Biodiversity Flourishes Between Rock And Hard Place

To mark World Environment Day on 5 June 2024, this story celebrates some great work that continues to deliver many benefits. The theme for World Environment Day 2024 is aptly around land restoration with the slogan ‘Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration’.

A quarry might not be the first place you think of as a haven for nature but one of the state’s largest sites is working hard to boost local flora and fauna.

If you fly into Melbourne Airport, you might get a bird’s-eye view of the Holcim Oaklands Junction quarry just to the north of Tullamarine. It employs around 35 people and produces vital quarry materials for a range of infrastructure and building projects.

Unsurprisingly the production area of the site is large, but what might not be as obvious is the work being done to protect existing vegetation and create new habitat. In the last 7 years 35,000 new trees have been planted.

Importantly, areas around existing significant trees have been protected to allow them to seed and ensure animals large and small can continue to live there. Similarly, reed growth has been supported to keep wetland areas thriving.

Some of the animals visiting the site and even calling it home include kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, reptiles, owls, eagles, frogs and wombats.

Peter Maaten, Quarry Manager at Oaklands Junction, says he’s thrilled with the way staff at the site have been keen to get involved.

“Staff engagement has been a key part of boosting the site’s biodiversity and to be fair to the team they’ve achieved really great results. They have embraced getting out there, sometimes in their own time, to help boost the plants and animals on site.”

“Being surrounded by nature allows the team to take a moment to slow down and appreciate their surroundings.”

Employees at the site have been eager to get involved in removing litter, weeds and pest animals. They have also successfully used dead logs as ground cover to create habitat, shelter and protection for smaller mammals and reptiles.

The habitat work continues with the establishment of an indigenous woodland area in the buffer zone around the edge of the site.

“We are thrilled to have local Traditional Owner groups involved in our work here and at other Holcim sites. To reinstate habitat that can outlive us all, and the production at this site, is really meaningful for all of us involved.”

Oaklands Junction is not the only quarry to have worked hard to boost biodiversity and it’s not uncommon for those working at quarries to see lots of wildlife.

In the longer term, once production stops and sites are rehabilitated fully, quarries often become permanent homes for wildlife and habitat. Not many Melbournians are probably aware that a few of the best-known parks in the city, such as Fitzroy Gardens and Albert Park Lake, were once quarries. Other gardens such as Quarries Park in Clifton Hill and Ferntree Gully’s Quarry Reserve have a more obvious lineage.

Matt Vincent, CEO of Resources Victoria, thinks it’s important to highlight the benefits of quarries – what they are producing and their role in the community around them.

“Quarries are a vital part of our economy. They are important sites that play an integral role in the creation and improvement of local suburbs and towns.”

“It’s important to remember that quarries don’t last forever so what is a working site now may be a peaceful reserve or a community facility after production stops.”

“What I love about the habitat work at Oaklands Junction and other sites is that busy and bustling industrial sites at full production can still support local biodiversity and environments. There’s a strong wellbeing theme for the quarry staff taking pride in supporting nature and locals benefitting from seeing more wildlife, healthier waterways and more natural habitat.”

Resources Victoria has a guide to the parks that were once rock and sand extraction sites, The New Lives of Old Quarries: innovative development after quarrying ceases.

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