Landscape and Biodiversity

Landscape Management Plan

Background

The University of Newcastle's (UoN) Callaghan Campus (the Campus) is known and promoted as "the bushland campus" because of its natural bushland setting in which the educational facilities are located. In addition to the bushland, the Campus contains a mixture of landscaped gardens, wetlands, ovals, dams and creek and drainage lines.

The Campus, with a size of 140 ha of which 25 ha are bushland, accommodates currently about 23,900 students and 2,500 staff.  Student numbers are expected to grow to about 30,000 by 2021. This growth is expected to fuel the need for infrastructure development and increased resource utilisation which can exert pressures on the bushland through fragmentation and habitat loss. In addition, the need to protect personal safety of students and staff and to minimise the risk of bushfires creates further management challenges.

In light of these various pressures there is the need to preserve the bushland character and landscape of the Campus while achieving a balanced approach to campus functionality, security and development.   In response, a Landscape Management Plan (LMP) has been developed to satisfy the following objectives:

*   Identify the vision and principles that will guide landscape management 
*   Outline the roles for landscape management and the skills and qualifications required
*   Identify management zones within the campus based on landscape features and values
*   Identify approaches for the management of these zones

Landscape Management Zones

For the purposes of the LMP the campus landscape has been divided into three management zones according to its broad features and management requirements:

*   Mixed use management zone: this zone encompasses the paths, roads, carparks, building precincts, bushfire asset protection zones, constructed gardens and swales within the Arts, Eastern, Engineering, Hunter, Shortland and South precincts

*   Sports management zone: this zone encompasses ovals one to five (including the Ray Watt Oval) and the landscaped areas within the Sports precinct

*   Bushland management zone: this zone relates to the bushland areas within the Campus

Management of mixed use zone

Vegetation management in the mixed use zone has currently a strong focus on providing lines of sight to address safety of staff, students and visitors to the campus.  This has resulted in understorey plants in some garden beds, swales and vegetated edges being replaced by mulch or grass and a limited selection of plant species being used.  There is a need to replace vegetation in some garden beds with more suitable species and progressively plant garden beds that are currently unvegetated.  The replanting strategy for the mixed use zone aims to:

*   give a fresh and clear identity to the precincts within the Campus
*   reduce safety and bushfire risks
*   reduce maintenance costs
*   improve amenity
*   support existing native vegetation communities
*   maintain the 'bushland campus' identity

 

Management of Sports Zone

Newcastle University Sport (NUsport) is charged with the development of sport and fitness through services, facilities and activities.  These facilities include The Forum, squash and tennis courts, rowing pavilion and sporting ovals. In relation to ovals management the UoN needs to maintain sufficient sports ovals at high standard and suitable for a range of intended uses.  Use of resources should be more environmentally sustainable, particularly water consumption for irrigation. To this end, the LMP provides recommendations for general oval maintenance, subsurface irrigation and the planting of shade trees along the oval perimeters.

Management of Bushland Zone

The Campus bushland habitat supports a significant amount of native flora and fauna species including four threatened fauna species. Vegetation communities consist of Spotted Gum-Ironbark Forest (dry forest variant and wet forest variant), Riparian Closed Forest and Freshwater Wetlands. In addition to its ecological value, the bushland areas contribute significantly to the amenity and character of the Campus.  However, these areas are also subject to weed invasion, clearing, littering, erosion and other degrading factors.  The LMP provides guidance on how to maintain the ecological integrity and amenity of bushland areas within the Campus, using best practice bush regeneration techniques. 

The LMP identifies ten bushland management zones with varying management requirements. Action Plans developed for each zone outline resource requirements, management time frames, cost estimates and bush regeneration strategies. The management of bushland relies strongly on the employment of a skilled bush regeneration team.

Biodiversity Off-set Management

The LMP contains an off-setting strategy that provides a systematic and consistent method for mitigating and offsetting the biodiversity related impacts of the UoN's operations.

Biodiversity offsetting refers to actions taken outside a development area to compensate for the direct and indirect effects of that development on native vegetation and biodiversity.  Off-setting is a practical tool for decision makers allowing them to balance the relative environmental, social and economic merits of development proposals under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.  If used strategically, off-setting can lead to the maintenance of environmental viability, an overall net improvement in environmental viability across a region, a net gain in vegetation cover and / or an additional level of security for vegetation that is currently not protected.

A number of significant new developments at the Campus are currently in various stages of progress that will impact on native vegetation. Projected future growth may perpetuate this situation. An off-set strategy was therefore needed to assist the UoN to:

*   negotiate requirements with planning authorities to offset potential vegetation losses associated with development at the Campus
*   understand how the offset area should be established and managed

LMP Recommendations

Landscape Management Zone

Ovals Management Zone

Bushland Management Zone

Precinct planting to give precincts identity and fresh look

Extend sub-surface irrigation to all ovals

Engage bush regeneration team to undertake bush regeneration in 10 bushland zones

Increase plant diversity particularly among ground covers

 

Planting of shade trees along perimeter of ovals

 

Bush regenerators to implement the long-term (10 years) action  plans developed for each zone

 

Progressively replant bare, mulched, grassed garden areas and swales using predominantly ground covers

 

Harvesting stormwater for irrigation

Exclude mowing from areas with native canopy adjacent to bushland and outside APZ


 Landscape Consultative Group

The Callaghan Campus Landscape Consultative Group (CCLCG) was established in late 2009 to:

*   To provide a forum for productive communication and consultation between Facilities Management and the University community regarding the management of bushland and landscape areas 
*   To promote a positive image of the University regarding the management of its bushland and landscape areas
*   To promulgate an understanding by the University community of the bushland and landscape management principles and strategies applied

The CCLCG meets twice per annum and has representatives from Facilities Management, staff, students and external key stakeholders.

The 140-hectare Callaghan campus of the University of Newcastle has undergone considerable change to its general amenity, land use and vegetation characteristics since its establishment in 1965. Just prior to the University, the land was predominantly cleared due to mining and agricultural activities, with part of the site formerly being a Council rubbish tip.

For the first 25 years of the University campus the landscape was managed predominately under a turf maintenance and rural style of management regime. From the 1990s there was a shift to a focus on enhancing the bushland setting across the campus through a period of active revegetation. 

Over time the density and coverage of native vegetation has increased markedly across the campus. While the revegetation activities have delivered a bushland campus identity for the University, it also brings with it a range of other campus management consequences and considerations which must be planned for in a strategic manner.