Linking the old and new South Gippsland Highways by restoring the Apple Tree Wetlands

This project will link the remnant vegetation on the South Gippsland Highway at Koonwarra with the Apple Tree Wetland on the Tarwin River and remnant vegetation beside the new South Gippsland highway alignment by targeted weed control and revegetation. This will create a continuous corridor of high quality native vegetation between the two aspects of the South Gippsland Highway.

The Apple Tree Wetland is adjacent to the new highway realignment but is outside the realigned highway footprint. By restoring this area, connectivity will be created between the remnants on the side of the old highway, the revegetation that will be planted after the removal of the old highway, and the riverside vegetation adjacent to the new road alignment.
The project site is weedy and degraded and this project will remove the weeds and replace them with endemic vegetation, improving habitat and connectivity for animals and birds. The project site is bisected by the Great Southern Rail trail and includes an historic trestle bridge. Revegetation plant species will be chosen that not only support the environment but also enhance the experience of rail trail users. The Apple Tree Wetlands are part of the Nerrena Tarwin Valley Landcare group’s Black Spur Creek Wetlands project which seeks to protect and restore endangered Swampy Riparian Woodland and vulnerable Damp Heathy Woodland which includes Strzelecki gums, a nationally threatened species, along the section of rail trail containing the three creek and river crossings.

In 2016 the Nerrena Tarwin Valley Landcare group, with lots of community input, developed a management plan for 100 acres (40 Hectares) of public land - the Black Spur Creek Wetlands project.
The project area is bisected by the Great Southern Rail Trail and runs from the South Gippsland Highway down to the Tarwin River and from the Black Spur Creek to Minns Road. This is a popular area with rail trail users as it has three creek and waterway crossings with the Tarwin River bridges being historic rail trestles over 100 years old. The project plan identifies six project areas, each with unique and important environmental values and characteristics. Since the plan’s inception two of the areas have had environmental restoration.
The 2021 Gippsland Transport Environmental Projects Pilot Program gives the Landcare group the opportunity to restore the Apple Tree Wetlands, named after a venerable old apple tree beside the rail trail, by removing the noxious woody weeds and replanting indigenous vegetation. Restoring the vulnerable Strzelecki Gum woodland, remnants of which remain on the roadside, will increase habitat and connectivity across the landscape. The restored wetland will provide a wide range of services including flood mitigation, improved water quality, and amenity. This project links the remnant vegetation between the current South Gippsland Highway, the new South Gippsland Highway, and the Tarwin River creating landscape connectivity and habitat for birds, animals and plants.