On this day 25 years ago, the volunteers of Tathra Land Care came together to hold their first working bee to eradicate the invasive bitou bush.
Their anniversary coincides with the United Nation’s International Volunteer Day, a date that celebrates the efforts of volunteers around the globe.
On Saturday, December 5,1992, twelve people set out to tackle the bitou that had spread across the sand dunes at the northern end of Tathra beach, from the caravan park northwards to the old sand pit opposite the Country Club.
On their first working bee, the volunteers found a lot of mature bitou on the dunes and worked in pairs with a bottle of herbicide, a paint brush and a saw. They toiled away for three hours, but not very successfully, and found they had a steep learning curve to climb.
Their second working bee was held March 6,1993. It was better organised and much more successful. They extended their efforts by scheduling monthly working bees, introducing a spray program for heavy and inaccessible infestations and running a public awareness campaign.
On Saturday mornings throughout winter, the team a borrowed a 300 litre sprayer was used to spray herbicide on heavy, mature infestations rooted on steep cliffs, which proved very successful during the nineties.
From there, on the last Saturday of each month, the volunteers teamed up to cover specifically designated areas. This ensured the whole of Tathra and its surrounds were covered over a two year period. With enthusiasm and dedication, TLC operated from Mogareeka to south of Kianinny and west to Black Fellows Lagoon.
On it’s 25 year anniversary, TLC still has 28 active members who receive newsletters and monthly phone calls. Over the years they have turned their efforts to the control of other problematic plant species, such as polygala, asparagus fern, bridal creeper, coastal spurge and lantana.
What they remove is replaced with suitable species. TLC has undertaken plenty of planting on the sand dunes, using seeds gathered in the summer.
Now the volunteers find very little bitou bush on their working bees. It has been eradicated from the southern end of the beach where it was planted in 1969 and grew into a monoculture.
Nor is there any left on the cliffs and headland. Across the rest of the sand dunes up to the river, TLC only found 21 bitou this year.
On International Volunteer Day, we acknowledge and congratulate the hard work and dedication of the many Tathra people who have worked unrelentingly for the last 25 years against such a persistent intruder.