On Wednesday the 19th of October, the employees of Howard Park Wines donned their finest garden gloves and sunhats and got to work planting over 350 native seedlings at our Margaret River Leston vineyard. Led by our experienced and able gardening team, Simon and Marty, we planted key native species along the Wilyabrup Brook, a highly valued and sensitive environmental area that runs through the middle of the property. We recognize that the Margaret River Region is in an area of significant environmental value and this was the first step of many towards our long-term plan to protect and enhance our unique biodiversity.
In August, Nature Conservation Margaret River conducted a thorough biodiversity assessment of our Leston vineyard. They informed us that the largest contributors to biodiversity decline in the region are habitat loss and fragmentation. This has seen many fauna species once widespread in Margaret River now rare and restricted in range. Nature Conservation Margaret River surveyed our remnant bushland and identified areas that we could prioritise and improve in order to promote more connectivity through the property. By enhancing connectivity, we could encourage the movement of threatened species through the area as well as improve habitat value and build a more resilient ecosystem and greater species richness in the area.
Howard Park Wines sits in a prime biodiversity location in the Wilyabrup catchment, the second-largest water catchment in the Cape-to-Cape region. It is home to a number of threatened species including the brush-tailed phascogale and the western ringtail possum. The property contains 11.2ha of remnant bushland as well as the main channel and tributary of Wilyabrup Brook. Although these areas were both categorized as fragmented and suffering from degradation, they still retain value for regionally and nationally significant fauna. However, they would not regenerate without intervention.
The main channel of the Wilyabrup Brook and its tributary were identified as especially vital for providing a wildlife corridor for species such as the western ringtail possum and so this is where our work began. Nature Conservation Margaret River advised that connectivity between the brook and upland remnants could be enhanced through the plantings of local native species that provide shelter for our native fauna. From there, our dedicated Environment Officer, Chris, came up with a plan and ordered a range of native seedlings.
When it was time to plant, the Wine Club, Warehouse, Winery, Gardening and Administration teams joined forces. We planted marri, banksia, swamp bottlebrush, peppermints and paperbarks to provide food, nesting sites and connectivity on the property. With over 20 employees lending a helping hand, we made quick work of it.
Once the seedlings were in the ground, they were protected with vegetation guards around them. These guards prevent pesky rabbits and kangaroos from eating the tasty new shoots. They also protect the new growth from high winds and help maintain a warm and moist environment around the seedlings. After that, the hard work was over and all that was left to do was give the new plants a good long drink of water and admire our efforts.
Howard Park Wines has adopted a long-term and whole-of-system approach to caring for our environment and this successful planting day was the first step of many. We have established photo monitoring sites and plan to take photos every couple of months to measure the progress of the site. Going forward, we will continue working to increase the quality of our remnant vegetation by minimising disturbance, managing environmental weeds, and of course, continuing to encourage the regeneration of native species through replanting.
We would like to thank Nature Conservation Margaret River for their support and advice which has been crucial in our sustainability journey. We love working with them and learning from their experience.