Willunga creekline after removal of ferral vegatation and replanting

The McLaren Vale Biodiversity Project

January 2020

 The Project

The McLaren Biodiversity Project (the Project) is a joint initiative of community, via the Friends of Willunga Basin; Government, via the NRM; and industry, represented by those willing to put in.

It grew from a discussion between Geoff Hayter, grape grower and creek owner, and Jock Harvey, a man for all seasons. Both have an environmental bent and at the time Geoff, who is also the Chair of Friends of Willunga Basin, and his partner Tess, were well into the restoration of their own section of Willunga Creek. A tap on the shoulder of the NRM, which had partnered the Willunga Creek work, and an idea was born.


Because biodiversity is important to the Willunga Basin and, within it, the McLaren Vale wine region, both environmentally and economically.

Because an unhealthy percentage of the principal creek systems of the Willunga Basin are filled with woody weeds and, as generational stewards of the landscape, landowners, industry and community need to push back against this invasion.

Because regional diversity, the McLaren Vale landscape and its agricultural economy will be better over time if we do.

Because the McLaren Vale wine region trades on its clean image and, to sustain this, needs to be seen to 'walk the walk' - and this is one way to do it.

Because we want to and can.


The project aims to remove feral vegetation from selected creek lines and other sites within the Willunga Basin, to replace these weeds with endemic species and to maintain those plantings through their establishment phase. The project will work at a landscape scale, creating corridor linkages to and working on areas of significant remnant native vegetation.

The objectives are to:

  • protect and enhance the biodiversity of privately-owned land the Willunga Basin Landscape;
  • improve the appearance of that landscape, particularly around grape and wine properties;
  • enhance the sustainability of the McLaren Vale region's eco-wine tourism brand; and
  • underpin a lift in the region’s biodiversity score, as captured by the Sustainable Winegrowing Australian Programme.

The Project aims to achieve these objectives via a strategy which entails:

  • creating a joint venture between industry, community and government – connecting community energy with the know-how with the knowledge and resources of government and industry;
  • a long-term programme, because that is the nature of revegetation and regeneration work;
  • a modus operandi which allows volunteers to slip in and out of the programme as they want and need to; and
  • a focus on specific weeds and environments, to keep it simple.
Creekline under restoration

Creek line restoration will be a key element of the project, with a principal focus on the Willunga, Maslin & Pedler Creek systems. The health and interconnectivity of stands of remnant native vegetation will also attract the project’s attention.

Specific outcomes sought include:-

  • the clearing and restoration of heavily degraded creek lines across the Willunga Basin;
  • the curtailment of the spread of olives, ash, briar rose and other feral woody weeds across the Basin’s landscape;
  • enhancement of the regional landscape through increased connectivity between bio-diverse nodes and corridors;
  • the strengthening of populations of diminished flora, such as grey box;
  • improved native fauna habitats and counts, as well as decreased counts of exotic fauna;
  • increased awareness of the health of the local environment;
  • the bringing together of community via the comprehensive and inclusive resourcing of the project;  and
  • the creation of a platform for the branding of McLaren Vale as a premium eco-wine tourism destination.

Modus Operandi

The Project’s method of operation is to undertake short bursts of work on a very regular basis.

This happen via monthly Field Days – always the first Sunday of the month (except at Fathers’ Day!).  We start at 9.00 and finish at 11.00, like a clock. In winter, we plant things. Other times, we clear things. In between we pause to check out other things that catch our attention. Or to enjoy a snag and a glass of wine.

We have a pool of volunteers who, at their own choice, can come as often or as not as they like. Come every month, or every second month, or do three months then take a break. Whatever you like. It’s your call but, however you prefer to operate, we’d love you to join us at least some of the time.


McLaren Vale Biodiversity Project Incorporated (MVBP) is the entity which plans and manages the Project.

MVBP was incorporated in March 2018 as a simple legal entity to enable the Project to receive and expend funds and to be better able to attract funding third party funding and, thereby, become more self sustaining. 

A small committee meets monthly to work through the business of the organization and to ensure that the Field Day programme is on-track.

Committee members who are all elected as individuals, are Geoff Hayter with his links to FoWB, Convenor; Jock Harvey of Chalk Hill Vines, Treasurer; Dana Miles, who is the NRM Representative; Ben Paxton of Paxton Wines; Melissa Brown of Gemtree; Sarah Lyons who works for DJ's Growers; Rachel Williams who is Grower Engagement officer for the local arm of the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia programme; and Gavin Malone, convenor of the Maslin Creek Swamp Group.