2020 Outback tour

Instead, it turned about to be yet another triumph of human will. Our host Matt Taylor set out a demanding, uncompromising itinerary. First assignment was the annihilation of acres of thistle and the aptly named Patterson’s Curse. This was to restore native grasses that are starting to flourish in white box woodlands being restored at Bush Heritage’s Tarcutta Hills Reserve. Next stop was Scottsdale, a Reserve Jord first conquered in 2017. To get there, we enjoyed an exhilarating alpine drive across the remote Kosciuszko Highway. Scottsdale saw Jord’s crew divided into two teams to compete in a heavy duty tree guard assembly race. Blisters aplenty gave us tokens to fondly recall for weeks after. Then came tree planting, some 250 or so, along the banks of the bushfire-ravaged Murrumbidgee River. The weekend finished with a white water
canoe challenge. Normally classified as Category 2 (moderate medium), the river was assessed on the day – by a learned Simon Cobden – as Category 5 (very violent).

Hyperbole aside, it was a great adreniline rush to end a mighty fine weekend out with colleagues in the bush, having fun whilst “doing some good” for environmental diversity and sustainability.


Success out the back of Bourke

As a metaphor for a place far from anywhere, “back of Bourke” was coined for a reason. It took an hours flight from Sydney and a four hour drive just to get to Bourke. Then another two hours on mostly dirt
roads to get to the “back” of it. Which was Bush Heritage’s Naree Reserve. Such a trip rewards those determined enough to get there with a rich experience. And so it proved for Jord’s annual Bush Heritage weekend of R&R, team bonding and a chance to “do some good”.

The birdlife at Naree is astonishing. We saw loads of parrots, raptors, martins and swallows. There were pigeons and songbirds too, which we struggled to identify without Bush Heritage staff to help. We only saw a few roos, due to the drought. But plenty of feral goats and pigs. And that was where Jord comes in. We don’t know much botany or zoology at Jord, but we can construct and demolish things OK. So, armed with pliers & posts, drivers & wire strainers, we set about helping Reserve Manager Greg Carroll repair a dilapidated feral goat trap.

Our dozen intrepid travellers toiled hard in the searing heat to erect this feral goat trap. Their efforts were not in vain. The below image features an ecstatic Reserve Manager Greg Carroll, herding goats onto a truck with a few mates. They’re being rounded up 30 at a time, irrefutable proof that Jord’s bullet-proof trap works a treat!

Jord’s visit was at the back end of the worst drought in living memory. Since then, both rains and floodwaters have restored this parched earth. So its never been more important to keep the ferals off, to allow native bush regeneration to flourish.


Nurturing the Night Parrot

An arid patch of ground some 1,500 km north-west of Brisbane hit global headlines in 2013, with the exciting re-discovery of the Night Parrot, a nocturnal ground dwelling parrot previously thought extinct. The previous living specimen was identified back in 1912.
The Night Parrot has since been placed on the list of 20 priority bird species, as part of the Federal Government’s Threatened Species Strategy. In 2016, Bush Heritage jumped at the chance to help nurture the species survival, acquiring the property where the discovery was made and establishing the Pullen Pullen Reserve. Traditional owners of this 56,000 ha land are the Maiawali people.
In 2020, Jord in turn is delighted to participate, with agreement to contribute $150,000 and associated pro-bono hours from interested staff, towards the establishment of an Arid Zone Conservation Base on the property. This facility will provide accommodation and storage infrastructure to facilitate land management and research activities on the reserve.
Included in this scope is the supply and installation of a 14.5kW solar RAP station.


Back of Bourke

As a metaphor for a place far from anywhere, “back of Bourke” was coined for a reason. It took an hours flight and a four hour drive just to get to Bourke. Then another two hours on mostly dirt roads to get to the “back” of it. Which was Bush Heritage’s Naree Reserve.

Such a trip rewards those with determination to get there with a rich experience. And so it proved for Jord’s annual Bush Heritage weekend of R&R, team bonding and a chance to “do some good”.

This part of the country is hard to get your head around, even for us Aussies. It’s tough and unforgiving. The ruins of local town Yantabulla, whose last resident left in 2000, shows that a modern lifestyle is not possible. But the archaeological evidence shows this land supported humanity for thousands of years. And the birdlife is astonishing. We saw loads of parrots, raptors, martins and swallows. There were pigeons and songbirds too, which we struggled to identify without Bush Heritage staff to help.

We only saw a few roos, due to the drought. But plenty of feral goats and pigs. And this is where Jord comes in. We don’t have much botany or zoology knowledge at Jord, but we can construct and demolish things OK. So, armed with pliers & posts, drivers & wire strainers, we set about helping Reserve Manager Greg Carroll repair a feral goat trap. We now defy any goat to escape our fully refurbished, maximum security, goat pen.

Once done, we cooled off alongside & in a waterhole that made the Yangtze look like a crystal clear mountain brook. Then, after a good country square meal, we adjourned to the campfire to tell tall stories over a few beverages. And to play a strange card game our Dutch colleagues brought with them. It appeared to have no rules…


Searching for Planigals

This fourth instalment of Jord’s annual Bush Heritage weekend involved 19 of us flying to its 60,000 hectare Carnarvon Reserve in central Queensland. Nestled in behind the renowned Carvarvon National Park, a four hour drive southwest of Emerald, the property was purchased by Bush Heritage back in 2001. At that time it was in a seriously dilapidated state. The absence of livestock over the past 18 years has allowed the native blue grass to rebound in abundance.

Jord’s task over the weekend was hard yakka. We muscled our way through sheets of granite, using just crowbars and sweat, to instal traps that allow scientists to monitor the presence of mammals and reptiles. In particular, we were seeking Planigals, the smallest but by most accounts the fiercest of Australia’s marsupials.

Hydraulic backhoe’s are usually engaged to do this work. However, Jord’s reputation for hard work on past weekends was our undoing. The Reserve Manager selected a particularly remote location, where vehicle access was impossible. One of the toughest holes was dug by Chris, Sarah, Adi, Simon, Luke and Hammad. You can see the smashed granite, extracted so unwillingly by mother earth, piled up trophy-like before them.


Staff Working Bee, Scottsdale Reserve, NSW

The third Jord Foundation (JET) roadshow was closer to home, just a 4 hour drive southwest of Sydney, to Scottsdale, a 1,300 hectare Bush Heritage property nestled on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River.

Our assignment this weekend was to plant a couple of hundred snow gum and acacia trees, to rehabilitate land that had been emaciated by the dreaded Lovegrass. Never has a weed been more inappropriately named. Introduced from Africa to stabilise eroding watercourse banks from land that had been overgrazed, it soon took over the entire property, at the exclusion of all else. Worse still, no animal, neither wild nor domestic, will eat it. A second task was to remove a few hundred metres of firmly entrenched rabbit proof fencing,. Much blood, sweat and tears went into this task, sated only by the prodigious consumption of food and beverages that evening.

Short but spectacular storms throughout this work did not damp our spirits, slow our work, nor quench the evenings bonfire. But those storms did excite the photography enthusiasts amongst us. Thanks to our host Phil Palmer and his delightful family, our Tour Guide Matt Taylor for his wit and patience in sheparding us around, and to our JET spiritual leader Simon Cobden for his effort in coordinating the various projects we have on with Bush Heritage at the moment


Habitat restoration in remote South Australia

Boolcoomatta is an ex-sheep station, established way back in 1840. Explorer Douglas Mawson undertook a number of studies there, before his more famous adventures in Antartica in the early 1900s. In its heyday, this massive 600 square kilometre station used to shear 100,000 sheep a year. Whilst it brought great prosperity to the region for many years, farming this fragile environment eventually took its toll, and the property’s commercially viability diminished.

Bush Heritage Australia purchased Boolcoomatta in 2006 and is painstakingly restoring the land to its original condition. Gone are the sheep, the goats, the pigs and many of the feral cats. Native fauna and flora is beginning to regenerate.

Water security is a major concern on this station, located some two hours four wheel drive west of Broken Hill. In 2014, Jord provided funding and engineering services to help overcome this challenge. The project involved the design and supply of various solar-powered pumps, rainwater tanks and piping to provide a combination of rain and bore water storage and supply facilities.

In October 2015, a dozen Jord staff enjoyed a long weekend on the property, engaging in some bush regeneration activities and experiencing first hand just how bountiful yet fragile Australia’s outback is.


Clean Energy Cravens Peak Wilderness Queensland, Australia

Cravens Peak was singled out by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the top nature reserves in Australia. Located some 500 km south of Mt Isa, Bush Heritage Australia purchased this 2,300 km2 property on the northern edge of the Simpson Desert in 2005. Its red sandy dune fields, semi-permanent waterholes, Coolabah woodlands, and gibber plains boasts one of the richest reptile assemblages on earth.

While marginal and unpredictable for agricultural production, the relatively moist and fertile dune swales and temporary waterbodies are an important oasis, providing refuge to many desert animals that retreat in the dry times from the desert proper. A large number of regional and international migrant waterbirds follow seasonal rains to make the most of sudden bursts of productivity.

In 2015, Jord’s JET trust funded the installation of a 10 kW solar powered energy system to provide the necessary power that allows Bush Heritage residents and visiting scientists to conduct station management and research projects in relative comfort.


Clean Water Bon Bon Reserve, South Australia

It’s hard to get your head around the scale of Bon Bon Station Reserve, an old sheep station south of Coober Pedy in South Australia. The reserve sits between the Great Victoria Desert and the large saltpan lakes of Eyre, Torrens and Gairdner, which are so big you can see them from space. At around 70 kilometres long and 30 across, it is the size of Sydney.

At its heart is Lake Puckridge, which fills up with water around once a decade and can run to seven metres deep. The lake’s wetlands system attracts large numbers of waders and waterbirds, including black-winged stilts, red-necked avocets and grey teals.

In 2014, JET funded a project to upgrade the water treatment and storage capability of the staff quarters. The project included the cleaning and bacterial decontamination of an old bore system, 1.5km of piping, water storage tanks and installation of telemetry equipment for automated pump operation.