Aug 2, 2023 | Grant Stories, News

Grafton, NSW (Gumbainggir Country)

Claire Purvis describes her time on Elizabeth Island, a river island at Grafton in New South Wales, as a big adventure in a different world. It was a world that was almost lost and overgrown until Claire and her team of volunteers began freeing the remnant rainforest from invasive vines that were choking the trees. With support from Highways and Byways, members of the Susan and Elizabeth Recreation Land Manager have cleared tracks and established new ones allowing access to parts of the island which are most in need of weeding.

The group of keen nature lovers regularly goes by tinnie to the island in the Clarence River, armed with equipment, to continue the hard work of regenerating the Crown land. “It’s so close to Grafton but it feels far away. Even the bird calls are different. Today, while working, we heard a Spangled Drongo and rainforest pigeons,” Claire said.

The island was popular with picnickers in the 1920s as well as cattle grazers who swam their cattle to the island until the 1990s, causing decades of destruction to native vegetation. Regular flooding also brought unwelcome seeds, particularly Balloon Vine, which has grown up to the sunlight and almost choked much of the remnant rainforest.

The financial support allowed the group to have a contractor forming and clearing paths by brushcutter regularly over 12 months. Before then the volunteers came away with ticks and a heightened fear of snakes as they worked in knee-high grasses. The paths are now tame enough to be maintained by volunteers. “We have a core group of about eight volunteers and they range in age from 30s to 80s. The 80 year-old is the volunteer who takes us out in his tinnie. We can get up to 14 people and we all share a love of nature,” Claire said.

“We are currently working to regenerate a new area which we have mapped and identified what needs to be done. The area has some lovely rainforest remnants with Red and Black Bean trees, but there’s also a wilderness of weeds, Lantana and Mulberries.”

“We love going out there and we hate leaving. We know what this area could look like because there are patches of fine rainforest and we hope that one day it will all look like that.”

IMAGE: Volunteers Nick and Anne Reeve on newly cleared tracks at Elizabeth Island.


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