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Flaxton couple’s inspirational property transformation journey

“No, this property is not for you. It’s too large, too rugged, too steep, no access and too expensive. It’s an environmental block.”

That was what the real estate agent told Ian Webster and Dianne Lanskey when they first laid eyes on their property.

Undeterred the couple bought it and for the last 19 years have been painstakingly restoring their 12.9ha property at Flaxton on the Blackall Range, Sunshine Coast, which has become one of the jewels in the crown of the Sunshine Coast Land for Wildlife (LfW) program.

“One of the reasons we decided to buy our Flaxton property was its ruggedness, diversity of landscape and geological attributes – from steep hills and gullies to rhyolytic areas with a dramatic creek gorge containing remnant rainforest. Obviously, the location was too difficult for early loggers to attack,” Ms Lanskey said.

“What kept us going when times were tough was discovering new hidden gems. These became our newest favourite area – different vegetation, remnant large trees and rocky gorges.

“One thing that we soon realised in our journey was the heavy lifting that vegetation does in the sustainability of the environment. 

“Too often the emphasis is on the animals without the accompanying story of the forest and vegetation that sustains them.”

After purchasing the block they joined LfW in 2003 and became a Voluntary Conservation Agreement property in 2014.

“Like many ‘newbies’ we didn’t really know what we had or how and where to start the restoration of our property,” Ms Lanskey said.

“Enter LfW, the Sunshine Coast Council and their wonderful and knowledgeable conservation officers and as we were weekenders to our property from 2002 to 2011 we needed all the help we could get. 

Ian and Di’s hard work has paid off over the past 19 years, with support from Sunshine Coast Council.

“Over time our conservation officers have kept us on the straight and narrow, steered us away from our more outlandish projects and encouraged us to take advantage of Landholder Environment Grants (LEG).

“Perhaps the best advice was to establish a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) over 90 per cent of our property. 

“Our lives changed after we received the VCA especially in terms of physical assistance to restore the property.”

Regrowth and remnant Lowland Subtropical Rainforest now occupies what was once weed infested and degraded paddocks.

This was no easy feat, Ian and Di have planted over 31,000 seedlings, not to mention have spent countless hours eradicating Lantana, Privet, Camphor Laurels Bana Grass, Yellowberry, Japanese Sunflower, Glycine and other environmental weeds.

Not only do they spend many hours each week rehabilitating their own block but they also help neighbours with their weeding and planting endeavours as well as volunteering at Barung Landcare Nursery.

They have also hosted numerous LfW workshops on their property, not to mention politicians have also enjoyed private tours.  

“The great advantage in being involved with LfW is the sense of community.

“You become part of a community that shares the same values – repairing past environmental mistakes and at the same time ensuring a continued and increasing diversity of flora and fauna.”

Ian and Di have an infectious enthusiasm for bush regeneration and are strong advocates of the LfW program.

“Community also means revealing to the wider population what has been lost, what can be achieved and the transformation that can take place. 

“Through such means others in the community are encouraged to become members of the Land for Wildlife community – a win-win scenario.

“Although at first you think you know it all and have all the answers you soon realise you don’t – that is where being part of LfW is essential. 

“Property visits, advice and encouragement from Council Conservation Partnerships Officers and the realisation that one size does not fit all, contribute to picking you up when it all seems too much.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though, Ian and Di have faced many setbacks – from tractor rollovers to landslips; a leech in the eyeball to Brush Turkeys raiding their seedlings – but they never give up. Their resilience is inspiring.

Ian and Di love nothing more that discovering a rare or threatened species on their property. In fact, a friendly rivalry with their neighbours has manifested.

As it stands, Ian and Di can boast of:

  • Habitat for the Pink-underwing Moth – Carronia Vine (Carronia multisepala)
  • Three-leaved Bosistoa (Bosistoa transversa)
  • Sunshine Coast Myrtle (Lenwebbia sp. blackall range)
  • Maroochy Nut (Macadamia ternifolia)
  • Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) and its host plant Birdwing Butterfly Vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa)
  • Cobolt Rust (Terana coerulea)
  • Broad-leaved Whitewood (Atalaya multiflora)

Nineteen years of hard work has certainly paid off, as you can see from the images, and Ian and Di have chosen to protect their legacy by putting a conservation covenant over most of their block.

Through a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with Sunshine Coast Council they are able to access contractor assistance for their weeding projects.

They have also taken advantage of Council’s Environment Levy funded Landholder Environment Grants, obtaining funding for contractor assistance with weeding, plants and revegetation materials.

“Everyone responds to encouragement.  The annual LfW tubestock incentive not only encourages you to keep on planting but also forces you to plan for a particular area to be revegetated. It also helps you to prioritise those areas at most risk.  Let’s face it, revegetation on larger properties is expensive.

“Tubestock incentives, together with LEGs have certainly enabled us to revegetate and restore major areas that we would never have been able to do otherwise.”

More information on Land for Wildlife, Voluntary Conservation Agreements and Landholder Environment Grants are available on council’s website.

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