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Bitou bush swarmed by students from Shearwater School
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Like a cloud of 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, at the south end of New Brighton Beach in NSW.

Geared up with gloves and loppers, the students spent the morning enthusiastically removing weeds from the dunes, leaving behind only chopped branches for mulch. BSCFL has been caring for this land 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. As Crown Land under Byron Shire Council management, this project was conducted as part of a community service program implemented by the Shearwater School, which also provided a great opportunity to educate the student volunteers.

Ellen White, the project mentor, taught the students about the history of this coastal area. She explained to them how the bitou bush became a problem after sand mining when it was used as a sand stabiliser on the dunes.

Nadia de Souza Pietramale, the project coordinator, helped students identify bitou bush and other native plants and showed them the simple crowning technique that can be used to remove bitou bush.

BSCFL volunteers successfully met the deadline for this project set by the Rous County Council, in line with the Biosecurity Act 2015. This Act helps determine a containment zone in which all bitou bush is removed north of Cape Byron extending to the Queensland border.

“We had a deadline for 30 June and we are so pleased the project is done – there was no need to use any chemical sprays,” Nadia explained. She added that the BSCFL volunteers are committed to protecting land from contamination by pesticides, a common tool used to control environmental weeds in all ecosystems, including sensitive wetlands and creek lines.

“A big thank you to chemical-free bush regenerators Brigid Prain and Judy Patterson and Thiago Barbosa, from Syntropic farming, who came to assist us with the important task of teaching our students volunteers,” added Nadia.

BSCFL also thanked the year 9 students from Sheawater School and their teachers, guardians Sandra Bain and Endre Kvia, for completing the final patch.

BSFL received positive feedback from the students regarding their experience. “It felt satisfying to do something good for the community,” said Tas. “It was great fun and good to be doing something selfless,” added Molly.

Expressing their gratitude for all the support they’ve received for this project BSFL project coordinator, Nadia stated that they are “grateful to all the volunteers that joined in May and June to help out with this project: Rameshwar Drew, Gerd Kuhlmann, Penelope Stapleton, Robert Heard, Magnon Brotto, Laura McCaughey, Marette Harm, Claudine Gertrude, Orion Grebert, Isis and Zion Bertolotti. Not forgetting John Montgomery for his continuous support over the years”.

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.

We look forward to welcoming our community of volunteers again during the next phase of our project. For more information and to volunteer, you can get in touch with the team through the contact form on the BSCFL website.

Submitted by: Nadia de Souza Pietramale, Ellen White and Sandra Bain

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