Remnant Vegetation

When my wife and I happened to see the needless destruction of remnant roadside native vegetation near Crystal Brook in Mid North South Australia recently I was moved to create this page.

There is little native vegetation remaining in the region and it is important that it be protected for its value as habitat, its aesthetics and as a store of biodiversity and carbon. Local government should be protecting native bush, not destroying it; especially when the destruction contravenes their own guidelines.

This page written 2016/06/29, last edited 2023/03/23
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©


Native bush destroyed, feral boxthorn (light green) apparently untouched.
Most of the native bush in this section has been removed.
Note that there is a very excessive four or five metres cleared from the road edge, rather than the two metre maximum stipulated in Council's own guidelines.
What need I say?
Most of the native bush has been destroyed in this section.
Here the native bush has been destroyed, feral box thorn and olive trees have been left.
Again it is plain that the remnant vegetation has been cleared much more than two metres from the edge of the sealed road.
The photos on the right are of the destruction of a large part of the remnant native vegetation on both sides of Huddleston Road where it goes up Cemetery Hill on the outskirts of Crystal Brook. The section of road involved was just over a kilometre in length.

Mid North South Australia, where this irresponsible carnage took place, is probably the most over-cleared region of South Australia. Huddleston Road is one of the few places near Crystal Brook where a fair amount of remnant native vegetation has been retained – until now. This work has probably removed half of what was on this section of the road.

As can be seen in the photos, the section of road concerned is straight, so there was no need to remove the vegetation to improve visibility for traffic.

A little of the vegetation had grown out to near the road shoulders as can be seen in a photo I took before the clearing, but it has been destroyed to a distance of four or five metres from the road edge; quite excessive, unnecessary and in contravention of Pirie Council's own Roadside Vegetation Management Plan.

While much of the native bush was destroyed, it seems that there was absolutely no attempt made to remove feral boxthorns and olive trees.

Genetic biodiversity is a valuable resource. Remnant native vegetation on roadsides provides valuable habitat for native birds and animals, many of which are endangered in Australia. Councils and other local authorities should be conserving remnant vegetation, not destroying it.

This roadside is within the district of the Pirie Regional Council. On the day I saw this damage (28th June) I emailed Council asking for comment. I emailed them again after writing this page, 29th June. I had received no reply by July 7th when I emailed them again and finally received an unsatisfactory reply the next day.

(There are power lines on the side of the road where the photos were taken. The vegetation on the other side of the road was cut back in a similar way. It is not unusual for native vegetation to be cut back to about half the height of the power lines, but not to be completely demolished for the sake of the power lines. This destruction was not related to the power lines.)

Further action

I reported the damage to the Department for the Environment (DE). On 2016/07/07 I received an email from the DE stating that the damage was being investigated as a 'possible breach of the Native Vegetation Act'.

A letter I wrote on the matter was published in the Balaklava Plains Producer newspaper on July 6th.

I have emailed one of the Pirie Regional Councillors who lives in Crystal Brook (about 2016/07/03) and I emailed Mayor John Rohde (2016/07/10).

On 2016/07/09 I informed the local member of Parliament, Geoff Brock.

As of 2016/07/20 I have not had any response from Mayor Rohde nor any satisfactory response from Council following my informing them of their breach of their own guidelines.

Personal aspect

Over the last thirty years I have planted thousands of local native trees and shrubs in the Mid North; especially near Crystal Brook and many of them on roadsides. I have planted trees further along Huddleston Road from where this crime took place, so seeing this had a particularly strong emotional impact on me.

In recent years I have been cleaning up roadside rubbish around Crystal Brook and have walked and picked up rubbish from sections of Huddleston Road on at least 13 occasions. I am very familiar with the road.

Reply from Pirie Regional Council

The email finally received from Council on 2016/07/08 is quoted below:
"Dear Mr Clarke

Thank you for your email received today as well as emails received on the 28th and 29th June 2016.

I can confirm that Council engaged a contractor to carry out maintenance on roadside vegetation. The clearance was carried out in accordance with Council's Roadside Vegetation Management Policy in response to concerns regarding road safety and sight distance due to overgrown vegetation on the road shoulder. Huddleston Road is a busy arterial road where the vegetation has not been maintained for many years. Unfortunately, the machinery used to clear the vegetation causes the remaining vegetation to appear to be left in poor condition. Over the next couple of months the vegetation will regrow and improve in its appearance.

This is common practice for maintaining roadside vegetation.

Kind Regards
Kathryn Johnson
Director Infrastructure
Port Pirie Regional Council"
The emphasis above is mine.

Ms Johnson ignored my main point; that the cutting back of the remnant vegetation was grossly excessive. In this she seems to either be unaware of, or to be ignoring, Pirie Council's own Roadside Vegetation Management Plan. She also seemed to be under the false impression that my main concern was with aesthetics rather than loss of remnant native vegetation, loss of habitat, and loss of biodiversity.

Having lived in the area for nearly forty years I do not recall ever before seeing such blatant and unjustified destruction of native vegetation so far from the roadside in work done by council. This sort of thing is not 'common practice'; if it was there would be much less remnant vegetation even than there is. This must never become 'common practice'!

As stated above, the section of road involved is straight; this can be seen in the photos. I use it often. I have collected rubbish from Huddleston Road at least 13 times in the last three years. Contrary to the claim by Ms Johnson, there was no problem with "sight distance" as can be seen in the photo taken in December 2014, below. The vegetation probably was a little too close to the road in a few places and could have been trimmed back a little, but destruction of half was not justified.

Informative links

Importance of biodiversity; discusses intrinsic values, ethics and anthropocentric values including economic values.

Guidelines on clearing native vegetation in SA; Dept. Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

A Biological Survey of the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula, South Australia; shows the importance of roadsides as a refuge for biodiversity and endangered species; it contains 24 references to roadsides.

Little left to lose: deforestation and forest degradation in Australia since European colonization by Corey J. A. Bradshaw; Oxford Journals: Journal of Plant Ecology.

Pirie Council's Roadside Vegetation Management Plan

Pirie Regional Council Roadside Vegetation Management Plan; states:
  • "The Council is committed to conserving its remnant roadside vegetation where practical and strongly supports revegetation works along appropriate roadsides."
  • "Council's road maintenance program will bring about the need to reconstruct, realign or widen roads at various times.
    In general, the following standards will be adopted:
    Sealed Roads – Carriageway width: 7m
    Clearance outside of sealed carriageway: 2m"
The emphasis above is mine. The clearance outside of the sealed carriageway on the section of Huddleston Road discussed above was four to five metres, more than twice the stated two metres.

The road in December 2014

Photo taken 2014/12/11, before the cutting-back – click on the image (or touch on a tablet) to see the image in higher definition.

The road on 2014/12/11

It can plainly be seen in this photo that there was no problem with 'sight distance' (as claimed by the council) on the section of the road concerned.

Who cares?

It is apparent that whoever in Council was responsible for this destruction doesn't care about the loss of native vegetation, loss of habitat, loss of biodiversity and the unnecessary release of more carbon into the atmosphere.

Perhaps few of the people in the region care. Maybe they will care when it is too late to do anything about the loss.

My wife and I care. Do you care?