Grand vision for gateway to Byron

Preparing the way: IQ chairman Shane Rennie (left) and Greenfleet’s Bruce Watsford will oversee a tree planting event at the Island Quarry site in Ewingsdale Road where an arts and eco park is planned.
Preparing the way: IQ chairman Shane Rennie (left) and Greenfleet’s Bruce Watsford will oversee a tree planting event at the Island Quarry site in Ewingsdale Road where an arts and eco park is planned. Digby Hildreth

MORE than 1100 trees will be planted in Ewingsdale Road today, as part of a grand vision for the Island Quarry site opposite Byron Bay’s proposed sports fields and complex.

The planting will create a buffer around the four hectare site, which is Crown land but has been maintained for many years by Island Quarry Inc (IQ).

IQ is a group of community members appointed as the trustee by the Minister of Lands, which has cared for the site for 14 years and helped to have it rezoned from general rural to 1A for tourist facilities and environmental repair in 1999.

Its aim is to try to create a stylish ‘gateway’ to welcome visitors to Byron Bay.

The buffer zone, between wetlands on the one side and Sunnybrand Chickens on another, is part of a bigger vision of a Quarry Reserve Arts and Eco Centre on the site.

IQ co-founder and chairman Shane Rennie envisions the site as housing a fully self-sustaining ‘smart park’, with its own grey water and power generation systems.

It will feature environmental studios, artists’ workshops, arts facilities and an eco tourism information centre.

Also in Mr Rennie’s vision are five primitive camping cabins, for eco-education, and in the longer term, an amphitheatre for arts events, and even a restaurant.

The project is based around a natural spring reservoir surrounded by spectacular 20-metre high rock walls. It is swimmable, and will be stocked with fish species.

IQ began caring for the area by clearing up mining refuse from the old quarry that gives the site its name. The quarry was a source of basalt – blue metal that helped build many of the roads around Byron – and stopped operation 30 years ago.

Today’s event, called the Greenfleet Planting Day after the principal sponsor, a carbon abatement organisation, is a result of several companies contributing to land regeneration to offset their fleet cars and other carbon output.

Staff from On-Q Human Resources and Ecoprint will get their hands dirty, planting lilli pillis, tamarinds and melaleucas, acacias, sally wattles and pink euodias, among other rainforest species, and in the wetter parts, casuarinas.

Half of the trees have been donated by Eastern Forest Nurseries, whose workers Eli Milton and Dean Bradley were onsite yesterday with augers digging the holes. Another contributor was EcoClearing, which cleared the 5 to 20 metre perimeter strip of lantana and other weeds.

Maintenance of the trees will need to go on for 12 months, by which time a canopy will have formed to suppress the pest species.

Mr Rennie believes the IQ project is the first such co-operative effort between government and community in Australia. A grant from the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority will allow fencing to be installed to the waterhole and boundaries next to the plantings, he said.

“They will provide safer access to the IQ Reserve for the community to visit or get involved in care of this planting,” he said.

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