While developing places of learning and sharing, to enable communities to come together for conservation…

Imagine a landscape that is scattered with pockets of special habitats that not only attracts a unique array of native animals but also provides the community with important places of learning, teaching and sharing. Your own personal ‘sit spot’ where you can relax and enjoy the sounds, smells and textures of the Australian bush, observe the changes over the seasons and years and stop to watch first-hand how our special Australian wildlife interacts within their habitats. All the time learning how the land functions so it can be managed carefully for the future.

What is the Issue ?

The Pillar Valley on the NSW north coast is located in a zone where the northern and southern, temperate and subtropical ecosystems overlap – resulting in some of the greatest diversity of flora and fauna in Australia and supporting the highest number of threatened species in NSW. While much of the habitats across the Valley are in good condition, areas of disturbance – from clearing, grazing, logging and excessive burning – have seen the emergence of key threats such as invasive weeds, loss and fragmentation of habitat, intense wildfire, and pest animals such as pigs that damage wetlands and other introduced predators that impact native wildlife.

What is happening ?

With a number of iconic species in decline throughout the Valley – such as the coastal emu, koala and glossy black cockatoo –  Pete Turland, a local landholder, has made it his personal mission to become an important land steward, guardian of the land. Pete has been achieving this by working with landowner by landowner and property by property – making his way across the Valley with the vision to slowly transform the landscape that is his backyard into a rich array of habitats. As more landowners are engaged, this ‘backyard’ has grown to cover hundreds of hectares of land being managed for wildlife.

Pete undertaking planting at Emu Gully – as part of a rewilding strategy for the endangered coastal emu population, where Pete is developing a food and water source corridor to support habitat and allow for safe passage of the emu.

Rewilding the coastal emu is at the core of Pete’s vision – this is because of the important functional role that the emu plays in supporting natural processes such as seed dispersal – a crucial component to revitalising landscape health. Using a set restoration formula that includes a combination of planting, ponding and nest boxing – Pete’s hard efforts are starting to pay off.

With the dream to see all landholders throughout the Pillar Valley playing an active role in putting in the foundations for rewilding through landscape restoration, Pete knows that the best way to achieve this is by helping the landholders to help the natural environment. This is being achieved through Pete providing expert advice on issues such as weed identification, proper management techniques and suitable native species to plant in different.

The importance of these landholders is that, because they own this important land, you can involve them in conservation and they will then become guardians of their property to help develop and support diverse habitat.

Pete’s restoration sites include a combination of native planting, establishing small ponds and setting up nest boxes. Pete has established over 20 sites working across properties throughout the valley and monitoring is being undertaken to assess use of these habitat features by native wildlife.

With so many native animals being impacted from a range of threats throughout the Valley – through weed invasion, loss and fragmentation of habitat, intense wildfires, and introduced pests such as pigs and foxes – Pete understands that only way we can tackle these threats is through providing direct support to landholders with expert advice based on decades of local knowledge.

“We can all give our wildlife a helping hand when landowners work together across the Valley to create food corridors and places that allow animals to have safe passage. I have been working with a number of landholders to build safe places for a range of threatened species found here in the Valley – such as the coastal emu, koala and glossy black cockatoo. This is all part of a long-term rewilding vision for the Valley”

When Pete isn’t actively planting trees or setting up nest boxes himself, he will often be committing his time and energy into teaching and mentoring others. Whether it be one on one mentoring with landowners or workshop sessions with students from the local Grafton TAFE, his message is the same – everyone can play an active role in conservation.

As part of Pete’s teaching approach he uses his work sites as important demonstration sites to show first-hand just how habitat can be created and enhanced and the important role of the ponds to serve as critical water refuge during fires, drought and heat waves. Rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty through active tree planting is also a key part of learning.

Pete working with the Grafton TAFE students at Red Gum Flats – where they are undertaking strategic planting of black she-oaks to create habitat for the threatened glossy black cockatoo.

What are we hoping to achieve?

Through this process, Pete remains hopeful that his proven combination of restoration techniques will catch on so that others will be inspired to develop their own places of learning, teaching and mentoring within their own backyards.

If you would like to get involved and adopt some of Pete’s techniques onto your property you can visit: