Irvinebank residents know that their region is special. It is an area of exceptional plant diversity - its craggy granite slopes are home to a unique range of heath and woodland plants. The residents are also proud of the town's history. Many of the families are descended from hard-working tin miners. The pride the residents have for their town is nowhere more evident than in the Landcare projects they have undertaken
Irvinebank Landcare Group Achievements
- Removing weeds and rubbish
- Restoring native vegetation
- Increasing knowledge of biodiversity
- Providing employment & training opportunities
- Developing professional support networks
- Enhancing community pride in the environment
The Irvinebank Landcare Group owes its existence to Ian Guthry, who wanted Gibbs Creek to be cleaned up, and soon inspired local residents to get involved. He also contacted Fiona Barron and Deborah Eastop, from the Mitchell River Watershed Management Group, who helped the group get funding and advice.
The first problem to tackle was the Sisal Agave sisalana that had spread from the gardens around the old miners' cottages. Dense Sisal groves lined Gibbs Creek, with Guinea Grass in the more open areas. With the help of Andrew Congoo from the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, these weeds are being progressively removed by cutting, spraying and digging. Hundreds of hours have been invested in this project, using every source of labour available from Work-for-the-Dole Schemes to bringing in students and volunteers.
Once the weeds were cleared, the next step was to decide what to plant in their place. "Irvinebank is known for its great flora, so botanical experts were only too pleased to help," says Deborah, who sought the advice of Kerry Davis, a horticulturalist from Herberton. Kerry put together a list of local plants that were suitable for planting in the revegetation project. Scientists from CSIRO and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service added to the list, and before long a selection of 100 species was identified. Simon Gleed and his students at the Australian Agricultural College at Mareeba prepared revegetation guidelines for the project.
"Getting the right plants was a challenge," says Deborah. "Some plants came from the native plant nurseries — others just weren't available, so local seed was collected and propagated. Soon Gibbs Creek area was alive with people mulching and planting. "We estimate $70,000 worth of volunteer effort went into the project," says Deborah.
The project leaders always had one eye on the big picture. "The planting will beautify the area while helping to raise awareness of the role riparian vegetation plays in the health of rivers and creeks, including stabilising creek banks and reducing erosion," Irvinebank Landcare Group Chairperson Donna Meade said at the start of the project. "It will also help local residents and visitors appreciate the diversity of plant life native to the Greater Irvinebank area."
Involvement in Landcare brought out the Irvinebank community spirit. Instead of just locking the revegetated sites away for nature alone, the group made the area a community space. They wanted a place where people could come to enjoy the environment and learn about the plants. And so became Moffat Gardens. Curved paths and stepping stones invite visitors to come and explore, or to picnic at the table by the creek. And at least one example of each species is labelled, so the locals came to know the plants by their names. "Now people want to plant native plants like the beautiful Homoranthus porteri in their own gardens," says Kerry Davis. Landcare did not stop at the Gibbs Creek project.
The next project the group took on was to clean up the slopes around Irvinebank State School. The site was covered in years-worth of rubbish and infested with weeds like Mother-of-Millions. This time after clearing up the site, the Landcare Group decided to invite anyone who had ever attended the school to plant a tree. Boys at the school planted their trees together in one area. People who had moved to Herberton years ago came back as a group to participate in the planting. Ladies in their seventies who had been to Irvinebank State School were so touched by being included in the community effort, they cried as they planted their trees.
Once a year the residents from all around Irvinebank get together to celebrate the region's cultural and natural heritage at the annual Irvinebank festival. Open gardens that demonstrate the residents' commitment to Landcare add to a display of art and crafts, Aboriginal dances and hand-steel demonstrations.
"Once Landcare started, the town really changed," Ian said standing outside his home that is part of the open garden scheme. "The roadsides used to be clogged with Guinea Grass. Now it's all cleaned up."
The little historic town of Irvinebank is now a more attractive town. And somehow the enthusiasm keeps on growing.