'Back o’ Bourke' as a metaphor for a place very far from anywhere was coined for a reason. It took an hour long flight and a four-hour drive just to get to Bourke, and then another two hours on mostly dirt roads to get to the 'back' of it – Naree Reserve. But although Naree is literally 'back o’ Bourke', it rewards those with the determination to get there with a rich experience.
One of our Corporate Partners, engineering company Jord, has just returned from its annual retreat to a Bush Heritage reserve to “do some good”, have some rest and relaxation and strengthen team bonding. One of Jord’s many idiosyncrasies is we have a lot of overseas offices and so on this trip we had a chance to show off our country to Chris, from Singapore, and Bart and Thomas, from Rotterdam. They were certainly not disappointed.
The country is hard to understand, even for us Aussies. It looks tough and unforgiving but the archaeological evidence shows it once supported a fair sized population of the original landowners. For the most part it looks like heartbreak country for the early settlers. The ruins of the local town of Yantabulla is all that remains of a village of maybe 50 residents whose last resident left in 2000.
And yet Naree has wonderful birdlife. It has loads of parrots. We saw Corellas, Galahs, Budgerigars, Bourke’s Parrots, Mulga Parrots and Pink Cockatoos. There were raptors such as kites and Wedge-tailed Eagles. There were martins and swallows. There were pigeons and songbirds too, but I would be struggling to identify them without the Bush Heritage staff to help.
There were a few kangaroos but the other big animals were feral goats and feral pigs and that’s where Jord comes in. We may not have any ecological, botanical or zoological knowledge to offer but we do have some skills when it comes to making things or demolishing things. (Ok, demolishing things doesn’t require a lot of skill but who doesn’t enjoy a bit of a demo?)
Making things does require a modicum of skill and engineering thought. So armed with pliers, star picket fence posts plus drivers and a wire strainer we set about helping our esteemed guide and Naree Reserve Manager Greg Carroll to repair some holes in a fence that will, at some stage in the future, surround feral goats. We defy any goat to escape from our fully refurbished maximum security goat pen!
Once that was done we had a dip in a waterhole that made the Yarra look like a crystal clear mountain brooke.
Then, after a good square meal, we adjourned to the campfire to tell tall stories, have a few beverages and play a strange card game with our Dutch colleagues, which didn’t seem to have any rules.
An 'ephemeral wetland' is how Greg described Naree Reserve. “Ephemeral”. A very good word. It means it lasts for a very short time. Let’s hope that description only applies in the short term, in between flooding events, and not in the long term for the whole of our inland water systems.
We would like to think it will be there in a hundred years’ time for our great grandchildren but it will need a lot more work and effort, not only by Bush Heritage, to hold onto and restore this unique landscape.