How Carbon Positive Australia is restoring the ‘Big Scrub’ of Northern NSW with nature positive planting

Carbon Positive restoring scrub 1024x768 1

Carbon Positive Australia

Do you know that the Big Scrub of Northern NSW is kind of a big deal? A big deal that has been dealt some big losses. With only 1% of this diverse ecosystem left, we have some big work to do, and as its remnants are home to at least 61 threatened species of fauna, 9 of which are classed as endangered and 38 threatened species of flora, 19 of which are endangered, this is work that must start now.

The Big Scrub was the largest area of lowland subtropical rainforest in eastern Australia, located on the North Coast of NSW, between what is now the town of Byron Bay (east) and Lismore (west). This amazing forest once covered approximately 75,000 hectares (including 900 square kilometres of subtropical rainforest) that primarily grew on fertile basalt and floodplain-derived soils. Between 1801 and 1901, the Big Scrub was intensively cleared for agricultural use.

With only 1% of the Big Scrub remaining (less than five hectares in total!), we must act now, but first, join us in learning more about the Big Scrub.

The history of the Big Scrub clearing

Tens of millenia ago, the ancestors of the Big Scrub’s Bundjalung people arrived. They lived in balance with the rainforest, caring for the land and adding to the seed dispersal pattern critical for many species (flora and fauna) to survive.

By the turn of the 20th Century, between 1840-1990, 99% of the Big Scrub had been cleared by European settlers, primarily for logging and agriculture.

From 1930 to 1990, early conservation efforts were brought about, with the formation of Booyong Flora Reserve and Lumley Park.

In 2011, the Big Scrub was listed as a critically endangered ecological community by the Federal Government and endangered by the NSW Government, largely due to the efforts of the Big Scrub Landcare group that was formed in 1993 to protect the remaining rainforest.

More information on the history of the Big Scrub can be found here.

The current state of the Big Scrub

In 2020, after the black summer bushfires, our donors called for us to help restore the east coast. As fate would have it, an opportunity to plant koala habitat in Nimbin, NSW, arose, allowing us to work with local contractors to restore part of the Big Scrub region.

What is Carbon Positive Australia’s approach to restoring the Big Scrub?

In 2021, we began planting to restore 33 hectares at our Nimbin, NSW site on Widjabul country, in partnership with Future Forests. This land was previously used for grazing cattle and had been extensively cleared. Our goal was to create a corridor between two national parks, increase habitat for endangered species, including our beloved koala, increase stocking in the dry rainforest area, and encourage further natural regeneration.

One of the biggest challenges at this site has been the shoulder-high Setaria (a thick, tufted, African pasture grass) that covers much of the planting area. This grass is very hard to plant into, and slashing is difficult due to steep slopes and hidden rocks. Furthermore, given that the site is located in a high rainfall area, averaging more than 1,150mm each year, flooding in 2020 washed away two key creek crossings that provided vehicle access to the planting and regeneration areas. These crossings were repaired by a local contractor to ensure access for planting in February and March of 2022.

In 2022, we had planted more than 69,000 seedlings, with over 104 species, including five Acacias, 5 Eucalypts, 2 Casuarinas and 92 other native species.

Our first monitoring survey took place the same year. Overall, the plant establishment and growth were exceptional, and the average density across the site was 2,805 trees/ha. There was also evidence of naturally regenerating trees across some plots, which indicates that previous bush regeneration work had been successful.

In May 2023, we commissioned a biodiversity survey of the site. Excitingly, the survey revealed the presence of koalas at the site and identified more than 30 threatened flora and fauna species within a 10km radius. Results from our second annual monitoring assessment showed an incredible average survival rate of 97% (excluding natural regeneration) and an average height increase of 115% from the previous year.

This year, we will be planting an additional 300 trees along the creek line in an area that has been affected by waterlogging. We will continue to undertake annual monitoring assessments for the next four years.

Following the success of our Nimbin project, we are excited to announce that we will be restoring another property in the Big Scrub region. Later this year, we will be planting a biodiverse mix of native rainforest species to provide critical habitat for koalas and a range of other native fauna at a property at Clunes, NSW on Bundjalung country.

Our work at Nimbin was only possible because of the support of our donors, and our Clunes project is no different. If you would like to support this vital work, please consider making a donation.

We can’t do it alone.
The Big Scrub needs us to make big moves.

If you are interested in finding out how you can support our Clunes, NSW project on Bundjalung country check out the below.

Join us, and together, let’s restore Australia.



Plants, seeds & more delivered to your door!


  • Oceania Luxury Travel Co Luxury Travel Australia Banner 728x90 1
Previous articleCommunity meet Minister Plibersek, urge her to Save Toondah
Next articleThe Allure of Living in Manly
Eco Voice
First published in 2003, Eco Voice is your go-to publication for sustainability news in Australia. Eco Voice prides itself as an independent news platform with a clear focus on sustainability, with articles coming from a diverse range of contributors – all levels of government, corporations, not-for-profits, community groups, small to medium sized businesses, universities, research organisations, together with input from international sources. Eco Voice values community, conservation and commerce. Eco Voice is a media partner of the prestigious Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards – The Peak Sustainability Awards.