Friends of the Lower Field River

17 June 2014

Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 15:29 ): This week marks eight years since one of Hallett Cove's most successful environmental groups was formed. Meeting in the home of David and Linda Greenhough, a group of southern Hallett Cove residents came together to discuss the degraded Lower Field River and from that group of interested local residents emerged Friends of the Lower Field River.

For those who do not know the Field River, it sources up in the seat of Fisher at Chandlers Hill, makes its way through Aberfoyle Park and Happy Valley, then into the seat of Mitchell, Trott Park and Sheidow Park, before entering Gulf St Vincent at Hallett Cove beach. It has been described by Professor Chris Daniels of Uni SA, a well-known South Australian ecologist, as one of the few largely intact natural rivers to be found today in metropolitan Adelaide.

The group of residents who came together to form Friends of the Lower Field River were not what you would call traditional greenies. They were a group of people who looked at a river and realised that the water quality was poor. Every time there was a flood down that river there was a large amount of rubbish—tyres, bicycles, shopping trolleys, graffiti cans, all the usual rubbish—heading down into the gulf, and they wanted to do something to stop that.

Not only was there a problem with rubbish in the river, there were also plenty of olive trees, castor oil plants, gazanias, pine trees, onion grass, and all manner of other non-native weeds choking the river and the parkland that surrounds the river. There was also a sewage spill in late 2006 from a water facility further upstream which caused a high level of nutrients in the river and caused all sorts of algae blooms and the like.

This group of residents who came together to begin some environmental action to transform the river and its environs started off with a regular series of working bees called Field Work in the Field River Days, held on Saturday mornings approximately once a month. Members who are worth recognising are as mentioned before David and Linda Greenhough (David Greenhough remains the chair of the group), Bob MacDonald, Ross and Debra Morriss, Ian Crossland, Barry and Sandy Wood, Damian Landrigan, Danny Wearing, and previous members, Dr David Squirrell, Colin Waterman, Wendy Hill and Allan Paris.

My early community work in Hallett Cove, as a relatively new resident in the area, was formed working with Friends of the Lower Field River. This group became much more than just an environmental group. Over the space of the last eight years it has been cause for a community to be strengthened. People know their neighbours in southern Hallett Cove who did not know each other before. People wave to each other when they pass in the street. It has really been a community capacity building exercise as well as a great environmental project.

Recent water testing has shown that the river's water quality has dramatically improved since the group formed. The non-native vegetation throughout the area has been cleared and replaced with native trees. These have now grown from saplings in 2006 and 2007 to gum trees which now tower above the heads of people who walk through that area. It really is an example of where a community can come together to make quite dramatic environmental change. In the days when we think that often environmental problems are far too big for individuals and groups to come together to change, I think this is a really powerful example at the local level where a group of interested locals came together, partnered with their local council, the City of Marion, partnered with Adelaide Metro who are owners of part of the land and partnered with local schools and other community groups to get this work done.

Much of the area is now looking after itself. The new vegetation has gotten to the point where there is not the same number of working bees required. Again, a great testament to what can happen when a community comes together for environmental good, but the side effects of that are a much stronger community and neighbours who know each other and that is a great thing.

Extracted from Hansard