Vegetation in Education for Education in Vegetation and a Botanical Plan
Our leaders tell us, and who wouldn’t agree, the most important investment for our future is schools and education. Large amounts of money are regularly invested in schools to bring innovation and improvements to our education system. So how is it we have overlooked the possibility of the school grounds becoming a tool to teach the locals about the local ecologies?
About 50 years ago the Queensland government, with advice and plants from the Forestry, filled school grounds with mostly eucalyptus in rows 3 – 4m apart, which have grown to a dangerous size and are costly to remove. Add the usual ornamentals and you have the non-educational, visionless school landscaping of the South and North Burnett, where the only lesson that should be learned is that eucalypts are totally unsuitable for our urban landscapes. Over the last 50 years landscaping in the towns of the North &South Burnett have been identical to the school grounds, rows of eucalypts 3 – 4m apart and the usual ornamentals result in the same un educational, visionless environment. Generations of residents in these areas have grown up within a cycle of ignorance that has evolved to the point where the Director of Natural Resources and Landscaping S.B.R.C. has told me the only purpose of town landscaping is to plant “pretty things”. This view is supported by Councillors who have such little regard for our regions unique ecologies and plants, they employ unqualified people to spend public money on public landscaping, most of which will fail and need replacing.
The same councillors employ the same unqualified people to plan and administer the 1.4 million dollar biodiversity grant, which is creating a “biodiversity legacy for the South Burnett Region”. The “Biodiversity Legacy” consists of rows of mostly eucalyptus spaced 3 – 4m apart, demonstrating no understanding of the word biodiversity or the regions diverse plant life. The council is also planting eucalypts 3 – 4m apart in a long row along the Rail Trail.
This is the visionless cycle of ignorance which began 50 years ago. This is a community where most landholders can’t identify most of the plants on their own properties, particularly in scrub country. Firemen and landholders are burning the bush without knowing what they are burning. Council workers and others are spraying, chopping & clearing native plants without knowing what they are. Because global warming ensures a drying environment with increased flammability, rural Councils should stop planting dangerous eucalypts in and around our towns. When you see on the television trees smashing homes, property and cars it’s always eucalypts or when you see streets of burnt houses, these suburbs always contain Eucalypts. It’s time to replace the drying, breaking and burning environment currently in our urban areas with green, leafy, moisture creating rainforest plants from our fireless forests. The State Governments own landscaping in these towns’ shows this example.
The basis of a Botanical Plan is the recognition that urban areas are no longer grazing paddocks and as such urban landscaping requires a new botanical garden approach, which would not include any exotics.
The Botanical Plan is:
To utilise local knowledge and existing resources to identify as many of the local catchments plants as possible.
To classify and group these plants according to size, shape, habit and suitability for a school or an urban landscape.
To use as many of these plants as possible in the school and urban landscape.
To display the beauty of our local plants in an interesting and educational manner for locals and visitors.
To create a living seed bank of the regions rarer plants.
To design an urban landscape that offers protection from the elements, the hot and cold dry winds and fire.
To end the cycle of ignorance and to make sure it never comes back, by giving developed Botanical Plans sufficient recognition, authority and longevity.
Public landscaping should be beautiful, interesting, informative and inspirational, reflecting the features of our local vegetation. As locals, travellers and tourists move from district to district they should see reflected in the public landscaping the varying features of the local vegetation, potentially turning the ‘Inland Way’ into the ‘Botanical Way’. As new residents arrive they should be informed and inspired by the public landscaping.
Then there is the cost of the ‘Cycle of Ignorance’, using the South Burnett Regional Council as a case study.
The environment levy is spent entirely on poisons, [Round Up and 1080]. The resources used in continually planting and replanting ‘pretty things’ need to be redirected to upgrading the urban landscapes instead of borrowing.
Borrowed Money; The landscaping done in Nanango and Wondai with this money is of such a poor standard most of it will need replacing as these inappropriate plants die or become even more unacceptable to the Ratepayers and the public than they are today.
The $1.4m Biodiversity Grant; An audit of this project will find no trace of a “Biodiversity Legacy” as proposed by this project, only inappropriate trees planted in inappropriate places, and indiscriminate burning of Council’s reserves. There was no genuine community involvement in this project. This project is a lost opportunity for the community and the environment.
The Rail Trail from a vegetation point of view; why would Council plant dangerous eucalypts 3 metres apart along the Rail Trail? Who will be liable when people and property are damaged, or killed by falling trees and branches or injured on a public way, by falling over roots, sticks and bark? Who will be paying for this daily cleanup or for the control of weeds, including the extremely flammable northern grasses like the grader grass and Johnson grass, between Wondai and Tingoora? This new grasses combined with closely planted eucalyptus could be dangerous to life when on fire in the hot dry months. Who would be liable for such death or injury?
This is the cost of the visionless ‘cycle of ignorance’ as well as causing the cost of lost opportunities. The borrowed money used for landscaping that will need replacing, would not have been needed if the resources available to Council had been utilised towards a different vision of creating a genuine “biodiversity legacy” for the region, instead of the wasteful and dangerous landscaping being undertaken. The public and the environment deserve better, and all it takes is see public landscaping in schools and our towns as an opportunity to create a botanical gardens like environment in which to live safer, more comfortable, interesting and enlightened lives particularly regarding our regions varying ecologies.
Finally I would ask the reader to share my frustration watching all of this unfold, after being told by the S.B.R.C.’s Director of Natural Resources 2 years earlier, that he wouldn’t be consulting with or involving any locals regarding the $1.4m Biodiversity Project because “if you have a committee design a horse you will end up with a camel”. At the time I thought, “He doesn’t know how to design a horse”. This statement and the activities of this Department over the last couple of years have caused this report to be written, which describes, at best, negligent wasting of public money and opportunity for the community and the environment. This combined with a publicly stated view that burning creates biodiversity, confirms the managers in this Department represent a hazard to our environment, particularly our fireless ecologies throughout this region.
A community built and owned Botanical Plan is a guide for educational landscaping in our public space including school grounds. Instead of children [and adults] going home and knowing very few of the plants growing on their properties, they will start to notice the unusual and develop a better understanding of the ecologies of within which they live. With knowledge and understanding comes new possibilities and opportunities like the Rainforest, Cabinet timbers, Bush foods and Chooks, project.
In an area where local extinctions are happening now, the story of a primitive plant called Gingko, or Maiden Hair Tree, which grew all over the world and was thought to be extinct until discovered growing in Chinese monasteries, may be repeated in this area as the regions rarer ecologies are continually being degraded, the public landscape may offer some plants their only hope of survival.