Fwd: Farewell Gouldian Finch?

To: birding aus <>
Subject: Fwd: Farewell Gouldian Finch?
From: Russell Woodford <>
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2005 11:43:01 +1000

Begin forwarded message:

From: Denise Goodfellow <>
Date: 24 June 2005 3:00:16 PM
To: Michael Hunter <>, Russell Woodford <>, Charles J Patterson <>
Subject: Farewell Gouldian Finch?

Russell, you might like to post this to all.

On the subject of developers - they simply raze whole suburbs in Darwin and surrounds, and have been doing so for decades. I first noted this as an
alderman in the early 1980s.

Yet when members of the rural garden club complained about the loss of
species in their gardens the other day, they weren't blaming developers, but
orchardists.  Mango orchards have replaced much of the open forest and
woodland around Darwin, and look like taking over the whole area from the
city to Mt Bundey Station on the Arnhem Highway.

But rural gardeners were also concerned about an even larger threat, and not
only to avifauna.

It's called Gamba grass. This bulky African species grows to 4 metres in height and forms a thicket so dense that a 4WD has little chance of forcing
a way through.

Fire-adapted this grass burns so hot that our fire-tolerant eucalypts etc have little chance of survival. Even in the early dry season, our usually
cool fires are burning the tops of trees ten metres tall.  What isn't
destroyed by fire, is suffocated. It grows in most habitats, taking over
whole vegetation communities.

Here I quote from an Environment Centre release:

Gamba grass, like so many other serious weeds in the NT, was introduced to benefit the cattle industry. It is now overrunning the Darwin rural area and scientists at (one) forum warned that at the current rate of spread
most of the Top End will be covered with gamba in 50-80 years.  The
ecological, social and economic impacts of this would be utterly disastrous,
scientists warned.

Gamba Grass has the potential to spread right across northern Australia from coast to coast. Now, let's see what birds it will knock out. For a start there's Chestnut-backed Button-quail, Partridge Pigeon, Gouldian Finch, and Yellow-rumped Mannikin. I can send the map of potential coverage to anyone who is interested. And there should be enough information available through
Google to convince any doubters.

I remember the outcry generated by first the gold mine in Gouldian Finch habitat at Mt Todd, and then the destruction of patches of habitat where Gouldian Finches fed, for the railway. And recently there's been much done to alert people about the threat cane toads pose to fauna. The impact of cane toads will pale into insignificance if gamba spreads to the extent
predicted.  But few seem to be concerned.

Incidentally, it's still legal to plant Gamba grass (it was originally
imported in the 1930s for pastoralists who still I understand, sing its

I tried to highlight the issue during the last election. Our new member had not even heard of the grass, and I'd say that applies to most politicians
and Top End residents.

I urge all concerned to write to the Chief Minister, the Hon. Clare Martin,
PO Box 3146, Darwin NT 0801.


Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow
61 (0)8 89 328306
1/7 Songlark Street, Bakewell, NT 0832

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