People affected by an issue are called stakeholders and every stakeholder has their own perspective, needs and willingness for action and inaction. So who cares about the impact of Cat’s Claw Creeper? In this episode of Save Our Catchment, you will learn from farmers, Landcare, tourist providers, and Indigenous groups about how they have a role to play in managing Cat's Claw in the Upper Clarence River catchment. (5:32)

Save Our Catchment – Episode 11

WARNING – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

[Screen reads: Focus question. How has the Cat’s claw creeper impacted on different stakeholders in the Upper Clarence River Catchment]


All environmental land and water degradation issues are complex by nature. When negotiating management of such issues you need to consider the multiple stakeholders. Often, stakeholders have very different perspectives on land and water degradation issues and their willingness, ability and motivation to cooperate can be very different.

[Screen displays four interlocking circles with words cultural, recreational, economic and environmental, in the centre of each]

This can often hinder or help the landscape from recovering from an environmental problem. We will hear from a few local stakeholders about their concerns and actions in regards to Cat's Claw Creeper in the Upper Clarence catchment. Jubullum representative Roy Bell is the secretary for the Jubullum Local Aboriginal Land Council and member of the local tribal group. The group has a long history with the local landscape, the Clarence River catchment, which contains sites which hold deep spiritual importance. He shared his sadness about the potential loss of important cultural sites to the damage caused by Cat's Claw Creeper.

Roy Bell – Administration officer and Bundjalung man, the Jubullum local Aboriginal land council

It will seem scarred trees and carved trees and stuff that potentially won't be there in the next five to 10 years. For the younger generation to see, it's pretty distressing so they're a really important part of Aboriginal culture and stuff that's rarely practised today.


We also talked to Terry Moody, a local Landcare representative about the Landcare movement and how he is involved with the Cat's Claw.

Terry Moody – CEO and weed expert, Upper Clarence combined Landcare

Landcare started off some 27 years ago now, I think, in Victoria. It was essentially an agreement between farmers' federations and community groups and environmental groups to accept more responsibility within the community for improved environmental management.

[Screen reads – Landcare Australia. Landcare as agreement farmers federations and community groups and environmental groups accept more responsibility within the community for improved environmental management]

So it was actually farmers and, for lack of better words, greenies working together. So it's a community-based movement. The government actually owns the copyright over the name of Landcare but the government has no role really in running Landcare. So when you talk about Landcare, you're talking about a loose group of people all over Australia, some working individually, some working in small groups, all abiding by a philosophy of looking after the land in their area.

Acting local can sometimes be a bit messy but at the end of the day, we're always there. We survived the ups and downs of funding programmes just purely because people have a passion. I've seen that develop even in our workers, people who never even really saw the issues before, they knew it was there but they didn't see the scale or the impact of it, and over the years of killing it and everything else they've become quite passionate about it and I've seen that particularly in our Aboriginal workers because they're also getting back on country. To some of them it's a new experience and it's a new world.


Local tourism business provider Steve Ross shared his thoughts on the issue and actions he undertakes to manage Cat's Claw Creeper.


How long has your business operated in the Clarence Valley, Steve?

Steve Ross – Tourism provider, owner of Clarence River wilderness lodge

We've lived here 35 years and we've been operating since 1994.


What's the nature of your business?


Well we've got two businesses. One where we have our eco retreat on the banks of the Clarence River. And the other one where we take canoe trips down the Clarence River. That can be adults or students from schools.


How important is river health to your livelihood?


I'd say essential to have a good river. And certain places it's good, up where we are in the more the headwaters, there's not too many environmental weeds up in that area.


So for somebody that's been using the river system, what observations have you made with the Cat's Claw Creeper on the river?


Well from Tabulam down, that's where the real impact of the Cat's Claw is, so it's coming down the Timbarra and it's infested the river from its confluence down, to the point where you have the riparian trees now actually falling into the river because they've been killed from the Cat's Claw.


And that probably doesn't do your business any favours because it's not very aesthetically pleasing?


Well surprisingly enough, most tourists wouldn't actually recognise it as a problem. To date, people that come with us just see this weird vine and these weird looking trees so it doesn't have that impact. We use it as a bit of a teaching tool for the students, so when we take them down the river to show them the impact of the environmental weeds. So in that respect, if we're using that section of river then the students get to hear about the Cat's Claw and its impact.


As a tourism provider, are you concerned about this weed as an issue?


I am. The long-term impacts for the river with the trees falling in then changing riparian areas so the animals that normally live in that area and also the sedimentation that comes from it as well. The river's being dammed up from the dead trees. That will all have an impact on the quality of the river.


As you have witnessed in this episode, there are stakeholders who have grave concerns for the health of the Upper Clarence River. These people rely on the river system for social and economic security. Loss of the riparian health is having significant cultural and environmental impacts. At this stage, you may be starting to formulate some ideas of how to help.

List of sources and acknowledgements:

  1. Video – Drone Footage of The Everlasting Swamp. We would like to thank The Everlasting Swamp National Park and Jessica Robertson Photography and Design for contributing their beautiful drone footage

  1. Image – Landcare workers. Provided by Envite Environment

  1. Image and video – Canoeing on the Upper Clarence River. Provided by Steven Ross and Clarence River wilderness lodge

  1. Narration – Voice over by Robert Llewellyn, New Soul Projects

  1. Acknowledgment. – We wish to thank Father Pop Harry Walker, Annabelle Walker, Roy Bell, Jubullum Local Aboriginal Land Council, Steve Walker, Marty Walker, David Foley, Upper Clarence River Landcare, Terry Moody, Steven Ross, Frederick Ellis

[End of transcript]

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