Community action to protect an estuarine paperbark woodland in North-West Tasmania from coastal erosion and to enhance biodiversity

Dr Colin Hocking1,3, Mr Bill Walker2, Ms Lynn Hutchison1, Mr Geoff Blackburn1

1Sisters Beach Wildcare, Sisters Beach, Australia, 2Waratah-Wynyard Council, Wynyard, Australia, 3La Trobe University, Bundoora (Melbourne), Australia


Sisters Beach Wildcare, in partnership with Waratah-Wynyard Council, is working to protect our foreshore and estuary from erosion, and to re-establish local native species. In recent times the sand dunes and Paperbark woodlands around the estuary have experienced erosion from king tides and storm surges, at unprecedented levels for Sisters Creek hamlet.  During these severe erosion events, waves run up the estuary, jump the bank and flow at least 200 metres inland, knocking down new shoots coming from the roots of the existing, large Paperbark (Melaleuca ericifolia) trees. As a result, vegetation at the site is gradually being thinned, with old trees falling into the estuary. Similar events are being reported along the North coast of Tasmania, and elsewhere in South-Eastern Australia. There are few reports to date of community groups taking action to address these coastal erosion impacts. We are protecting new Paperbark shoots with tree guards, and planting new Paperbark seedlings amongst these. Between plants, we are laying a thick lattice of branches and logs, tied down by jute rope, anchored by wooden pegs.  We are also planting Paperbarks, and other selected local native species, at the back edge of the existing woodland area, in anticipation that, as the Paperbarks fronting the estuary die off, there will be a buffer of maturing plants at the back edge.  We are tagging individual plants, to follow their fate over time, through successive storm surges, so that we can report the results of our actions to other groups facing similar circumstances.


Bill Walker is Natural Resource Manager for Waratah-Wynyard Council and Circular Head Council, a position he has held for 7 years. He works with communities and businesses in North-West Tasmania across a range of issues, including environmental weed management, natural resource management advice and policy development and local action in response to climate change . Bill has a particular passion for the broad Australian natural landscape. Prior to his current position he has been a horticultural consultant and a Greening Australia national board member for ten years.