Barren ground and eroded riverbanks are being restored throughout Southern Queensland by foresters like Ballandean resident Brett Tunstall.
Forestry became the first industry in Australia,” says Brett Tunstall. “A lot of people used to work in forestry, and it plays an undervalued role in our history. I just love working in the bush and using my knowledge to better the landscape, knowing that it has restored some of the natural processes. It’s a good head-stretching challenge.”
Tunstall was hired by the Condamine River Catchment’s Enrich Program to help expand biodiversity planting in the area.
“The government gave them money to plant 30,000 trees within five years,” he said. “We’re in the last 12 months of the five-year program.”
Planners analysed what areas in the region were in greatest need of plantings to protect creeks and rivers, improve wildlife corridors and enhance general biodiversity, then divided them up among contractors for design and planting.
Tunstall is the Southern Planting Contractor and is currently assembling the species lists for his last few projects. “I have to have a mix of trees, shrubs and ground covers so that each vegetation type is represented fairly in what then becomes the biodiversity,” he said. “I work on a general mix of five trees, five shrubs and three ground covers so that on any one site I am planting at least 13 different species.”
He has planted a recently completed project about four kilometres upstream of Queen Mary Falls. “We re-established rainforest up there,” Tunstall said. “On three different properties we’ve had 28 different species including red cedars, hoop pine, native ginger, flax lilies, tallowwoods and silky oaks.”
He makes his own organic compost using coffee grounds donated by Zarraffa’s Coffee in Toowoomba. It gives the soil a rich base for all the new plantings and helps them thrive. The rainforest plantings are supplied by Burringbar Rainforest Nursery, while Mole River Station Nursery provides the plants needed for rangeland properties.
While Tunstall does much of the work by himself, he is occasionally assisted by local school children like the classes who arrived from St Joseph’s School Stanthorpe to learn about forestry and help with the plantings on the Queen Mary Falls project.
“I do educational days and tell bad jokes and shout morning tea and they throw a whole heap of plants in the ground for me,” Tunstall said with a laugh. “I do a bit of a spiel on forestry and different elements of forestry, and what a forester does. I talk to them about compost and what that does to the soil, about sustainable land management and different practices that I use. Then I go through the planting process then try to teach them a bit about the trees and plants that we’re doing.”
The students even helped with the design process and learned a few Latin names for the trees and shrubs they planted. “I just try to stretch their heads a little bit,” Tunstall said.
Words Krista Bjorn | Images by Cory Rossiter