thomas m wilson

Look down and then stand up

October 19th, 2009


Fremantle just elected Brad Pettitt as mayor, a man who means what he says when he talks environmental protection.  I got to shake his hand on Saturday night and pay my respects.  But for those of us who care about the natural world, most of Fremantle is urban (which is not to say that the green revolution shouldn’t take place in cities).  The third largest area of native vegetation in Perth, and the closest one to Freo, is surrounding Jandakot airport, a little further south-east.  Yesterday I wandered through some banksia woodlands not too far from Jandakot airport with my friend Matt.  In this photo Matt surveys the prospect.

We parked in a suburban street nearby, and then proceeded on foot.  Soon the footpath ran out and we were forced to walk along the side of the road.  To the left and the right the angular shapes of suburban roofs with square air conditioning units atop and plenty of exotic palms rising up amongst them all.

Then Matt and I left a road and entered a woodland.  It wasn’t one on land owned by Jandakot Airport – that would be trespass and that is something we would not do.  But we did leave a road and enter bush on the sandy soils not too far from the airport.  It is still the end of spring and plenty of flowers are out.  The banksia woodlands of the Swan coastal plain make up a natural scene which is not breathtaking considered standing up, looking out.  You have to stop walking, and pause…

Now look down to your feet.  Squat down.  Look amongst the plants.  You are faced with tens of beautiful plants species with their own unique flower and leaf.  It is here that the surprises lie.  Most people are too impatient for the onwards march of a bush walk to really stop and look down.  But if you do, you will be rewarded with much more than you’ll ever find with the stride-over-the-hill approach.


These little purple stars gleaming like jewels in the undergrowth are the flowers of perennial shrub called Calectasia narragara, or Star of Behlehem.

A few footfalls later.  And then…


This flower of passion amongst rich green stems, richer green than I’m used to seeing on this sandy soil, doesn’t have a common name, but is called Daviesia hakeoides.

For me the star of the morning was from the Proteaceae family: Petrophile linearis flowers have a kind of alien-like charm with their furry pink petals low down amongst the chaos of leaf and stem…


What an amazingly funky looking plant and flower.

Then we walked along the road south into Jandakot airport.  From the road I could see what the airport guys have already done to the native vegetation in this area.  Destruction…


Why do they need another runway and more money?  They’ve already wrecked enough land around here.  Look for yourself.  This land was cleared a while back for a ‘commercial precinct’, a place for big wharehouse sized shops to sell plasma screen tvs and the like, but months have past and its still empty.


What we are talking about is the third largest area of native vegetation in Perth.  This is the largest area of woodland close to Fremantle.  And the Jandakot Airport people have already ripped into it with bulldozers, leaving the empty earth you see in the above photo.  According to the WA Native Orchid society ‘there is some dispute whether the 79 ha that was cleared (and the 53 ha remaining to be cleared [for this one commerical precint]) was done with appropriate authority and permission’.  Across the whole site, the airport people want to knock down another 167 ha, and the federal government is considering their proposal right now.  I and Matt know how intricate and wonderful the thousands of plant and animal lives existing in this kind of banksia woodland are.  Imagine going into an ancient library full of illuminated texts from centuries past and pulling books from shelves and tearing them up.  This is the kind of thing that  Jandakot Airport Holdings wants to do with thousands of Western Australian works of nature.  Fremantle people should at least know that a private enterprise is trying to get more money by diminishing the largest treasure trove of nature left close to them.

On our way out of Jandakot airport we walked across a highway intersection.  It seemed to go on for a long time, reminding us of what a surprisingly large amount of physical space a highway junction or bridge can take up on a landscape.  Soon Roe highway is going to be pushed through North Lake’s bush for a vast concrete intersection, not totally unlike this one.  This is just around the corner from Jandakot airport.

Don’t feel that you can’t do anything about the loss of nature in Perth.  You can step up to the plate.  Protest this destruction of nature by coming to a rally at North Lake on 31 October.

Nature in Perth right now needs you.  Come and support the preservation of one of the last remaining wetlands in the metropolitan area. There will be speakers and entertainment.  More details at:

See you at:

Bibra Lake Reserve, Progress Drive
(between Hope Rd & Gwilliam Drive)
Bibra Lake

11am – 1pm Saturday
31 October 2009

3 Responses to “Look down and then stand up”

  1. Vicki on October 19th, 2009 at 4:56 pm:

    Well said, Tom. These areas are increasingly rare and totally under threat from short term thinking.
    Perth needs to preserve what little nature is left. Once these places are destroyed they cannot be restored. What has taken millions of years can be reduced to sand in hours.

    Protest, write letters, attend rallies. Spread the word, people.
    Save the Jandakot banksia woodlands and leave Beeliar wetlands for the future Perth people to enjoy.

  2. Rachel Calderbank on October 20th, 2009 at 8:27 am:

    Yes, yes, yes, the wetlands are a vital and unique ecosystem that define some of our states beauty, and are the home for our native flora and fauna. The flow on effect of our few remaining woodlands and wetlands will eventually leave us with a sterile and artificial environment. We too are creatures of the earth and we need this, not only for the health of our animals, but for us too, not least our spiritual health.
    I am tired of business determining what gets bulldozed as it is not theirs to take, and we all have a right to live naturally in our world, and not have our instinctively human pleasures in life replaced by the empty pleasures of shopping and excessive consumption.

    When will the powers that be wake up and realise the entire earth is an ecosystem, and the removal of the natural world will have far reaching consequences that once rolling, will be impossible to replicate. We have enough Harvey Norman’s thank you very much.

    I will be at the rally, I am disgusted at the lack of respect for nature, and it’s vital role in our and the planet’s health. When will it stop??

  3. Rosa Wallis on October 30th, 2009 at 9:12 pm:

    Enough is enough – the hold Main Roads Department has had over this state for 40 years or so, with ever increasing roads disecting and polarising our communities and environment is deplorable. This proposal is a waste of taxpayers money, and robbing Peter to to Paul, and does not solve the problem of arterial roads to the Port. It is merely placating a vocal group of (righty so) fed up people living along the main roads now, and merely shifting the problem elswhere, and ruining a pristine environment: until years later that too, will need to be addressed when local residents will demand the problem once agaon be solved.