Lyndy Rees might just have the best job on the Coffs Coast. Focus met up with her and some volunteers on the White Bluff Headland overlooking beautiful Sapphire Beach, to find out what it is she does and how you can get a piece of the action.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I live in Coffs Harbour and have worked for the Coffs National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) for the past 14 years.
Life and work balance does not get any better than this. I have the dream job in the dream location, nature’s paradise.
How did you become a National Park Ranger, and what is your current role?
Being both a volunteer and professional bush regenerator myself, as well as having the right science degree, training and work experience ultimately got me my first job as a technical officer with National Parks.
I hit the ground running and haven’t stopped for the past 20 years, first at Port Macquarie, then South West Rocks and now Coffs. Wherever I have worked, I have always started volunteer groups. I absolutely love working with our volunteers; their passion, commitment and generosity feed my soul.
A ranger has to have broad general skills in environmental management, with a focus on fire planning and fighting, pest management and park planning and environmental assessment. Most National Park rangers also have a special interest or passion. Mine is bush regeneration and volunteer management.
What has inspired and motivated you to do this work for the last 20 years?
One of the primary drivers in my work is that healthy natural bushlands encourage healthy human communities. We all love our bit of bushland; it brings peace and calms the soul.
I was born into a pioneering farming family in the Snowy Mountains. My father gave me a deep love and respect for the land and all things living. Finding that balance between making an income from farming and loving the land to pass on to future generations is in the genes of Australian farmers.
I realised farmers were fighting to repair their remnant bushland to reduce degradation, especially salinity and erosion. Privately owned land was in good hands, but who looks after public lands? The philosophy that guides me is “cherish the land than no one owns” written by Chinese philosopher Li Po in 750 B.C.
The Coffs Coast is home to one of the biggest National Parks volunteer programs in the state. What area does this cover, and what are the activities involved?
We have 230 volunteers working in 25 different groups on reserves throughout the entire Coffs and Nambucca Shires and lands in the lower reaches of Bellingen Shire. On average, our volunteers undertake over 5,000 hours a year. This is a tremendous effort from very special people.
The majority of our volunteer projects involve bush regeneration, and we work in close partnership with Coffs Harbour Regional Landcare and Coffs Harbour City Council. We have a number of wildlife monitoring programs involving Little Terns, Mutton Birds, koalas and marine mammals.
The Community Koala Survey sounds exciting. What does this involve?
We have been running annual night time surveys in Bongil Bongil National Park over the past five years with teams of volunteers. They play koala calls and try to spotlight koalas along given roads, once a week for five weeks.
Our surveys have shown that the koala population in the park is stable. Now that we have this data, we can monitor koala populations over the long term to ensure that we are managing the park in the best way possible. Bongil Bongil National Park is the stronghold for koalas in the Coffs Coast, so is extremely important to manage well into the future. Luckily, all other wildlife benefits as well.
What responsibilities does a Bongil Bongil Tree Parent have?
Tree Parents plant koala food trees in their own special area and over the years they weed, fertilise, mulch and watch their trees sprout, much like growing a family!
The idea is to increase the koala food trees in the park. Sometimes volunteers even spot a koala, which is the ultimate reward for their blood, sweat and tears. We still have thousands of trees to plant, so if you are interested in becoming a Tree Parent, please call ranger Martin Smith on 6652 0907.
The largest volunteer group is for bush and dune regeneration. Can you tell us more about this?
There are 17 volunteer Landcare/bush regeneration groups working in National Park reserves on the Coffs Coast, from as far north as Arrawarra to south at Valla Beach. The main duty is to remove weeds with a little planting when required, with most groups working in a set area to a rehabilitation plan.
We are really lucky to have many long term groups (some have been working for over 20 years) whose members really see a difference over the years. They should be so proud of the work they do. One of the great rewards is when a park visitor stops to thank the volunteers for all their work, and it shows that the general public can also see the difference.
What are the benefits of being a National Parks volunteer?
Volunteers get to work with like-minded people in some of the best locations on the coast. How many people get to spot whales whilst pulling out a few weeds working in one of our fabulous headland reserves? What an office!
The work is great for brain training and warding off age related illnesses and maintaining general fitness. You will often work alongside National Parks staff and learn lots of other fun stuff along the way. We offer training and equipment, and a free National Parks pass is also available to those who put in the long hours.
We also offer students and the under employed training and experience to help them find meaningful full-time work. Remember, I was a volunteer before I landed my dream job, so don’t underestimate the power of volunteering.
How can people find out more and get involved?
To become a volunteer in Landcare/bush regeneration projects, please call the Coffs Harbour Regional Landcare office on 6651 1308 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.coffsharbourlandcare.org.au
And for NPWS specific programs, call the Coffs Coast office on 6652 0900 or email me: Lynn.email@example.com
For koala specific projects, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6652 0907.