Bitou Bush eradication project marks 40 years of operation

Over the last 40 years a group of dedicated volunteers have worked tirelessly to eradicate an invasive weed, the Bitou Bush introduced from South Africa.

The Bitou Bush eradication project marked its significant anniversary on Saturday, May 18. A celebration was attended by past and present members at the annual Kylies Beach bush regeneration camp.

The volunteers from the local Mid North Coast Branch of the National Parks Association have worked in partnership with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife.

The Bitou Bush weed threatened the environment of Diamond Head in Crowdy Bay National Park, a significant well known landscape feature of the Camden Haven.

Mike Dodkin was the park ranger at the time of the group's establishment in 1979.

He witnessed the impact of sand mining and bushfires which resulted in the spread of the dreaded Bitou Bush on Diamond Head.

The bush had previously been used by the state government for stabilising coastal sand dunes along the NSW coastline.

Mike suggested the start up of an on ground project to eradicate bitou from Diamond Head.

Over the last 40 years the on ground methods of eradicating the bush has not changed.

Mike said members are still required to remove individual bushes by hand (using secateurs and loppers) and then they are poisoned.

"I always added a bit of fun for people by seeing who can get the most of the big (over waist height) Bitou Bushes," he said.

Over the years the project has extended past Diamond Head to the north, south and west of the headland.

The group has also been successful in obtaining environmental grant funds which has assisted their weed eradication program.

Mike said aerial spraying of bitou was introduced in the late 1990s, which allowed targeted poisoning of individual bushes from the air.

He said the native environment of Diamond Head would not exist today if the group hadn't intervened 40 years ago.

Mike estimates over a million bitou bushes would have been removed over the 40 years. The group stopped counting the bushes when the number reached 250,000.

The members of the eradication project continuously need to follow up on their work, as the seeds of a bush are viable for at least 10 years.

"The advances in technology, including GPS recording of treated sites, means we can track where we have removed bushes and follow up the next year to ensure no seeds have sown," Mike said.

The project is recognised nationally as Australia's longest running bitou bush eradication project.

For more information about the group or to join them please call coordinator Sue Baker on 6559 7134.

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