aims, actions, successes

The Regent Honeyeater Project is an independent not-for-profit organisation that is bringing real change to the landscape and environment of the Lurg Hills of North Eastern Victoria, providing a more secure future for a number of threatened bird and animal species.

Our core aims are action-oriented, informed by the best research available, empowered by a huge volunteer network, and showing inter-generational equity by supporting today's landholders in tackling the ecological issues they've inherited from previous generations!

Our purposes include:
  1. Increasing the population of several threatened species in the Lurg Hills district of NE Victoria, focussing particularly on the Regent Honeyeater, Grey Crowned Babbler, Squirrel Glider and Brush Tailed Phascogale.
  2. Protecting and restoring all significant remnants of Box/Ironbark habitat in the project area, aiming to reinstate ecological balances and create self-sustaining vegetation communities.
  3. Boosting ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change, through an active revegetation program, using plants indigenous to the district.
  4. Creating strategic habitat links within the project area and beyond, to assist rare species’ seasonal movements and improve genetic diversity.
  5. Initiating educational opportunities for landholders, schools, universities and community volunteer groups, aiming to develop awareness, understanding, skills and commitment to threatened species habitat restoration.
  6. Engaging community volunteer groups, school students and university students, to assist landholders with the massive amount of on-ground work required.
  7. Encouraging biological research projects, to quantify the flora and fauna benefits of the restoration work.

All of our work seeks to address the ecological issues at their root causes and are in close accord with the official Recovery Plans for each species. Specific actions include fencing and enlarging existing habitat; planting on highly productive sites to give high nectar flows; pruning heavy mistletoe infestations to save old growth trees; increasing plant diversity to improve habitat structure and restore ecological balances in the long term; and improving habitat connectivity at both the local and landscape level.

Most of the habitat is on private land or roadsides, so we work primarily with landholders and local government. More than 98% of the plants put in the ground are propagated in our own nursery with the help of 1000’s of volunteers – adults and school children together, using seed we harvest from indigenous, and often, rare plants.

Over the past 18 years, we have worked with more than 140 landholders, 38 schools, plus community volunteers, university students, bushwalking clubs, cycling clubs, scouts, churches and other groups from the city (more than 28,000 volunteers in total). Nearly 1400 hectares of habitat has been restored, more than 525,000 seedlings planted on 490 sites, 240 km of fencing built, and 400 nesting boxes placed in trees - significant gains by any standard.

And the threatened wildlife are responding to the better conditions. Threatened woodland birds are moving into our planted areas only 5 or 6 years after planting, and aggressive birds like Noisy Miners are losing ground to the shyer birds in the dense shelter we are providing.

Measurable successes include a 250% increase in the population of endangered Grey Crowned Babblers, as the birds move through our corridors and "stepping stones" to reach more fertile breeding habitat.

Squirrel Gliders are living and breeding in 75% of our nest boxes, they're moving safely through our planted corridors only 4-6 years after planting, and we've brought Brush-tailed Phascogales back from the brink of local extinction! From only 2 sightings of dead specimens a decade ago, we now have them nesting in boxes as far as 9km away from their initial location!

In these days of escalating environmental problems, we need to empower people, enable them to participate in positive success stories and demonstrate that they can make a difference. The growing number of volunteers, particularly young people from the cities, is a very clear sign that we are succeeding here as well. They come to lend a hand, but they also take away deeper ecological insights and practical learnings that feed into other projects elsewhere. The Regent Honeyeater Project is a great example of what can be achieved.

Ray Thomas

Regent Honeyeater Project Co-ordinator.

May 2013