Preserving roadside treasures

Development in Australia since settlement by Europeans two centuries ago has seen many species unique to Australia lost to us for ever. The struggle is now to identify and protect what remains of our natural heritage for future generations.

While public attention is often focused on national parks and forests, many rare species can be found in the less romantic setting of our roadsides. It is here Local Government can play a key role. When road crews arrive to carry out works they can quickly destroy these surviving vestiges of our natural heritage. But with careful management these areas can become a community asset.

Wollondilly Shire in NSW is undertaking a proactive program to preserve their roadside environment. Environment Manager, John Sproule, said the program involves a number of stages beginning with assessment of the reserves, followed by revegetation and finally monitoring and management of the sites.

"This is a program of revegetation that will result in long term environmental benefits, creating native vegetation corridors throughout the Shire," he said. "It will enhance native animal habitats and protect existing stands of rare remnant vegetation on road reserves."

An additional benefit of reduced soil erosion will result in lower costs for roadside repairs. Project Coordinator, Brad Staggs, said there is a lot to be done and community support is being enlisted. He pointed out that as well as the environmental advantages of the program, Wollondilly attracts many tourists and enhancing the roadsides adds to that value.

Roadsides are assessed for their environmental value then accorded a score equal to their conservation value. This is then translated into management strategies. The inventory has made some significant finds including a 150 year old Eucalyptus which would have been damaged by impending works. After discussions with the road designers, plans have been redesigned to preserve the tree.

For further information contact Brad Staggs, telephone (02) 4677 1183.