Restoring biodiversity within the vineyards

In 2014, McLaren Vale viticulture industry faced a confronting reality. Over 7000hectares of the Willunga Basin was under vine with a mere 6 per cent of native vegetation remaining.

While exotic plants such as roses, almonds and olives thrive in the fertile soil, their abundance has seen creeks choked, native plants suffocated, and indigenous fauna forage elsewhere.

And combined with the increasing effects of climate change, the future of the Willunga Basin seemed bleak.

But five years ago, a local grassroots movement emerged from a discussion between Geoff Hayter – grape grower and passionate environmentalist, and Jock Harvey – farmer and business owner.  Both have a strong sustainability focus and had been making improvements to the environment on their own properties by undertaking creek line restoration. But they knew the community wanted more.

In the true spirit of Landcare, McLaren Vale Biodiversity Project was born. And aiming to remove feral vegetation from selected creek lines and roadsides within the Willunga Basin, the group replace these weeds with endemic species and maintain those plantings through their establishment phase.

And what started out with a mere handful of members has quickly swelled to hundreds of members, with at least 35 members per worker bee each month.

Minister David Speirs with YACCA youth group at MVBP planting event on June 2nd at Shingleback wines

‘To date, the MVBP has worked on over 30 project sites across the Willunga Basin at a landscape scale,’ said Jock Harvey, Treasurer and Founder of McLaren Vale Biodiversity Project.

‘Many grape growers are learning the importance of having native vegetation within 100-150m of a vineyard is what enables it’s resilience to Climate Change and prevents a reliance on chemicals within the vineyard.’

Supported by local environmental group Friends of Willunga Basin, local council City of Onkaparinga  and McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association, local industry such as Peat’s Soil and the Willunga Basin Water Company and large large wine companies such as Chalk Hill Viticulture, Paxton’s, Shingleback Wines, Dowie Doole, Gemtree are strong supporters of MVBP and offer sponsorship and support which in turn assists the group to engage and empower the local community.

‘The people of McLaren Vale and Willunga Basin truly love their community, and live and breathe that they provide the best wine, food and local produce and want it to be ‘clean and green’,’ Jock said.

‘And they look towards reducing or eliminating chemicals such as Glyphosate from the region.’

McLaren Vale Biodiversity Project recently picked up the Australian Governement Partnerships for Landcare Award at the 2019 SA Landcare Awards.

They will go on to represent SA in the same category at the 2020 National Landcare Awards next year.

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