Bringing Back The Big Scrub

A Good News Story…   

made possible by your neighbours, friends, some very smart environmentalists and volunteers from across the region.                                             


Wendy Champagne

In an outstanding example of not seeing the forest for the trees, European settlers cleared this region of its native sub-tropical lowland rainforest to create grazing pasture, all but wiping out one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Yet in a Good News Story for our troubled times, The Big Scrub is slowly coming back. And it’s the direct result of local vision and knowledge development, carefully negotiated private-public partnerships and the tireless dedication of a tiny army of workers, many of them volunteers.

Filmmaker and author Oren Siedler began documenting this quiet revolution over ten years ago. “I was commissioned to film the stories of several large scale planting projects and the people on the ground getting their hands dirty planting the trees. I soon realized I wasn’t only following incredible re-afforestation stories, but a holistic movement towards an exciting sustainable future for the region.” 

If the bushfires taught us anything, it is the irreplaceable value and vulnerability of our ecosystems. The Big Scrub covered over 75,000 hectares. After European settlement, just 80 isolated, degraded rainforest remnants, and only 1 % of the Big Scrub remained, the majority on private land.

Yet contrary to what we generally perceive as public good, private land is where the great work of restoration, regeneration and re-afforestation of our native rainforest  is happening today.

In Byron Shire there are astonishing private regeneration projects including around 200,000 local cabinet timber species for sustainable harvesting for generations to come, together with more than 500,000 rainforest plants for restoring riverbanks, wildlife corridors and degraded steep pasture land. Not to mention, the countless hectares of natural regeneration brought about by the removal of cattle and careful weed management. Another internationally significant project is focusing on habitat creation through intensive regeneration of exotic grassland into wetlands, with over 40,000 trees planted so far. Brookfarm planted 35,000 rainforest specimens, and there are many others.

Peter Ryan, President of the largest umbrella Landcare group in the region – Brunswick Valley  Landcare – estimates about 1.2 million trees have been planted in the last 10 years.

It takes a while for newcomers to recognise that a lot of the ubiquitous “green” in this region is actually camphor, a particularly opportunistic weed species that marched in and started takingover the place when the dairy farmers moved on. It is the crown of thorns of reafforestation programs – although it does have some value in carbon sequestration and as a seed bank. It is however, sun loving and will dominate our region as a monoculture if left unchecked. There are several options for transforming into rainforest including mechanical removal or killing and leaving in place to use as valuable mulch for rainforest regeneration.

The regeneration story is all about playing the long game. Living in one of the most biodiverse regions of Australia comes with responsibility. And many in our community are doing the really important work to ensure we leave this place better than we found it.

Oren Siedler agrees: “I felt it was really important to document these projects to not only help promote the great work being done, but also to help educate and motivate others to take on their own regeneration and  planting projects. Also, it’s a great visual document for families and future generations to witness the incredible transformation from weed-infested land back into rainforest.”

To volunteer, donate or just find out what’s going on, contact