Nambucca Valley Council's Greenspace team works to restore our natural landscape

Greenspace team (clockwise from front) Glenn Nash, Nathaniel Maloney, Peter Fox, Tim Woodward, Keegan Noble, Manus Noble, and Mick Northover. Not pictured: Ken Sippel and Andrew Crooks
Greenspace team (clockwise from front) Glenn Nash, Nathaniel Maloney, Peter Fox, Tim Woodward, Keegan Noble, Manus Noble, and Mick Northover. Not pictured: Ken Sippel and Andrew Crooks

The Nambucca Valley Council's Greenspace team is a force of nature.

After a reshuffle five years ago, Tim Woodward took up the mantle as coordinator of the program and, under his leadership, the team has restored dozens of impenetrable, weed-choked public spaces back into self-regulating, native wonderlands, rich in biodiversity.

One stretch of land in particular - 100 acres of country between Swimming and Deep Creeks - was suffocating under the weight of Bitou Bush, an historical legacy from the 1940s when sand mining finished up and the South African native was used as a fast-growing cover to stop erosion.

"It's a bird lolly - they love it," Tim said.

"So they eat it and spread the seed everywhere. Unfortunately, it smothers native vegetation and emerging seedlings."

When the team first started to eradicate the area of Bitou Bush, 40,000L of herbicide was needed to do a pass of the land.

"We've cut that down now to 30L - one guy with a backpack - but we're mostly able to hand pull stray plants out," Tim said.

And the results speak for themselves, with littoral rainforest emerging once more on the backside of the dunes.

Keegan with Bitou Bush in hand. Other exotic pests include the Gloriosa Lily, Asparagus Fern, Broadleaf Peppertree, Green Cestrum, Phoenix Palm, Ochna, Senna, Coastal Morning Glory, Lantana and Privet.

Keegan with Bitou Bush in hand. Other exotic pests include the Gloriosa Lily, Asparagus Fern, Broadleaf Peppertree, Green Cestrum, Phoenix Palm, Ochna, Senna, Coastal Morning Glory, Lantana and Privet.

Keegan Noble is the invasive plants officer and natural space manager and has been guarding the rainforests and other threatened ecological communities (coastal Brushbox forests, sea cliff-bound Themeda grasslands, the Melaleuca swamp forests around Valla, Scotts Head and Swimming Creek, and the salt marshes in the Deep Creek and Warrell Creek estuaries) from the ravages of exotic plants.

"Over 90 percent of our invasive plant species are garden escapees," he said.

As we speak, he spies a Bitou Bush and scales a bank at an 80 degree incline to remove it.

But this is only one example of the mind-boggling amount of work this team has achieved in a relatively short time.

Over 60,000 tube stock plants and around 1100 larger trees have gone into the ground since May 2015.

They've also altered council's practice of tree removals to prioritise the preservation of habitat trees wherever possible.

This means more hollows for squirrel gliders, kookaburras, lorikeets and owls, and shade trees for future generations of Nambucca residents.

And by planting out low-growing natives on embankments which were once brush-cut, the team has reduced maintenance costs on ratepayers and safety risks for staff who once battled to work on precarious slopes.

The irony of their work is that if they've done their job well, much of what they've achieved should be indistinguishable from the natural landscape.

But if you've got an eye for detail, you may have noticed their green stamp at Stuart Island, the Valla Headland, EJ Biffin Oval, Bellwood Park, Riverside Drive, Hennessey Tape Oval, the Visitor Information Centre, Dawkins Park, Macksville Park, Buz Brazel Oval, Taylors Arm Oval, Swimming Creek, the Rotary Lookout at Nambucca, Deep Creek Reserve, and the boardwalk from Shelly Beach to the V-Wall ... to name only a few.

Sometimes they get a bit of flack from passersby for not planting "pops of colour" in the landscape.

But Tim said they're trying to undo the damage done over the past century from planting European natives.

What we do is plant and go - what we put in are plants of provenance that don't need any work and that strengthen the ecosystem. Not only are we reducing maintenance costs for council, but we're leaving a legacy too.

Tim Woodward

They have also been hard at work replacing failing public furniture with new tables and benches made from a mixture of recycled bridge timbers and sustainably sourced timber. They're currently working on wheelchair accessible tables for Bellwood Park, but you may have already experienced their handiwork at Shelly Beach.

The team - Nambucca Valley born and bred - is justly proud of what they've achieved in the past five years.

"It's pretty rewarding to do all this and then bring our families down to enjoy it. It's something that we'll pass down for generations to come," they said. "It's exciting to think what this will all look like in 10 years."

Tim's buoyed by his team's success and is already looking to go one better in the future.

"I'd love to beat the number of plantings we've done. There's never too many plants in the environment," he said.

He'd also love to extend his team's work to residential streets, and perhaps try his hand at edible streetscapes, but admits that would only be possible if the community came on board too, to establish a sense of ownership and respect.

"But if I dropped dead tomorrow I'd be happy with what we've done; my kids would see that my team and I have put our paint stroke on everything," he said.

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