The landholders saving a rare native

When Deb Sheldon and her husband first moved to Elm Cottages in Goobarragandra, the property was pretty much a “dustbowl.”

Fourteen years later, and with the help of Landcare and the Office of Environment and Heritage’s John Briggs, they’ve steered it into a complete turnaround.

“When we came here we were very much wanting to get the river back to how it was – not just for the fish but for the whole of the environment – and in approximately 2005 we got funding from Landcare for fencing and to actually start planting right along the river with natives,” she said.

“Then John came along with his Tumut Grevilleas, and we’ve got about 150 Tumut Grevilleas now that are doing magnificently. Landcare have been tremendous to work with and John’s been absolutely wonderful.”

The purpose of the conservation work, from the OEH’s perspective, is to keep valuable and unique Australian species alive. But Deb said there were also plenty of benefits from a property owner’s perspective – especially ones, like her, involved in tourism.

“When we came here in 2003, we didn’t even hear a Kookaburra,” she said.

“Being raised in the country myself, I found that absolutely staggering. So over the years we’ve planted enormous amounts of Grevilleas, Callistemons, wattles, sheoaks: you name it we’ve planted it.

“A few years ago some bird watchers came to stay. They told us that Blowering Cliffs had something like 60 different varieties, around the Tumut region there were about 80 different varieties, and this property had 140. So we were delighted, not only was there revegetation, but it’s brought back all this wonderful bird life.”

Fellow Goobarragandra property-owner Tane Keremelevski moved to the region two decades ago, after he heard the call of the Goob while on a drive from Thredbo to Sydney. For him, working with government to preserve the Grevillea is a moral responsibility.

“When my wife and I moved from Sydney our main reason was simply to live on the Goobarragandra River,” he said.

“There was something about it, still is.

“My attitude towards the Grevillea is that it is something that belongs here, probably more than I belong here. We wanted to do the right thing because we were so humbled and awed by the Goobarragandra River, and still are to this day.”

He wouldn’t hesitate to encourage any property owners who are on the fence about getting involved with conservation work to put their hands up.

“One of the highlights for us of coming to this region is knowing that there are people like John who have our backs: morally, spiritually, intellectually, and also financially,” he said.

“There’s so many things that you should do that we don’t, but the things that we can do – just do it.”

Their efforts have, so far, proven effective. After a small number of plants were discovered in the 1990’s, there are now over 1000 individuals flourishing along the Goobarragandra River.

They may one day be a drawcard for visitors coming to our region, to see this unique plant that exists nowhere else in the world. If you live along the Goobarragandra River, or have white box woodland or serpentine country, and want to be part of the Tumut Grevillea project, please contact the Saving Our Species team at [email protected]