A new Indigenous-led carbon farming project north of Perth hopes to encourage more use of native plants in large-scale revegetation programs to improve biodiversity.
Perth-based Nativ Carbon has begun working towards a Wheatbelt reforestation project, in partnership with Woodside, to generate jobs for Indigenous people.
To celebrate the initial planting, a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony was conducted recently on Yued Noongar Country, with Elder Beverley Port-Louis.
Nativ Carbon is planting 1.2 million native seedlings, covering between 35-40 species, on two parcels of land near Moora making up a total of about 2,000 hectares.
The majority of the plants, germinated during the later part of 2021, will be planted in the coming weeks.
Nativ Carbon director Matthew Oswald and said the development employed “a substantial number” of Aboriginal people.
“Aboriginal employees have assisted with seed collecting, fence removal, weed control and plant installation with the support of Gambara,” he said.
Mr Oswald, along with Yamatji engineer Darren Lundberg, is also the co-founder of Gambara, a majority-owned Indigenous company specialising in environmental, landscaping, rehabilitation and re-vegetation works in the civil construction, oil and gas and mining sectors.
“Now, in the installation phase, three new team members – from the local Yued group – will be joining the project,” Mr Oswald said.
“Nativ Carbon aims to consistently provide regional and Indigenous employment opportunities, where possible, and we are pleased to have achieved that goal in this project.”
About 30 people, some of those Wheatbelt-based, will work on plant installation and surface preparation.
In addition, it was estimated 20 staff were employed to tend to growing plants over a six-month period at Plantrite nursery, who is contracted by Nativ Carbon to produce the plants.
Ms Port-Louis is working to ensure Indigenous people benefit from projects and industry on their own Country.
“We are sick of looking at the Brand Highway, seeing mining on both sides of it on Yued Country, and those companies need to look at Yued employment because we are struggling to get jobs for the young,” she said.
“As a mother and a grandmother, I am getting out there in front to create jobs for our young people.
“Moora is a hub for Noongar people… we have more than 400 Aboriginal people living in that town and most of our young people haven’t got a job.”
Ms Port-Louis said she and other community leaders were reaching out to mining companies and other industries to promote jobs for young Indigenous people.
She said the TAFE at Moora had become a “white elephant” and more needed to be done to train and employ young people.
“When you clear land you have to re-vegetate. There are golden opportunities,” she said.
Plantrite managing director David Lullfitz said the company was working on developing long term employment opportunities beyond the three-month planting season.
“That includes training and qualifications, including weed control licensing,” he said.
“Western Australia is regarded globally as a biodiversity hotspot and we would encourage federal and state governments to develop incentives or credits for biodiversity as well as carbon.
“Currently bio-diverse is defined by the Clean Energy Regulator’s legislation as more than two species and it is our hope that future, large-scale bush reforestation projects will incorporate a wide range of native plants.
“This will, in turn, will attract a wider range of fauna and other wildlife.”
Some 25 per cent of Gambara’s 24 permanent workers are Noongar, and all of those workers have weed control licenses as well as other important job skills.
Mr Oswald said they are looking at expanding training and mentoring opportunities for Indigenous workers.
Gambara and Mr Lullfitz’s nursery collaborate, and Gambara’s “off season” coincides with the nurseries busiest period, facilitating workers being employed by both companies.
A Woodside spokesperson said the project was part of the company’s plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
“These targets are to reduce net equity Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent by 2025, by 30 per cent by 2030,” they said.
“We have three ways to achieve these targets: avoiding emissions through design, reducing them through efficient operations, and offsetting the remainder.
“Avoiding and reducing emissions are our first priority.”
The spokesperson said offsets played an important role in meeting emissions targets.