Barrer Hill barren no more

Photo of bird flying above an installed tree

Rising on the banks of an ancient river, the emerging township of Molonglo is being built.

The river is an important landmark for the Traditional Custodians of the land, the Ngunnawal People. Post-European settlement, a pine forest grew, sheep grazed and rural enterprises prospered along the banks.

Now, neighbourhood centres, schools, shops and a place for families to grow are appearing.

Interwoven into the fabric of these new Molonglo suburbs  lie relics from the past that speak of past land use, influenced through the touch of the human hand, all set against the resilience of nature.

Prior to the suburbs being set out, the network of stormwater drains laid and roads built, a meticulous ecologist traversed this landscape capturing, mapping and recording the natural values of this unique environment.

Dr Peter Barrer viewed this landscape through a prism of the future, setting aside those areas where communities could connect with nature through a philosophy of interconnected conservation corridors. Underpinning Barrer’s ecological perspective was the mighty Molonglo River.

In recognition of the conservation legacy championed by Dr Barrer, a 50 hectare restoration site has been named in his memory, honouring his contribution to the bush capital. Barrer Hill, located on the banks of the Molonglo River, includes the dominant hill rising to 598 metres.

Kicking off in 2014, the ambitious ecological restoration program is restoring the area’s rocky grasslands for threatened species like the pink-tailed worm-lizard. It is recreating box-gum woodland habitat for invertebrates, reptiles, bats and birds, including magnificent raptors like the Black-shouldered Kite, Brown Falcon, Tawny Frogmouth and Australian Kestrel.

A key feature of the project involved reinstating lost habitat structures, including 80 tonnes of rock to extend rocky grassland habitat, and 1,000 tonnes of logs to create woody debris habitat. Much of this was salvaged from residential development sites,

The relocation of grand old trees, some as old as 400 years, has been central to this innovative habitat restoration. Old trees are the ultimate form of nature’s boarding house, providing homes for native critters and creatures.

In a series of delicate crane operations, trees were skillfully removed intact, relocated, re-stood, placed into concrete-lined sleeves where they will provide critical habitat for species over coming decades.

Barrer Hill is an exciting example of what cutting edge thinking can achieve through the use of innovative techniques in restoring highly disturbed native woodlands. Barrer Hill is certainly barren no more. This restoration project was one of the signature commitments in building a wonderful new community in the soon to be thriving Molonglo Valley.

And how better to help new residents meet each other and connect over their shared, and very special bush capital backyard than through a community planting day, organised this weekend through the ACT Government’s Mingle program.

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 21 August 2018 in The Chronicle