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Improving ground cover and resilience on Normanby Station

by Andrew Hartwig, Cape York Regional Landcare Facilitator

The Normanby Aboriginal Corporation, in partnership with the Regional Landcare Facilitator Andrew Hartwig, was successful with funding from the Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Grants Program for their project ‘Improving ground cover and resilience on Normanby Station’.

Normanby is a 31,400 ha grazing lease in southern Cape York that had limited infrastructure for cattle management; and faces threats from late season wildfires, weed incursion and uncontrolled visitor access resulting in a loss of biodiversity, ground cover and soil erosion. The station is isolated from Cooktown during most of the wet season when the Normanby River rises.

The Regional Landcare Facilitator was approached by Normanby Traditional Owner, Vince Harrigan, who was keen to get back out, have a go, and try and make a living off the property. It took time to gain mutual respect and a feel for the country and time for the Harrigan’s story to emerge; this was their application and project for them to own. They already had a strong governance structure, but preferred South Cape York Catchments to host the project and handle the finances and administration. Their father was the biggest influence and inspiration for the Harrigan brothers, and he was able to read the signed funding deed shortly before he passed away. The brothers all stepped up to contribute to the project, which is what their father would have wanted.

Valuable and lasting networks and partnerships were established. The brothers worked and liaised with neighbouring cattle stations for cooperative fire and cattle management, Queensland Parks and Wildlife on joint aerial burning operations, South Cape York Catchments and Balnggarrawarra (Melsonby) Rangers, and the Landcare Facilitator with fire plans, permits, and a five-year Property Pest Management Plan. The Landcare Facilitator also hosted a soil conservation / erosion control workshop on Normanby and assisted with an AgForce Grazing Best Management Practice program.

The project has increased the capacity of the Normanby Aboriginal Corporation to manage their land. Early burns helped to congregate cleanskin cattle on green pick that were then mustered, and the construction of some internal fences and access to water means they now have cattle behind wire that have dropped their first calf. Ongoing employment opportunities through South Cape York Catchments, funded by the Qld Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program, will assist them with land management.

This support will reduce the impacts from late season wild fires, and with a reduction of invasive weeds, feral animals, soil erosion and sediment run-off, will lead to increased perennial ground cover and grazing production.

The Regional Landcare Facilitator Program is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. Cape York’s Regional Landcare Facilitator is hosted by Cape York NRM.

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