Walpole ManukaLife

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Project goal:

Improve water quality by revegetating catchment areas in Walpole

Status:

In planning

Delivery Date:

To be confirmed

What's happening?

We've entered into a share-farming agreement with ManukaLife Pty Ltd to revegetate several areas of Water Corporation owned land at Walpole. We are revegetating with tea tree shrubs which also have potential for future Manuka honey production.

These sites were purchased over the past decade, some with the specific long-term aim of revegetating to protect water quality, as they are contained within Public Drinking Water Source Areas (PDWSA).

Through this project, we aim to

  • Protect biodiversity by recovering land from intensive grazing
  • Provide a haven for wildlife and
  • Ensure Walpole is recognised for the establishment of another clean and green industry

Here you'll find answers to a number of frequently asked questions surrounding the project.

Why is Water Corporation revegetating the catchment?

  • Water Corporation has purchased a number of sites in Walpole over the past decade for revegetation, as a means of further protecting water quality for the long-term.
  • Revegetation is a preferable land use to intensive livestock grazing as it reduces nutrients in the waterways (from fertiliser and manure), and minimises the risk of bacterial contamination in waterways and water supplies.
  • The structural make-up of the tea tree shrub, with its complex root base, is beneficial to water courses since it naturally filters water and assists in preventing erosion.     

Tell me about the Tea Trees

  • The tea tree shrubs will include some which are native and others that are common in Western Australia. They are all well-suited to future production of Manuka honey.
  • There are multiple species and multiple varieties within the species. They are deep rooted perennials and are classified as a broad acre crop.
  • Some of the species of tea tree that will be planted have been developed by the Kings Park Botanical Gardens. They have been approved for planting by the federal government, and have been sold in nurseries across WA for more than 30 years.
  • The shrubs have also been planted in areas such as the Shire of Murray, Harvey, Albany and Manjimup.
  • These tea tree shrubs are produced naturally, with no Genetic Modification (GM).

What are the measures of success for this project?

  • The primary measure of success for this project is the recovery of the land from intensive agriculture, which will reduce the exposure of the land and surrounding waterways to nutrients (from fertiliser and manure), and minimise the risk of bacterial contamination in waterways and water supplies.
  • It is expected that the change in land use will also result in lower long-term use of other inputs such as herbicides, so establishment of the shrubs will also be considered a success for this outcome.
  • As a secondary benefit, the Tea Tree shrubs have the potential to produce Manuka honey, tea tree oil and other possible value-add outputs.

Is the successful production of honey essential to the success of the project?

  • As mentioned, the primary measure of success for this project is the recovery of the land from intensive agriculture which will reduce the exposure of the land and waterways to nutrients (from fertiliser and manure), and minimise the risk of bacterial contamination in waterways and water supplies.

Aren’t tea trees a weed?

  • No, tea tree shrubs (Leptospermum scoparium) are not weeds. They are deep rooted perennials, which are native to Australia.

Speaking of weeds, how are you managing them and what chemicals are you using?

  • The tea tree crop will require significantly less weed control products than pasture and other forms of intensive agriculture.
  • The shrubs will be planted in rows. Much of the pasture will be retained around those rows to minimise erosion.
  • In the short term, larger outbreaks of weeds within rows may be targeted with an approved commercial herbicide such as Glyphosate as necessary.
  • Any use of chemicals will be minimised to protect the long term capacity to produce high quality outputs, in line with Walpole’s clean and green ethos.
  • Glyphosate is widely used by the agricultural industry in Australia, and its use in drinking water catchments is undertaken in accordance with Department of Health guidelines, and its use in this project will be very limited in order to protect future outputs from chemical contamination.

How are the bees managed and where do they come from?

  • ManukaLife does not own bee hives. It engages professional beekeepers to provide that service, similar and potentially including those which currently operate in Walpole.
  • The professional beekeepers will bring their own hives with them to Walpole for the purposes of producing Manuka honey. Once the tea trees have finished flowering (approx. four months in a year), the bee keepers will take their hives (and bees) away to pursue other nectar sources.
  • Beekeepers manage their hives by ensuring there is a guaranteed nectar source nearby, which holds the right amount of nectar for the size of the hive.
  • Swarming occurs when there is an oversupply of food/nectar. This is less likely to happen with the right number of bees so beekeepers control that balance. This balance is integral to the health of the hive, and to sustaining the beekeepers’ business.

Will Water Corporation monitor the effects of the project?

  • Water Corporation will work with ManukaLife and with relevant agencies to ensure there are no adverse impacts on native fauna and flora.
  • We anticipate that this will include environmental monitoring such as reporting hives that swarm.
  • Management of the land will include good biosecurity practices consistent with other farm land operations in the Walpole area and will not pose any greater threat to the environment.

What are the environmental benefits of this project?

  • Two thirds of food produced requires bees. Increasing bee populations, at a time when they are dwindling worldwide, will have a positive impact on Australian agri-business by improving pollination services and increasing opportunities for apiarists to build healthy bee colonies and businesses.
  • As opposed to traditional farming arrangements, this crop has a light environmental footprint. There is minimal use of heavy machinery and minimal spraying due to the sensitivity of the end product, (Manuka honey’s commercial value is reliant on its purity and freedom from contaminants).
  • The project will provide an environmental benefit to the Walpole area by providing additional vegetation in the catchment, and reducing the nutrient impacts of cattle grazing.
  • The trees will provide habitat for native species (bandicoots and smaller marsupials) as well as nectar-eating birds.
  • The trees are not heavy feeders and they do not require large amounts of water to grow. They also sequester carbon from the atmosphere – doing their bit to mitigate climate change.

What are the economic benefits of this project?

  • There will be increased opportunities for beekeepers in the region to work with ManukaLife.
  • There will be local employment opportunities for seasonal and ongoing work such as land preparation, planting, pruning and ongoing plant and land management.


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