou Bush. 

‘Thank you for chemical free bush regenerators Brigid Prain and Judy Patterson and Thiago Barbosa, from Syntropic farming, that came to assist me on this busy task of teaching the students,’ added Nadia. 

BSCFL also would like to thank Shearwater year 9 students and their teachers, guardians Sandra Bain and Endre Kvia, for completing the final patch.

Many of the students expressed a positive feeling about the experience with TAs commenting that ‘It felt satisfying doing something good for the community’ while Molly added that ‘It was great fun and good to be doing something selfless’.

Although the primary work is completed, the site will require three years of follow-up work for the Bitou Bush seedlings and other environmental weeds such Ground Asparagus, Glory Lily, and Yellow Bells to be eliminated.

‘Although this will not be for some months, we look forward to seeing community volunteers again because, although BSCFL is happy that the primary work is done, the heart-felt community gathering and support will be missed,’ said Nadia.

See the chemical free landcare website for more information. 

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