Harwood Island, Northern NSW – Bush Regeneration Project

Rozy Ryan to those who know her, is one of the most lovely genuine people you will be lucky to ever meet. That’s my thoughts. Roz accidentally bumbled into our office in Maclean in mid 2022 after Kingfisher had relocated from Casino in northern NSW. “I really did think you were Clare,” says Rozy. Clare is the CEO of one of the local Aboriginal Corporations, and at a distance I guess the similarity might be there. The local Traditional Owner corporation office used to be in the shop next door. Having worked in local healthcare since the 70’s, Rosy is well known and well respected in the lower Clarence River community.
Funny how divine intervention works. We started talking. Rozy’s love of Narho Creek soon dominated the conversation. She had had some help from Landcare and the local council to fence and plant a section of the creek which flows through her property, but that was many years ago now and the revegetation site sounded like it might need a little attention.
“I’ve got camphors (Camphor Laurel Cinnamomum camphora) coming up everywhere,” she says.
Unfortunately, that’s what happens. Birds eat the fruit and drop seeds wherever they’re sitting when digestion is complete. Seedlings establish well on the rich floodplain soils of Harwood Island. Without control, they can soon dominate a patch of vegetation.
Two and two, often does equal four, and I thought lets try to get Roz some help. Round 4 of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife Bushfire Recovery Grants were still open. So we applied on Rozy’s behalf. While the island wasn’t affected by the Black Summer fires, Rozy’s bush block at nearby Ashby certainly was, and, more recently, the family’s farm on the floodplain had been flogged by flooding.
Standing on the now dry bed of Narho Creek, eighteen months prior we would have been up to our necks in water. Still, her front yard is the lushest Kikuyu I’ve seen in a very long time. She attributes it to it never having been ploughed.
“Its one of the few paddocks not to have been cultivated for cane on the Island,” she says
The family settled the property 160 years ago, having come from Ireland. The Ryans’ are well known cane farmers.
“My great grandfather and grandmother were here, babies were born here, its something we’ve loved and cherished over the generation. We are very lucky to still be here,” she says.
Rozy acknowledges that its Yaegl land and together they love and care for the island. The family have had a long relationship with local traditional owners.
Along the creek and roadside Rozy has planted a mix of eucalyptus, swamp oaks and other endemic plants some 30-40 years ago. Her family in the adjoining farm has done the same. Narho Creek as it leaves the farm becomes highly modified, functioning as a cane paddock drain, devoid of vegetation. Its not until you get to the salty lower reaches that native vegetation re-emerges. Its what makes Rozy’s little patch of bush so importance. Less than 2% of the Island’s native vegetation remains.
“Like all Clarence Valley kids, you roam the world and then you come home and you decide its the best place in the world. In the 80’s I started planting trees, fencing off sections so the cows wouldn’t eat the trees.
“My grandparents planted these figs (which are enormous), we inherited that planting and are trying to keep what we can for the environment,” she says.
So, work starts with our Foundation grant, just a few team days to remove woody weeds and release the trees from invasive vines. Bush Regenerator, Nicki Proctor, records 27 different bird species on the one and a quarter acre work site. Goes to show even the smallest patch of vegetation can provide important habitat, particularly when isolated in such an extreme way. Rozy has bigger plans now of gathering together willing landholders to create stepping stones of native habitat across the island.
“I’d like to thank you and the Foundation for the funding and enabling this to happen, its an amazing help,” says Rosy.
“You guys are such a great crew,” she says. I blush

Kingfisher Environmental

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