President Neil Denison, founder Shirley White and former president Lee Andresen.
President Neil Denison, founder Shirley White and former president Lee Andresen.

What 30 Years of Ballina Coastcare has achieved

BALLINA Coastcare is celebrating 30 years of volunteering to restore native bushland along the coast between the Richmond River and Sharpes Beach.

Founder Shirley White said during the late 1980s Angels Beach had been invaded by South African Bitou Bush which spread over the entire beach from the foredunes to the Coast Road. Many thought the beach was “not worth saving”.

The Angels Beach Dune Care & Reafforestation Group was born to provide sustainability into the future. Lighthouse Beach Dune Care and other groups joined over time, transforming the beach to what can be seen today.

“Thirty years of work shows what can be done using common sense, observation, perseverance and ingenuity,” Mrs White said.

“Along with much assistance from school students, labour market teams, other volunteer groups, graduates and the wider community.”

Mrs White added that many techniques pioneered by their group have become recommended standard dunecare practice.

Former president Dr Lee Andresen said people sometimes wonder if coastcare is like home gardening, but coastcaring is far more than just “gardening in the bush”.

“Rather than planting whatever we feel like, the whole point is finding out what nature wants.

“This involves studying what kinds of vegetation are still growing in places that haven’t been taken over by weeds. Coastcarers also discover what nature wants by removing weeds carefully and studying which native species move in to occupy those spaces,” he said.

Dr Andresen said Dunecare has identified almost 300 different plant species on the beaches and forests of East Ballina.

Current president Neil Denison said their hope for the survival of this precious bushland lies in the hands of the wider community, particularly young people.

“We have worked with students from local schools, scouting groups, promoting education and awareness through initiatives such as National Tree Day, Cleanup Australia Day and the Duke of Edinburgh program.

“There has been a huge shift in thinking in recent decades and we’ve been fortunate to receive the support of local businesses, landowners and Ballina Shire Council.”

Ballina Coastcare invites the community to get involved. Contact them at BallinaCoastcare@gmail.com