Land Regeneration In Action

10 years ago, my (Hannah’s) dad, Justin Moloney, moved onto 40 acres of degraded land which consisted mostly of serious patches of lantana, tree pear, empty paddocks and some clusters of hardy gums – we were a bit underwhelmed with it all. Tucked away just outside Toowoomba in S.E Queensland, this area has an annual rainfall of 839mm (more than Hobart), but has hot summers with high evaporation so it isn’t known for it’s lush green paddocks. Nearby, some of our countries finest agricultural soils reside (Lockyer Valley), but not in dad’s patch.

As we’ve visited over the years, he’s put us to work, digging holes (so many holes) and planting trees. I still associate his home with the feeling of being uncomfortably hot, sweaty and buggered. For a long time it seemed like the baby trees just didn’t move, but then they did and now his land is alive. These days when we visit, we take lazy walks around his place, looking *up* at the trees he’s planted and cared for over the years. He’s proof that it is possible to regenerate clapped out, degraded land and bring it back to being a vibrant ecosystem. Here are some before and current photos to give us all some hope.

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Dad’s long and curvy driveway is now flanked by green trees, shrubs and assorted native grasses.

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IMG_3801Barbwire grass, a local native returning in force

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Standing in one of the once empty paddocks looking back at his house, before (above) and now.

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For a long time his landscape was dotted with hundreds of plastic tree guards (above), the same view today can be seen, and enjoyed below.

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Apparently some visitors have lamented the fact that the trees now block out the distant hills (above) so there’s not so much view.  We’re both ok with that and think the new view (below) is much more satisfying.

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As trees are now coming into their own, they’re having babies left, right and centre. The next generations are coming on all by themselves – yesssss.

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And the birds, so many birds. If I was a better photographer I would have been able to capture some on film. But I’m a remarkably average one… So here’s one of their nests instead, tucked away in a darn prickly acacia shrub – perfect for habitat.

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And my favourite transformation has been the dam, which was sometimes full but most of the time not in the early years. Today it is steadily full despite the region not having recent rains. Dad has rehydrated his landscape, one of the better things any person can do with their life. His ridge lines are full of trees again, his slopes stable and his dam is now referred to as ‘the lake’ with a million and one water birds and wildlife loving this space.

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Lantana has been (and continues to be) a big part of dad’s work. He loves it for its soil building qualities and the fact that it’s awesome habitat for little birds (birds are one of his favourite things). But, left alone,  it’ll pretty much swallow up the whole world (slight exaggeration, I know). We need diversity for a healthy ecosystem and so he’s slowly but surely removing and replacing large lantana mountains. To do so, he uses a combination of chainsaw and some strategic use of round up – doing the ‘cut and paste’ method.

IMG_3808A lantana stump

He’ll then leave the whole bush on the ground and let it slowly breakdown into the soil – returning to the earth. I know it’s not ‘pure’ to use round up, but I do see the rational in its strategic use when working with large parcels of land with no animals or other people to help.

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And then there’s his house garden. When he arrived – it looked like this (excuse the crappy photo of a photo)….

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These days it’s a mixture of colour, natives, flowers and art…

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The front fence of his house garden is hedged with silver salt bush which is flourishing on the inside of the fence line and religiously grazed by local wallabies on the outside.

His once trashed farm land is now on its way to being a stable, healthy ecosystem, full of life and love. Way to go dad.

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8 Responses to “Land Regeneration In Action”

  1. samuel

    i loved this story.

    Thankyou mr moloney… and hannah and anton and frida

    Reply
  2. Caitlin

    Yup I feel super proud too, what a legacy he has created for us to all learn from. I love going there now!!! Lovely write up Bun x

    Reply
  3. Lorraine

    We need more legends like your Dad. What a wonderful legacy.

    Reply
  4. Joel

    Hey Hannah, thanks so much for sharing this inspirational story. We’re now three years into our own land restoration project, and so know well the apparently slow start that regeneration can have. Although, in that context, you definitely notice even the most subtle of changes – after a year or so, native grasses began to return in greater force, followed by forbs, after 2 and a bit years, we’ve started to see fungi returning as well. And now, some of our oldest trees are reaching our shoulders. So exciting. Anyway, stories like this are such a great encouragement and a reminder that while sometimes slow, when it takes hold, regeneration has its own momentum. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Go Joel!!! And yes, all those small changes are super significant aren’t they. Sounds like you’re well and truly rocking it, would love to pop in and see what you’re up to one day. All the best xx

      Reply
  5. Nick Towle

    Awesome! thanks for sharing this Hannah.
    A great reminder to get before and after photos of any regeneration work to demonstrate the transformations taking place. The real stand out for me is the recharge of ‘the lake’. Many local landowners in our region swear that revegetation will ‘suck the rivers dry’, which may be true for massive monoculture Eucalyptus nitens, though not the case for thoughtful, well planned revegetation efforts. Much educating to do and these demonstrated transformations are so valuable.

    I’ve contributed to some reveg efforts in the northwest and always look forward to doing more.

    Thank you Justin, for a fantastic legacy.

    Reply

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