IT was hot, sweaty work, but timing was everything, as the Cape York NRM team and Normanby Station rangers levelled out hay mulch and added a little more seed to the Clayhole gully erosion site.
A lull in wet weather and a trip across the swollen Normanby River by boat allowed project officer Harry James to assess the site and add some finishing touches to ensure what was once a heavily eroded expanse would become a healthy grassland.
“I think it has worked out good,” said Cliff Harrigan, who works at Normanby Station.
“We haven’t done a project on that scale before, we’ve done smaller ones, but this blew my expectations, you know, to still see it intact.
“We haven’t had a really good wet, but the rain has tested it out and it’s held up quite a bit.”
Clayhole was one of the sites to be completed in a five-year erosion remediation project funded by the federal government, which is designed to prevent hundreds of tonnes of sediment from reaching the coast each year.
The alluvial gully site is located on the floodplain of Clayhole Creek within Normanby Station, a 31,400ha pastoral lease managed by the Normanby rangers as representatives of the Traditional Owners of Normanby Station.
The property is approximately 42km west of Cooktown and 45km north-east of Laura with the river running directly through it (and over key crossings during the wet).
To kick off the works at Clayhole last year, the Normanby rangers received training in machine operation using a nearby gravel pit.
“We got to drive machinery here, bulldozers, water trucks, and got our tickets for them. We can do it ourselves now, help others, and pass knowledge on to our younger ones,” Cliff said.
They worked with an experienced machine operator, under supervision from Cape York NRM, to reshape and batter the gully to a stable, free-flowing surface.
The area was then treated and incorporated with gypsum and fertiliser before it was mulched and seeded just before the wet season.
Now as the rains play hard to get this wet season, the team has nurtured the site just that little bit further. They now wait to enjoy the results in the coming months.
“This is my grandfather’s country – dad’s father’s country – so that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back and look after this country. I didn’t want it to go to rubbish,” Cliff said.
“This is where I’m going to retire … this is where I wanna be.
“I’m not getting any younger and I want this place to be somewhere for my kids, and all my nephews and nieces, and also my little granddaughter.
“We have a lot of sacred sites here, and a lot of cave paintings here. And there’s still a lot of old people buried on country here.
“That’s one of the main reasons us boys came back here to look after them as well.
“Yeah, it’s a pretty special place.”