Overgrown carpark and former rubbish tip in Sydney’s Inner West to become urban wildlife refuge
A neglected plot of land in Sydney’s Inner West is set to be transformed into an urban wildlife refuge as conservationists increasingly look for small parcels of inner-city land.
The 0.6-hectare portion of crown land known as The Hill, located behind Glebe’s Tramsheds, is currently fenced off.
Parts of the green space are asphalted and weeds grow out of control.
“It was a rubbish tip,” said Andrew Wood of The Glebe Society.
“And then part of it was covered with bitumen and it became a car park for patrons of the Harold Park Dogs and Run.”
Now The Glebe Society has received a $40,000 innovation grant from the City of Sydney to set up hidden cameras and conduct detailed wildlife surveys of the land in collaboration with the University of Sydney.
It is hoped research at the site will allow it to become home to more native birds, reptiles and microbats, along with pollinators such as bees and flies.
It may not seem like much, but this site could soon become home to native birds and animals. (Provided: Andrew Wood) ‘Stepping stones’ not green corridors.
Dieter Hochuli from the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said there was an “urgent need” for more green spaces in the city center like The Hill.
He said the project could become a “proof of concept” for similar used areas in Australian cities.
Professor Hochuli said conservationists generally focused on securing large intact sites and overlooked small, isolated areas.
“There are pockets all over cities across Australia that probably in the past we’ve said, ‘It’s too small and there’s no point in it,'” he told ABC Radio Sydney.
“But things that are relatively small can actually be very valuable for conservation.”
Providing scattered patches of native forest in the city can make a difference in wildlife successfully colonizing an area, Professor Hochuli said.
Birds like wrens, he said, could make 1 kilometer hops, rather than flying 3 kilometers between stops.
“The idea of erecting stepping stones with green space is a very important thing,” Professor Hochuli said.
“We’re kind of setting ourselves up for failure if we just look at those big intact green corridors.”
Dieter Hochuli, pictured, says there is growing evidence for the importance of small patches of woodland in cities.(Provided: Dieter Hochuli) Cultivating connection behind the fence
Unlike other restoration projects, The Hill will remain fenced off from the public.
This is partly because the site is contaminated and would require expensive work to be suitable for a public park or playground.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume. Listen Duration: 6 minutes 16 seconds6m Professor Dieter Hochuli tells ABC Radio Sydney about the plans for The Hill
For an urban wildlife refuge, the land does not need to be disturbed, Mr Wood said.
“It actually becomes a very cheap option compared to trying to remove all the pollution and turn it back into something the public can use safely,” he said.
The fences will also keep out domestic cats and foxes that may prey on native wildlife, Professor Hochuli said.
“As soon as you put up a fence, there’s a whole load of plants and animals that move in,” he said.
But the community group still wants to ensure that local residents can develop a connection with the area.
There will be briefings on the research findings and discussions on holding tours for local schools and community groups.
The Hill was previously a rubbish tip and a car park for a nearby racecourse. (Provided: Andrew Wood) Create an urban wildlife refuge
Professor Hochuli encourages city dwellers to be on the lookout for similar sites that could be turned into urban wildlife sanctuaries.
“The real potential is not in discovering hidden gems, but in taking what’s already there and making it better,” he said.
Getting involved with community environmental groups and talking to local councils, who need details about land ownership, were good places to start, Professor Hochuli said.
Mr Wood said the Glebe Society’s experience had shown that it was possible to secure grant money to turn an idea into reality.
Given the competition for public space, he says it’s important to team up with biodiversity and conservation experts to help make a case for protecting an area.
“You’re going to have to make some strong arguments because everyone in the community has an idea of what an area can be used for,” Mr Wood said.
“In a local community, having the science to back up your arguments is a real strength.”