By Deborah Jones
Bushcare co-ordinator at Rocky Point. Secretary of South West Lovett Bay Coastcare Incorporated (SWLBC), a group founded at her instigation. Pygmy Possum Project creator and coordinator. Local environment spokesperson and champion. All these and more are ways in which Lesley Stevens has been one of West Pittwater’s fiercest and most effective advocates for the environment and a powerhouse in encouraging community involvement.
Lesley was honoured for this work at Northern Beaches Council’s 2021 Eco Awards on May 12, named Highly Commended in the Caring for Bushland section. She was one of 14 honorees in eight categories out of a total of 70 nominations.
Mayor Michael Regan said the awards celebrate unsung heroes, volunteers who “enhance the region’s diverse and valuable natural habitat”.
Lesley, a long-time resident of Lovett Bay, has delivered and championed an important array of initiatives, mainly in the Lower Western Foreshores of Pittwater, spanning from Morning Bay south to McCarrs Creek. It is no surprise, however, that Lesley’s expertise is also sought more widely, including as co-author of Sustainable Ingleside’s 140-page submission on a proposed Ingleside development.
As the nomination putting Lesley forward for an Eco Award said: “For many years Lesley has championed the need to foster great stewardship of our natural environment, to preserve its beauty, to raise awareness of local issues, and garner enthusiasm and support from the community to conserve, restore, promote and enjoy our natural backyard. Lesley is the driving force, often behind the scenes, for many activities with a fabulous ‘can do’ approach that gets projects up and running.”
And not only do projects get off the ground, they get results. Rocky Point is now effectively free of noxious weeds after years of work by the bushcare group coordinated by Lesley. Furthermore, a coordination of Rocky Point’s activities with those of the Elvina Bay bushcare group has helped bring about greater success in regeneration.
In August 2019, at Lesley’s suggestion, a group of South-West Lovett Bay residents met to discuss the invasive weed infestation in the area between Linda Falls in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and the houses of Sturdee Lane, Lovett Bay. This led to the formation of South West Lovett Bay Coastcare Incorporated (SWLBC) and a strategy to, among many other objectives, eliminate bamboo, lantana, cocos palms and other weeds on public and private land. Lesley successfully applied to Greater Sydney Local Land Services (GSLLS) for a grant to enable the employment of a contractor, such was the extent of infestation.
Due to Lesley’s great skills as a communicator and organiser, there was enthusiastic take-up from all South-West Lovett Bay residents. Members of Rocky Point and Elvina Bay bushcare groups also joined. SWLBC members have worked with the contractor on a number of community days with more planned. A significant amount of clearance has already taken place and other activities either undertaken or planned include collection of local native seeds for Council’s nursery to propagate and return to be planted, a weed and native plant identification workshop with Council and contractor Dragonfly Environmental, and a plan to create a wildlife corridor along the back of private residences.
As creator and co-ordinator of the Pygmy Possum Project (which is also supported by Taronga Zoo), Lesley advises on appropriate native tree species and natural habitat to best place nesting boxes. Lesley organised a grant from Council to fund the purchase of infrared wildlife cameras. There is no better demonstration of the benefits of caring for the local environment than the amazing images captured of feathertail gliders, pygmy possums and antechinus.
Congratulations Lesley, and the profound gratitude of your community.