RAINFOREST restoration has begun at the Victoria Park Nature Reserve at Dalwood, near Alstonville, under the Green Army Big Scrub project launched yesterday morning.

Alongside the hoped-for environmental outcomes, the project aims to give young people an opportunity to help out as government-subsidised volunteers.

Big Scrub Landcare and EnviTE Environment will work together on the Federal Government-funded project, which has taken on nine volunteers between the ages of 17-24.

Landcare president Tony Parkes said the six month program will teach the volunteers skills to help them become competitive candidates in the job market.

"They get training in environmental restoration work and they use their skills to plant more rainforest and do some maintenance," he said.

"They're highly motivated, it's great for them and great for Landcare ... we are grateful to have them volunteering."

ECO TEAM: Green Army participants at the Victoria Park Nature Reserve, from front left, Jon Kohlhagen, Eli Vandyk, Samuel Waninga. From back left, Cam Lee, April English, Georgia Cox, Peter Caulfield, Shane Alcorn, Shannon Smedley, Brian Marsh.
ECO TEAM: Green Army participants at the Victoria Park Nature Reserve, from front left, Jon Kohlhagen, Eli Vandyk, Samuel Waninga. From back left, Cam Lee, April English, Georgia Cox, Peter Caulfield, Shane Alcorn, Shannon Smedley, Brian Marsh. Cathy Adams

The volunteers have spent the past two weeks team-building but are now ready to work on the part-time project, giving them 30 hours of work each week.

Volunteer Samuel Waninga said he was looking forward to restoring the biodiversity of native plants.

"It's teaching me so much about this area and the plants," he said.

"We're collecting black beans around this area today, and later we might spray some weeds."

The Big Scrub was the largest subtropical rainforest in Australia but in the 19th century most of it was cleared for agricultural use.

EnviTE environment manager Mike Delaney said today there is less than 1% left of the original 75,000 hectare forest.

"This particular project is important because if the big scrub remnants were just left unmanaged they would disintegrate into masses of weeds," he said.

"We'd lose all that important history they contain."

Mr Delaney said the Green Army project was "like a carbon copy" of the former Green Corps project which was scrapped in 2007.

He said there had been some alterations to its funding scheme and management.



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