Ten years ago, botanist Stuart Cameron was inspired to take action to rid Far South Coast beaches of weeds beginning to take hold.
“The pressure from weeds is relentless,” Mr Cameron said.
“They swiftly take advantage of any lapse in attention and effort, as any gardener well knows.”
According to council, beaches around Merimbula and Pambula are now almost free from weeds such as Sea Spurge and African Daisy.
Under Mr Cameron’s leadership, the Protecting the Wilderness Coast project drew on the environmental passion of Landcare groups and Merriman’s, Bega and Eden land councils.
A partnership with Aboriginal Lands Councils, Local Land Services, Far South Coast Landcare, National Parks and Wildlife Services, and Bega Valley Shire Council was born.
“A large number of Aboriginal workers have gone on to full time work in natural resource management with skills in plant identification and weed control techniques,” Mr Cameron said.
Some, like Muriel Campbell and Yuin Kelly from Merriman’s Land Council are veterans who have been with the project since the beginning, and have watched the transformation take hold year by year.
“Another great benefit has been the removal of almost 70 cubic metres of litter from our beaches,” Mr Cameron said.
“A huge collection of plastic and glass bottles, plastic bags, balloons, polystyrene, footwear, fishing line and debris, all of which have the potential to harm marine life and seriously injure beach goers.
“Fortunately the trend in litter volume is downwards.”
Each spring and autumn a “sweep” for weeds and litter along local beaches and estuaries takes place, funded by the NSW Environmental Trust, and matched by contributions from Bega Valley Shire Council, Local Lands Services, and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Volunteer groups which once expended most of their energy pulling out and battling weeds are now able to turn their attention to more rewarding tasks, such as Bermagui Dunecare’s extensive planting program at Cuttagee.
Daniel Madigan, Environmental Services Manager said that Council has been proud to support the project to date.
“This project has been so successful that it has been extended to the Eurobodalla Shire,” Mr Madigan said.
“It deserves to be replicated nationally.”
Funding from the NSW Environmental Trust will cease shortly and alternate funding sources are being explored.
“Bega Valley Shire Council has contributed $25,000 a year to the project and I am hoping our partners are keen to keep going,” Mr Madigan said.
“This project strongly demonstrates the power of community. We have achieved something remarkable together over the last 10 years, unique in New South Wales.”