Our priorities & our challenges

Thursday 16 June, 2016

What needs to be done?

On a property of this size, challenges abound. But with your help, Bush Heritage’s team of land managers and ecologists will work together with our neighbours, partners and volunteers to revitalise the landscape, and bring it to international renown.

On the ground

Photo by Cineport Media
Photo by Cineport Media
The Hamelin team will be tackling urgent priorities to help ease pressure on the degraded landscape so regeneration can begin.

“Hamelin Station Reserve was, until Bush Heritage purchased the property, a pastoral station,” says Reserves Ecologist Ben Parkhurst. “So there are water points, like windmill-powered wells, all over the place. As well as watering the stock, however, these also attract feral herbivores, particularly goats, that graze the vegetation, which is now badly degraded in places. Closing those water points down is a priority.”

“By purchasing Hamelin,” says Ben, “we can protect and regenerate a significant part of the natural landscape. That will be our focus initially.”

Lake beside the Hamelin Station homestead. Photo by Greg Suosaari.
Lake beside the Hamelin Station homestead. Photo by Greg Suosaari.
Healthy Landscape Manager Greg Suosaari agrees, and has already begun the process, with help from neighbouring properties, to install around 20km of fencing extending inland from the coastline. “Boundary fencing will help to stop wandering stock coming in and expedite the recovery process for the land. Although, once we remove goats we could potentially see a flush of plant growth, many of which may be weeds, so we’ll also put a robust weed management program in place.”

Some of the most pressing priorities are also the most basic; upgrading essential infrastructure so Bush Heritage can run a sustainable, efficient and professional operation for the team of specialists delivering important conservation work across the property. This means upgrading the power and water systems, developing power, water and fuel management systems.

Building knowledge

The Greater Bilby was once on Hamelin. In future perhaps it can be returned. Photo by Jiri Lochman.
The Greater Bilby was once on Hamelin. In future perhaps it can be returned. Photo by Jiri Lochman.
Hamelin’s long history as a pastoral station means that current knowledge of its biodiversity is limited. Ecologist Vanessa Westcott aims to fill the knowledge gaps with extensive research that will inform long-term conservation plans to protect and restore the property’s native flora and fauna.

“As the ecologists for Hamelin, our job is to bring together all the existing information about the property – what’s available in terms of fire history, vegetation mapping, pest plants and animals, threatened species locations, and soil erosion,” she says. “Based on what we’ve learned so far, we’ve identified some key conservation targets that will be the focus of our attention in the immediate future.”

“We are still gathering information and planning, and later in the year we will continue our surveys to better understand the flora and fauna we have and complete some animal tracking.”

Into the future

Dr Erica Suosaari leads Applied Geology students from Curtin University on a field trip to study the stromatolites.
Dr Erica Suosaari leads Applied Geology students from Curtin University on a field trip to study the stromatolites.
It will be Executive Manager Luke Bayley’s job to look further ahead, planning for Hamelin’s future and the steps needed to reach its potential as a research, education, engagement and tourism hub of international significance.

His immediate priority over the next six to 12 months will be to work with Dr Erica Suosaari to develop a masterplan outlining the strategies and partnerships required to transform the property into an internationally recognised centre of excellence, celebrating science, culture and nature conservation.

Another priority that Luke is particularly passionate about is working with the local community, particularly one of Hamelin’s Traditional Owner groups, the Malgana people.

“We’ve received written endorsement from the Malgana people about our plans for the future – which in itself is unique,” he says. “We’ll be working closely with the Traditional Owners as we develop plans that will help us understand and manage the land and develop ways in which we can work together to deliver conservation and associated business opportunities.”

“We’ll also be working with the wider community too: that means the local Shire of Shark Bay, state government, businesses and neighbouring pastoral stations. We will show them that our work at Hamelin will add value to the region and complement their own efforts to build business viability and increase visitation to this amazing part of the world.”

Priority actions

  • Use aerial imagery and ground surveys to determine the extent of the EPBC-listed sub-tropical and temperate coastal saltmarsh community.
  • Develop a fire management plan.
  • Establish flora survey and monitoring plots, in conjunction with the WA Wildflower Society.
  • Conduct bird monitoring in key areas.
  • Conduct monitoring of the Hamelin Skink in key areas, so that we can measure the effectiveness of our work.
  • Continue Western Grasswren surveys to determine a more accurate status of Hamelin’s populations.
  • Undertake heritage surveys to protect Aboriginal and European values on the property.
  • Conduct small vertebrate surveys (pitfall trapping, camera traps, funnel traps etc.) to determine the diversity and abundance of small mammals and reptiles.
  • Conduct sand-pad monitoring to determine the distribution and activity of feral predators on the property.
  • Begin weed management and soil erosion work.
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