A mammoth project to clear weeds and restore the aquatic habitat of a decades-long neglected property near Giru has earned a north Queensland landholder a national Greening Australia environmental gong.
Neale Griggs was presented with the Chris Jones Environmental Stewardship Award for his work on his property at Crooked Waterhole at an awards ceremony at Parliament House in Brisbane last week.
Mr Griggs and his wife Lynette, the owners of Giru Organics, purchased the 100-hectare property in 2015 for their son and grandchildren.
It contains unique remnant wetland habitat that drains into the Haughton River, but years of neglect and overgrazing had left the property infested with weeds and the waterhole no longer visible.
The exotic weeds were depleting the dissolved oxygen in the water so most native fish, including barramundi that had thrived, couldn’t survive.
Mr Grigg set about cleaning up the property and restoring the homestead with the help of his son Rodney.
Greening Australia Coastal Wetlands and Rivers program manager, Niall Connolly, said Mr Griggs had put an enormous amount of hard work into tackling the difficult job of clearing the terrestrial weeds including chinee apple, prickly acacia, parkinsonia and rubber vine.
“Neale grew up in this area and understood the potential Crooked Waterhole had if restored to its former glory,” Mr Connolly said.
“We partnered with Neale to complement the great work he had already done and restored the aquatic habitat of the property by removing hymenachne, water hyacinth, salvinia and water lettuce.
“We brought in the equipment, expertise and resources to help Neale achieve these outcomes.
“Through his enormous efforts and his willingness to partner with Greening Australia, in a very short time this property has been transformed and is now able to provide a productive income for Neale’s family but also provide critical natural habitat that has otherwise been greatly lost across this coastal region.
“The Crooked Waterhole project is a fantastic demonstration of what can be achieved if landholders and organisations like Greening Australia work together.”
Mr Grigg said the work had been hard but the outcome was very satisfying and the award was a great honour.
“The property was a disgrace,” Mr Grigg said.
“I cleared about 10,000 chinee apples and now we’re trying to clean it up and turn it into a bit of a cattle property.
“People can’t believe the results and it’s just made the property so much more valuable.
“Greening Australia asked if they could come and clear the creek of all the weeds and it’s really worked, now we have barra coming back.
“The spill-on effects will be unbelievable – people won’t believe how many more barra there are going to be in this area.
“Greening Australia will keep coming back to keep an eye on the weeds because it’s an ongoing project to control them, but I hope that it encourages other landholders to clean up their land too.”
Mr Connolly congratulated Mr Griggs on the award and thanked him for his hard work.
“Neale has worked tirelessly to reduce weed impacts on his new property, and despite also running a busy composting business, has always found time to support the Greening Australia teams,” Mr Connolly said.
“Neale has also hosted Greening Australia board and project partners on the property and provided genuine and practical insight to all the deliberations regarding best practice interventions of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
“This success, and the local respect for Neale, is now encouraging the adjacent property owners to engage with Greening Australia and we are expanding our work across their properties to make an even greater impact through restoring wetland habitats.”
Greening Australia is monitoring vegetation on the site to build a model for wetland restoration which can be applied to other sites.
The Reef Aid project is supported by the Australian government, the Ian Potter Foundation and Virgin Australia, and is delivered in partnership with the Reef Trust.