Friends of Melaleuca WILDCARE

Mt Beattie is a popular walk amongst visitors to Port Davey. The track begins at the historic Claytons cottage which is cared for by Friends of Melaleuca and the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service (PWS). It meanders through mature rainforest to the open slopes and summit, which afford wonderful all-round vistas of the waterway and surrounding mountains. Special plants such as Eyebright (Euphrasia gibbsiae) and the endemic Hewardia (Isophysis tasmanica) grow beside the upland sections. This walk is achievable by most visitors.

Inevitably in this peaty buttongrass country, the track’s popularity led to degradation. Bogholes, track braiding and drainage issues worsened over the past few years and some sections became overgrown.

Friends of Melaleuca received a Wildcare Tasmanian Nature Conservation Fund grant to work on track remediation. The grant assisted with airfares and PPE for volunteers, materials, freight by sea and helicopter time. Work began with planning in partnership with PWS. Materials were shipped to near the site and remediation work commenced during the March Friends of Melaleuca working bee. Volunteers Rob Banfield, Owen Davies and Sue Beaumont worked hard with Field Officer Steve Locke, commuting daily by boat between Melaleuca and Claytons. We had a reduced crew, down by one volunteer due to COVID and one PWS staff member; though the exceptionally dry conditions made work a little easier. Melaleuca volunteer caretakers, Jacqueline and Zelko (both of whom were featured as new volunteers in this article), pitched in during a Claytons work visit to help finish off this stage of the track. Gear was heli-lifted close to the site prior to the working bee but the work still involved a lot of load carrying uphill.

Work achieved:
• 80 metres of wire mesh stapled to slippery boardwalk sections
• Drainage water-bars renovated
• Difficult step renovated
• Five metres of parallel boards installed over bog
• Peat bog holes re-bridged
• Vegetation cut beside and across track in overgrown sections
• Eight treated pine steps reinforced, boxed, solid-filled

At several sites, 100x50mm treated pine reinforcing pegs were driven into the peat topsoil; some had to be driven 1 metre deep to reach a stable quartzite foundation.

Work concentrated on the lower elevations this year. Due to the reduced number of workers, materials yet to supply, and internal PWS protocols for assessment for new track infrastructure, not all of the track work was completed this summer and not all the grant funding expended. Wildcare has kindly agreed to extend the grant period to encompass work on the higher elevations of the track next summer.

Our thanks to PWS staff for their rigorous preparatory planning, organising materials, freight and heli-lifts. Special thanks to Steve Locke for his organisation, supervision, his own hard work on the track and for his role as skipper, ferrying volunteers to the site. Thanks to Wildcare (and donors to Wildcare) for funding this important work and to our enthusiastic team for working so hard.

The following feedback demonstrates that the work achieved so far is appreciated by users:

“I was one of the first to use the new track work in March. Much nicer to walk, much better long term for the track. Well designed and minimalist. Thanks heaps to all the workers!” Dave Ross

“I walked the track last week and was very impressed with the quality of the work undertaken. The worst muddy bogs are easily traversed and having all the duck boarding covered is a huge bonus. Prior to this week falls on slippery duckboard were common. It is also pleasing to see the most attractive sections of track remain undeveloped. It is an unusually dry season so the upper section just before the summit is not too bad but that area would be a worthy focus of future work.” Peter Marmion

“Great improvement so far. It now allows me to gain another 50m in altitude before I blow up.” Mick Lawrence

“Thanks to all the hardworking Friends of Melaleuca and Parks and Wildlife people involved in the Mt Beattie track works. it’s an excellent job so far and I’m singing your praises to all my guests.

Appreciate what you all do, you are all an incredible bunch of volunteers.” Greg Wells

Our support vessels at Clayton’s jetty. Photo by Jacqueline Persic.