Wetlands should, by all rights, be wet – every now and then. In fact, it’s been a few years since some of our smaller trees have properly had their feet wet.
Recently, I had the joy of seeing Naree with NSW ecologist Dr Vanessa Westcott.
We were there after the flood waters from Queensland flowed down through the Cuttaburra Creek (dry flood) and the fall of decent rain (70mm).
This combination filled both the water holes along the inundation channels and the rain dependent claypans across the property.
It’s easy to understand why visiting in the wet is such a joy. Water is life, and we two-legs are just as dependent on the flow of clean water as any other living thing. The wet brings a thrill with the beauty of green blankets of grass, lush patches of warrigal greens, flowering lignum in the swamps, blooming annuals of great diversity and of course the reflected glory of Coolibahs standing together as their roots reach down into the Great Artesian Basin and their branches reach up to the sky.
Their roots need to stretch a little further than they did when Budjiti Elder, Mr Phil Eulo who is the Traditional Owner of Naree, remembers water bubbling up regularly when he was younger, feeding the springs and the plant life that nourished body and soul in the region.
There is no doubt we have lost diversity through the basin with the less frequent environmental flows and the dropping of the Basin.
For seven years, our Reserve Managers, David and Sue Akers and now Greg Carroll work hard in the dry and the wet to make sure that, when the waters come, the land is healthy and ready to spring back.
Keeping feral herbivores including goats and pigs and occasional stray livestock as low as possible is a key job of the Reserve Managers, along with keeping invasive weeds from taking hold and spreading further. Much of the hard work of all who care for Naree happens in the dry, under the baking sun, but often the impact is invisible.
Like learning a new language, you never know how well you’ve done, until you are thrown in the deep end. We are in the deep end now, and the results are in – the seed stock is safe in the soils, our native species are holding their own in competition with the invasive weeds that threaten to take their place, the shield shrimp and frogs have filled up the water holes and water birds have a place to breed when they make their way from across Australia.
Mr Phil Eulo enjoys the dry as well as the wet – it’s all part of the cycle and both are beautiful. Mr Eulo often visits Naree with his family, maintaining his connection and helping us understand the land.
While I missed him on this last visit, I did catch up with him in Sydney shortly after. He is a lively man, full of energy and a ready laugh. But his voice softens and the glint in his eye takes on a warmth when he talks about Naree, helping me to see Naree through his eyes – the deep red soils of the dry and the lush green of the wet – both full of life, both talking to us about a depth of history and culture.