In the Manning River Times edition of Friday-Saturday May 4-5, 2007, a story entitled "Young hands help" told of a visit by a group of students to Coocumbac Island, in the middle of the Manning River at Taree. Here's report Alex Druce's story from about visit.
A GROUP of 20 Taree Public School children this week took part in a rainforest regeneration program on Coocumbac Island, under the supervision of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
It has been four years since a school group has been over to the island, which is located just west of Martin Bridge.
The students participated in a variety of ecological activities, planting native trees and receiving in-depth lessons on the ecology, history and heritage of the island from members of the NPWS.
Taree Public School teacher, Wal Dixon first introduced his students to the Coocumbac Island regeneration project in 1991. However due to the difficulties involved with transporting a large class to and from the island, he has not been able to continue the excursion in recent years.
Mr Dixon said this year with the help of the Wingham State Emergency Service members who willingly gave up their time and boating equipment in the name of education, he has been able to organise a safer, more efficient passage so for the first time since 2003, children could take part in the regeneration program.
The project itself revolves roughly around the ongoing work and progress made by the NPWS and associated volunteers since the island's inception as a nature reserve in 1981.
Local NPWS ranger Michael Thomas said that the weeding program on the island is progressing well. The students will help plant trees endemic to the region in newly weeded areas, in a long term attempt to raise the rainforest's canopy and prevent further noxious infestations.
"The kids will plant a range of native plants including flame tree, casuarinas, hibiscus, elm and hackleberry," Mr Thomas said.
"Whilst we love having the kids help out with the work we are doing, we also hope to pass on some valuable ecological awareness skills, as well as a bit of indigenous and European history of the island."
In terms of future projects for Coocumbac Island, Michael Dodkin, founder of the island's regeneration and conservation efforts, said the rainforest is to be kept as natural as possible.
He hopes to arrive at the stage where maintenance and basic care for the environment is the main focus of conservation groups.
"This place really is a relic of the past, and also a threatened ecocommunity," Mr Dodkin said. "We want to see the island utilised as an ongoing educational resource in terms of ecology and regeneration.
"It is important for people to share and learn about this place and its heritage."
NPWS area manager Kevin Carter said that along with the local remnant of rainforest known as the Wingham Brush, Coocumbac accounts for 90 per cent of the State's remaining subtropical floodplain rainforest and it is important that a sense of ownership and responsibility is instilled in today's schoolchildren to care for the reserve.
"The community needs to embrace the reserve and inherit its history and its heritage to ensure its ongoing survival and prosperity," says Mr Carter.
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