The new Magabala Botanical Park, that few in Broome have yet to discover, drew an enthusiastic crowd during National Science Week.
Tom Harley, a Broome character with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Kimberley flora, walked and talked the group through the park that was peppered with flowers and bush tuckers. With native plants and native gardening books being given away, smiles were everywhere.
The purpose of the National Science Week event, run by the Roebuck Bay Working Group, LandCorp and Society for Kimberley Indigenous Plants and Animals (SKIPA), was to promote gardening with native plants and water harvesting, as Tom Harley explained.
“With Broome on a peninsula surrounded by extraordinarily productive waters, it is essential that the community uses a coastal gardening approach that reduces polluted runoff that can impact marine life and feed blooms of toxic Lyngbya. It is also important to help restrict erosion and replenish the aquifer by building up swales.”
With scientific data collected by post-doctorate researcher Dr Sora Estrella over the last three years, indicating that nutrient levels in Roebuck Bay exceed water quality guidelines, the best approach for the community is to plant natives and trap rainwater. Native plants don’t require fertiliser and most can survive on less water than introduced plants, so are ideal for a coastal town like Broome.
“The problem with fertilisers is the nutrients that are not used by the plants, can wash off gardens during heavy rain into stormwater drains that discharge into coastal waters.” Tom Harley said.
With blooms of Lyngbya occurring in Roebuck Bay in recent years, and pindan coloured plumes flowing into the bay during recent unseasonal rainfall during the dry, the science week event was a timely reminder for the community to embrace a gardening approach that will help reduce runoff.
Magabala Botanical Park, established in 2012 by LandCorp, was an ideal venue for the event, with the park showcasing five Kimberley habitats. Working with the local land care group SKIPA, landscape architects have created a park that is a botanical treasure for Broome, where hundreds of different plant species are thriving.
The Welcome to Country by Yawuru language teacher Maxine Charlie was another highlight, with Maxine showing onlookers her new book, Guwayi The Bar-tailed Godwit. The crowd enjoyed meeting the author and seeing the beautiful illustrations that show the godwit’s annual migration from Roebuck Bay to the remote Russian tundra where they breed. With Guwayi’s epic journeys dependent on the abundant invertebrate life in Roebuck Bay’s mudflats, it makes a lot of sense for the Broome community to use a coastal gardening approach that keeps Broome’s coastal waters clean and biologically productive.