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Where the wild things are at Gainsborough Greens

Nature
May 22, 2019

Halcyon Greens at Pimpama sits on the edge of the Gold Coast’s largest man made wildlife sanctuary.

The 300 hectare wilderness hugs the northern edge of Mirvac’s Gainsborough Greens masterplanned community and provides a green haven for native flora and fauna.

For 15 years, conservationist Matt Keys has worked with Mirvac to oversee the transformation of the massive swamp, forest and farmland parcel into a purpose-built ‘lifeboat’ for the area’s native animals.

Today the fenced sanctuary comprises several large manmade freshwater lagoons, planted native forests, a thoughtfully redesigned 18-hole golf course as well as 50ha of preserved old-growth forests with trees up to 700 years old.

Its rich ecological diversity has attracted and become home to koalas, kangaroos, eagles, owls, gliders, ospreys, black swans and countless other species of native fauna and flora.

Matt, who heads Habitat Environment Management, said geographically, Halcyon Greens sits at the heart of the sanctuary, giving home owners a front row seat to nature’s magnificence and resilience.

“For Halcyon Greens home owners, it is quite literally a case of living at the centre of a purpose-designed wildlife sanctuary,” he said.

“The lakes around Halcyon are all manmade, they didn’t exist five years ago.

“They were built not only for stormwater treatment but to provide flood immunity for the golf course and to create a wildlife sanctuary.

“To see them today and to know what they looked like a few years ago is extraordinary. The diversity of birds in there now is staggering.”

Matt said Gainsborough’s wilderness was designed to counter some of the impacts of the northern corridor’s development boom.

“We’ve created huge amounts of new habitat that’s purpose-built for wildlife,” he said.

“With tree clearing moving progressively north and driving fauna towards us, we thought Gainsborough could act as a ‘lifeboat’.

“That was the whole modus operandi: let’s build a magnificent buffet for fauna and protect them by fencing it.”

Halcyon Greens wildlife sanctuary warrior Matt Keys in the mangroves

Matt said the sanctuary, which makes up 65 per cent of Gainsborough Greens’ footprint,  is a credit to Mirvac’s environmental commitment and is testament to the saying: “build it and they will come”.

“We have built that wildlife ‘buffet’ for critters, knowing that if we put the lakes and native flora in there, the animals would come, and sure enough that’s what happened,” he said.

“The combination of protecting old growth forests and planting tens of thousands of food trees seems to be having the desired effect with the ‘teddy bears’ (koalas) and lots of other native wildlife too.

“It’s kind of like putting a bowl of lollies on the table and watching the kids flock to it.

“There’s very little maintenance required now because the native ecosystem is now managing itself; it’s the gift that keeps giving.”

The sanctuary has one-way fauna fences and gates, allowing animals to enter but not leave, ensuring they remain protected from threats like humans, vehicles and domestic pets.

Among the Sanctuary’s thousands of native plantings are up to 100,000 eucalypts or koala food trees.

They have grown so well that Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary workers visit each month to collect  gum leaf for their resident koalas.

Matt said several independent experts have assessed the Pimpama sanctuary for its ability to become a receiving site for relocated koalas.

“The consensus is that we are about 10 years away from being able to take animals in reasonable numbers,” he said.

“We just need to allow time for those eucalypts to become 40-foot high.”

A long-time environmental ally, Matt started his career working for the Australian Conservation Foundation before joining the Surfrider Foundation Australia as its national campaign manager.

He founded Habitat as a way of working with the mainstream to achieve better outcomes for nature.

Matt said the residents of Gainsborough Greens were doing their bit for nature by choosing to live there.

“The biggest contribution they can possibly make is buying the product that developers are creating in these types of places,” he said

“That alone is massive because if the industry is seeing that the smart developers who genuinely care about the environment and do meaningful work on the ground are getting a premium for their homes, then others will copy it.

“The residents here have already done the environment a huge favour.”