Lifelong nature lovers leave legacy

28 Aug 2022

Brenton and Amanda Whittenbury are the proud owners of 2 parcels of protected land in South Australia’s mid-north region thanks to the generosity of Brenton’s aunt and uncle who left money for conservation in their estates.

Patricia and Vern Whittenbury whose legacy now protects 2 parcels of land
Morning mist covers the valley where Brenton and Amanda manage land for nature

Brenton’s Uncle Vern and Aunt Pat were both keen nature lovers – Vern’s interest was in native plants and Pat’s was birds. According to Brenton, they spent much of their free time travelling Australia chasing birds and looking for plants.

When Vern passed away in 2012, he left some money for conservation in his will. Coincidentally, Brenton happened to see an ad in the local newspaper for some blocks of land for sale by the Nature Foundation.

Brenton suggested the idea to Pat, and after inspecting a few, they selected a 45-hectare block of land with an existing Heritage Agreement – this is the name given in South Australia to in-perpetuity protection on the title of the land, known in other states as Nature Refuges and Conservation Covenants.

Heritage Agreements provide landholders in South Australia with practical advice and financial incentives to help protect native vegetation. Currently there are over 1,600 landholders permanently protecting more than 1.8 million hectares through Heritage Agreements in South Australia.

While Pat owned the block and was able to visit it many times, it was Brenton and Amanda, supported by family and friends, who took on the task of managing the land.

Brenton and Amanda Whittenbury showing off the sign which shows that their property is managed under a Heritage Agreement

When Pat passed away 5 years later, she also left money to be used for conservation purposes. At the time, the neighbouring block of land was for sale, so Brenton and Amanda purchased it, strengthening Vern and Pat’s legacy.

The total amount of land that the Whittenburys now protect is 90 hectares, with 80 hectares of that under Heritage Agreements.

Brenton and Amanda have now built a house on the second block of land and visit fortnightly, voluntarily undertaking the significant work to conserve and restore natural habitats.

The new house watches over the protected landscape

The initial focus was on weeding and fox control but attention is now shifting to replanting and removing boundary fences and rubbish. While the land was originally grazed, only small pockets were cleared.

‘Where it was cleared, it is just like a paddock, so we’re revegetating in there. We are planting a couple of hundred seedlings each season, so we’re just working our way through that’, Brenton said.

The signs are good that the initial plantings have been successful.

‘When there’s only 2 or 4 of you and you’re only up there every second weekend, things don’t happen overnight.’

But Brenton can already see the difference their work has made.

‘In the cleared areas that are no longer grazed, you can see the plants coming through, even in the parts where we have not done any planting. It is just the natural progression of things.

‘Down in the creek where we have cleared rubbish, it certainly looks a lot better’, Brenton said.

Amanda watering new callistemon tubestock during the autumn planting this year

Looking forward, Brenton and Amanda will continue to tackle the work and will apply for grants to support them where possible.

‘We’ll eventually get to a point when it is mostly done and we will just need to maintain the perimeter fence and keep an eye on the weeds.’

They are also looking to the future and thinking about how to ensure that this legacy can be retained and managed by the family.

One of the many positive changes that Brenton has noticed over the decade that he and his family have been managing this land is that there are more birds on the property – something that both Uncle Vern and Aunt Pat would definitely be proud of.

Read more stories of landholders actively managing land for nature.

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