Inaugural SERA Awards for Restoration Excellence

On 22 November 2016 the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia announced the winners of the inaugural SERA awards for excellence in ecological restoration practice for projects from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. The awards were presented at the ERA2016 conference in Hamilton New Zealand.

The awards projects that have made a significant, enduring or internationally recognized contribution to the science and/or practice of ecological restoration through achieving high standards of practice at a site or the development of innovative new approaches, methods and/or strategies for involving the public in restoration efforts.

WINNERS
Cash prizes of AUD $3000 were awarded to two projects project above 50ha in size and a cash prize of $1000 was awarded for one below 50ha in size and to a student engaged in research relating to ecological restoration.

AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN RESTORATION PRACTICE:

Projects above 50ha
Big Scrub Landcare - New South Wales, Australia.
Motutapu Island - New Zealand and
Te Motu Tapu a Taikehu, Motutapu Island - New Zealand.

Project below 50ha
The Waterways - Mordialloc Creek, Victoria.

STUDENT AWARD
Cayne Layton of University of Tasmania.

SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD
Dr Tein McDonald for outstanding leadership in the profession of ecological restoration, in conceiving and leading the creation of the Australian Standards in Ecological Restoration and the first International Standards in Ecological Restoration.

FINALISTS

Twenty outstanding restoration projects were shortlisted as finalists. These include a range of projects conducted in agricultural lands, conservation reserves, wetlands and riparian and marine areas.

SERA congratulates all the finalists in the SERA awards for achieving excellence in ecological restoration practice. All finalists were considered outstanding examples of restoration.

STUDENT AWARDEE FINALIST
Ben Cleveland - University of Melbourne

INDIVIDUAL AWARDEE FINALISTS
Di Carter - Ranger, Port Hills Ranger, Christchurch City Council, New Zealand.
Sam Archer - farmer, Kincora Farm, Gundagai New South Wales.

LARGE PROJECTS (>50 ha)

New Zealand projects:

Ark in the Park. An approx. 15 year-old "mainland island" of 2300 ha in which predators are being controlled and native birds reintroduced. Over 800 registered supporters, 90 neighbouring properties involved in a buffer zone.

Lake Rotokauri. Waikato District Council's Rotokauri project is improving water quality, ecological values and biodiversity in the Rotokauri reserve through managing sedimentation and undertaking pest animal and plant control.

Motuora Island. Motuora Restoration Society are transforming what was an 80ha pastoral island back to a functioning native ecosystem. They have raised and planted over 300,000 native seedlings since 1995, translocated seabirds and other species and carried out weeding, track maintenance and fundraising.

Motutapu Island. Over 22 years the Motutapu Restoration Trust has converted more than 100 ha of pasture to pioneer forest by planting over 500,000 trees. This is now a pest-free island with seven rare, endangered and non-threatened birds and aquatic taxa introduced and many more colonizing naturally.

Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park. The aim of this 60 ha project, is to reconstruct the main indigenous ecosystems characteristic of the Hamilton basin from scratch. Over 25 ha has been revegetated by city parks staff, school and university students, international visitors, neighbouring residents, and many different community groups.

Australian projects:

Big Scrub Landcare. Over 24 years Big Scrub Landcare's Rainforest Restoration Program has worked with a range of public and private partners to initiate and manage over 35 grants (worth >$5 million) to regenerate, expand and reconnect 60 critically endangered rainforest remnants across a 75000 ha agricultural landscape.

Long Swamp restoration. Aim is to reverse draining of wetlands throughout the 1000 ha (15km) Long Swamp in far south west Victoria, through the building of sandbag weirs, to benefit a wide range of wetland dependant species. Very high community support and participation.

Newcastle Wetlands Connections. WetlandCare Australia and Conservation Volunteers is a 4-year project to improve the condition, function, resilience and biodiversity of urban waterways covering 14 sites in the upstream catchment of the Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar Site and Flyway Site in New South Wales.

Numinbah Conservation Area. This 593 hectare area on the Springbrook Plateau in the Gold Coast hinterland in Queensland was purchased by City of Gold Coast through the Open Space Preservation Levy Scheme. Works over the last nine years have involved large scale weed control and stock exclusion on 228 ha of the site.

Regent Honeyeater project. In the Lurg Hills, Victoria, over 95% of local landholders have replanted strips of box woodland and are reconnecting habitat for fauna including the Regent Honeyeater and other threatened species. Over 20 years to date they have attracted over 10000 students and 24000 community volunteers plus many fauna.

Riverina Travelling Stock Reserves. Through managed grazing, pest plant and animal control and some direct seeding, 108 Travelling Stock Reserves (some of the best biodiversity remaining in the Riverina, New South Wales) have improved in condition, showing increased biodiversity values. This is a testament to the skill and dedication of the Travelling Stock Reserve rangers.

Skyline Tier, Tasmania. The project has secured recovery of 700 ha (of proposed 1000 ha) Radiata Pine plantation back to native forest through the judicial use of ecological burns to control pine wildling regrowth while stimulating germination of native seed. Planting of only two Eucalypts was needed.

SMALL PROJECTS(<50ha)

Cumberland Plain Grassy Woodland Restoration. In the last three years, the project has established a seed production area and successfully reseeded 40 ha of diverse and functionally complex Cumberland Plain species on nine locations which were previously dominated by weeds. The focus is on establishing understorey first.

Hypipamee rainforest restoration. A long term landscape scale project of replanting and connecting remnants in the north Queensland wet tropics, using small saplings of 20-50 or more locally-native tree species. The project involves 12 regional agencies, community groups and landholders.

Lost Shellfish Reefs of Port Phillip Bay. This daring project coordinated by TNC and supported by Fisheries Victoria and local anglers, aims to rebuild the lost mussel and oyster reefs of Port Phillip Bay fished out within a very short time of European landing. Results so far are showing oysters and other marine organisms are colonising the trial artificial reefs.

Snowy Adit Habitat restoration. Reshaping, substrate conditioning and replanting this 11 ha rock spoil heap in Kosciuszko National Park has resulted in nearly 50% plant cover in five years, plus use of the site by at least 60 vertebrate species - 36 birds, 17 mammals, four reptiles and three frogs. It is one of a number of similar sites in the Park under treatment.

The Waterways Mordialloc Creek. This 48-hectare restoration project on Mordialloc Creek in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs converts a pastoral area to large areas of habitat, mainly wetland, set within a new housing subdivision. Within three years over 2 million local provenance, indigenous plants (consisting of 223 species) were established.

Wompoo Gorge. Over eight years the project has very successfully restored lowland subtropical rainforest to over 40 hectares linking two large remnants. It has improved habitat for multiple rainforest threatened species and has now been added to the National Parks estate.