Why Paddock Trees?
Scattered paddock trees are disappearing from our landscape.  Many are more than 100 years old and when they die they aren’t being replaced naturally because self-set trees are grazed by stock and so don’t get a chance to become established.  Paddock trees provide shelter for birds, bats, insects, reptiles and mammals.  They also support agricultural productivity through helping manage salinity, improving soil properties and providing shelter for stock.  It is therefore important that they be replaced.

Grant Funding
In May 2016 HCLG was awarded $89,990 exc GST by the NSW Environmental Trust to cover the planting in the Hovells Creek area of 1,500 paddock trees within individual stock proof guards over the three-year period 1 Sept 2016 to 30 August 2019.

The Approach
The trees are being planted as linking trees to provide connectivity between existing patches of trees and shrubs.  Guidance for the planting layouts is based on a series of Habitat Connectivity Plans prepared in 2016 and 2017 by a consultant, Susie Jackson, for 13 individual properties.  The objective is to plant paddock trees at 30-50m intervals within a 50m or even 100m wide corridor, so that birds, insects and small animals can use them as a bridge between existing patches of trees and shrubs.  Actual on-farm layouts may be modified from Susie Jackson’s original plans to take account of specific on-farm land use requirements.  Where a property hass not had a Habitat Connectivity Plan prepared then the requirement is that they follow the general principles behind the planting of connectivity trees.

2017 Plantings
A bulk order for rolls of tree mesh and steel posts was placed in late-2016 and was distributed to members in early-2017.  In addition to the mesh and steel posts members were also provided with bulk grant-funded tube stock trees, weed mats, canes and plastic protectors by a local nursery.  The original grant commitment was for 500 trees to be planted per annum across 10 properties.  However, with careful buying of materials and some redesign of the project, it proved possible to plant 670 trees across 21 properties in 2017.

Advice to members on tree planting was provided through provision of a set of planting notes plus a list of recommended tree species for the various types of land where the trees are to be planted eg valley flats, granite hills and lower slopes.  Lack of rain was a major obstacle to plantings, causing much of the planting to be delayed until late in the season, which meant that the young trees had only limited time to establish themselves before the dry and hot weather of summer.  That notwithstanding survival rates exceeded 95 per cent.

Monitoring of the results of the 2017 plantings was undertaken by HCLG’s Landcare Support Officer (LSO) and a copy of her report was submitted to the NSW Environment Trust in late-2017 as part of the group’s annual report to the Trust.

Feedback from the Trust on its review of HCLG’s annual report was very positive, including the comment that, “The Grantee should be highly commended for their level of commitment to both the on-ground activities implemented by landholder members, and the detailed information contained in the monitoring and financial reports.”

2018 Plantings

For 2018 materials have been supplied to HCLG members to cover the planting of 678 trees across 22 properties.  Members were only provided with trees and planting materials in 2018 who had either completed their 2017 plantings, or who had been obliged to delay their plantings in 2017 for personal or weather-related reasons.

Two changes in emphasis have occurred in 2018.  First, participating members are being encouraged that, where it is consistent with their linking tree layout, to plant their trees along drainage lines or in gullies.  This means that the planting conditions are often easier, as the ground is damper.  Also birds, insects and small animals have a preference for trees planted along drainage lines.

The second change is that members have been encouraged to space their linking trees rather closer together to allow for some tree mortality over the next 100 years.  This is a lesson which emerged from a talk given by Mason Crane to HCLG in early-2018.

Planned 2019 Plantings

This will be the final year of the project and it is expected that plantings will be undertaken on much the same basis as those in 2017 and 2018.

JRB  5 June 2018