City News

Bringing the wild back to the city

A native noisy miner in a grevillea on the Saunders Street landcare site. Photo: Pyrmont Ultimo Landcare

By ALLISON HORE

Sydney is set to get a whole lot more wild. The City of Sydney passed a motion this week which could see more native biodiversity returning to the city.

The motion requesting a native nursery, proposed by Kerryn Phelps, passed through the City of Sydney council unanimously on Wednesday. The idea was proposed by Mary Mortimer, the Convenor for Pyrmont Ultimo Landcare, and Janet Wahlquist, the President for the The Glebe Society.

Both these groups would like to see native plant species more accessible in the city.

The Pyrmont Ultimo Landcare group currently source a lot of their plants from the Randwick Community Nursery in Kingsford, which stocks both indigenous and non-indigenous species which have been identified as being suitable to grow in Sydney’s climate and conditions.

However, in her motion to council Dr. Phelps said this nursery, and the Rozelle Bay Community Native Plant Nursery in the Inner West Council area, cannot keep up with the demand from their own local government areas let alone the City of Sydney area.

“Obtaining native plants, we are told by groups in the city, has become problematic,” she said in a March council meeting.

“The Randwick nursery propagates mainly hybrids and Rozelle Bay is struggling to keep up with the needs of the Inner West Council area.”

Councillor Phelps said the establishment of a native plant nursery in the city would line up with the City of Sydney’s “Green, Global, and Connected” objective in the Sustainable Sydney 2030 report.

Creating ecosystems

There are many benefits of planting native and indigenous species. Native plants tend to be hardier than exotic plants, and are more likely to survive Sydney’s unpredictable weather patterns. They are also easier to maintain and take less water and care than many non-native plants making them ideal for public land.

Currently the Pyrmont Ultimo Landcare group, all volunteers, is focusing their efforts on planting native species along the light rail corridor. Their efforts have already transformed a number of gardens along the line from neglected, rubbish-strewn and full of weeds into small pockets of wild which native animal species like possums, currawongs and blue-tongue lizards can thrive in.

While some animals such as the much-misunderstood ibis have adapted well to city-living other endemic species are disappearing. Species including frogs, small birds, lizards, owls, microbats and other small mammals such as the bandicoot all struggle. But planting native species creates habitat for these species.

Councillor Linda Miller, who specialises in ecology, seconded the motion put forward by councillor Phelps, but with amendments to support local nursery businesses and consider environmental change when identifying suitable species. 

“Traditionally a lot of councils have had their own nurseries, and that’s particularly prevalent in councils where space is not a massive issue,” she said. 

“I think it’s an important point to make that, in line with our procurement policies, we are supporting nurseries and enterprises that grow plants as a core business.” 

Dr. Phelps supported Councillor Miller’s amendments, which she said “enhanced” the motion.

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