An Indigenous-led carbon farming project north of Perth hopes to encourage greater use of native plants in large-scale revegetation programs to improve biodiversity.
Perth-based Nativ Carbon, with funding assistance from Woodside, has begun working towards a Wheatbelt region reforestation project, which will generate jobs for Indigenous people.
To celebrate the initial planting, a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony was conducted recently on Yued Noongar Country, with Elder Beverley Port-Louis.
Nativ Carbon is planting 1.2 million native seedlings, covering between 35–40 species, on two parcels of land near Moora of about 2000 hectares.
The majority of the shrubs, ground covers and small trees, germinated last year, will be planted in the coming weeks.
Nativ Carbon director Matthew Oswald says the development employs “a substantial number” of Aboriginal people.
“Aboriginal employees have assisted with seed collecting, fence removal, weed control and plant installation with the support of Gambara,” he says.
Oswald, along with Yamatji engineer Darren Lundberg, is also the co-founder of Gambara, a majority-owned Indigenous company specialising in environmental, landscaping, rehabilitation and re-vegetation works in the civil construction, oil and gas and mining sectors.
“Now, in the installation phase, three new team members – from the local Yued group – will be joining the project,” Oswald says. “Nativ Carbon aims to consistently provide regional and Indigenous employment opportunities, where possible, and we are pleased to have achieved that goal in this project.”
About 30 people, some of those Wheatbelt-based, will work on plant installation and surface preparation. In addition, 20 staff were employed to tend to growing plants over a six-month period at Plantrite nursery, contracted by Nativ Carbon to produce the plants.
Port-Louis is ensuring Indigenous people benefit from projects and industry on their own Country.
“We are sick of looking at the Brand Highway, seeing mining on both sides of it,” she says. “Those companies need to look at Yued employment because we are struggling to get jobs for the young people.
“As a mother and a grandmother, I am getting out there in front to create jobs for our young people.
“Moora is a hub for Noongar people… we have more than 400 Aboriginal people living in that town and most of our young people haven’t got a job.”
Port-Louis says she and other community leaders are reaching out to mining and other industries.
Plantrite managing director David Lullfitz says the company was working on developing long-term employment opportunities beyond the three-month planting season.
“That includes training and qualifications, including weed control licensing,” he says. “Western Australia is regarded globally as a biodiversity hotspot and we would encourage federal and state governments to develop incentives or credits for biodiversity as well as carbon.
“Currently ‘bio-diverse’ is defined by the Clean Energy Regulator’s legislation as more than two species and it is our hope that future, large-scale bush reforestation projects will incorporate a wide range of native plants.
“This will, in turn, attract a wider range of fauna and other wildlife.”
A Woodside spokesperson says that contributing to the project is part of the company’s plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050: “These targets are to reduce net equity Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2025, by 30% by 2030.”
“We have three ways to achieve these targets: avoiding emissions through design, reducing them through efficient operations, and offsetting the remainder.
“Avoiding and reducing emissions are our first priorities.”
Giovanni Torre is a writer at National Indigenous Times.
The Greenlight Project is a year-long look at how regional Australia is preparing for and adapting to climate change.
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