Far Western NSW
Sarah Mashford looks out the window of her home today and sees small, green, native frangipanis, an olive bush hedge and rows of bottle brush. For a while during the crippling drought in NSW, Sarah saw nothing but red dirt and the remnants of trees that had once been windbreaks.
The Mashford cattle and sheep property, Katalpa, is one of 21 properties in the landcare group based around the Koonenberry Ranges in far northwestern NSW, to benefit from the ‘Outback Oasis’ project supported by Highways and Byways. The 21 properties were provided with plants and supported to re-establish shade, shelter and habitat around their homesteads.
The drought had a terrible affect on families and Sarah, who is secretary of the landcare group, said domestic gardens and windbreaks were the last thing some families could consider saving during such a difficult time.
“One woman near me had to travel more than 300km to Broken Hill to do her washing. Many families had to pay to have clean water trucked in for drinking and bathed in water that was pretty dirty,” Sarah said. “So there was no way to save our homestead trees and when the terrible red dust storms came we were hit by that too. It was really very hard on peoples’ emotional well being.”
Now the rain has come and it’s a good year for pastoralists and farmers in the area. It also provided a great opportunity for replanting. Most properties had traditionally grown eucalypts and Sarah said many were now trying new varieties around their homes to encourage birds and provide shelter from the winds.
The ‘Outback Oasis’ project meant 1,000 seedlings, including saltbush, thorny saltbush and pop saltbush, box trees, lemon scented gum, kurrajong, bottle brush and coral gums, were distributed amongst the 21 properties and people are keenly watching their new plants grow and exchanging information about what species grows best in what area.
“Many of these families have been on these properties for generations and the trees they lost were very old. But planting new trees is a sign of hope. We may not be around to sit under the shade of these trees, but generations to come will and that is a very satisfying thought,” Sarah said.
Image (main and bottom insert): New plantings around homesteads in outback NSW.
Image: (middle insert): Members of Koonenberry Natural Resources Management with seedlings.