Bushrock belongs in the bush - not in gardens

Since the early European settlement of NSW, bushrock has been used in landscaping and gardens to re-create natural bush settings, build fences or retaining walls, line pools, create waterfalls and other features, and as a base for orchids, lichens and mosses to grow on.

However, the demand for bushrock has in many cases depleted naturally occurring sources of bushrock and has serious implications to the plants and animals that depend on bushrock as a key component of their habitat. Therefore, efforts should be made keep bushrock where it belongs.

Scar from bushrock removal. Photo: D Pike  

Bushrock used in gardens, N Hindus

Scar from bushrock removal. Photo: D Pike   Bushrock used in gardens. Photo: N Hinds

Think before you lift - whose home are you disturbing?

Would you like it if someone pulled the roof off your house or pulled back your bedcovers while you were sleeping?

Bushrock provides the home or habitat for many different species such as spiders, beetles, skinks, geckos, frogs and snakes. It provides them with shelter from the wind, rain and sun and it is somewhere safe from predators.

Bushrock and bushrock removal

Bushrock is loose, fragile rock found on rock or soil surfaces and takes many lifetimes to develop. Many animals use these rock environments for shelter, to hide from predators, find food, avoid extreme weather and escape bushfires. Bushrock can also provide egg-laying sites for reptiles and habitat for many different plants, mosses, liverworts and lichens. The removal of bushrock can cause soil compaction, increased water runoff and turbidity, and sedimentation of water courses. It may also cause loss of plants and the reduction of seed germination, introduction of exotic seeds, soil erosion, and the reduction in shelter sites for animals.

If bushrock is moved or removed it can change the ability of the bushrock to provide habitat. For example, the broad-headed snake requires very specific crevice requirements and this can easily change with even a slight movement or crack in the rock. In addition, lifting, moving, replacing or dropping bushrock can also harm animals living underneath as they can be inadvertently squashed or injured by unexpected movements.

To minimise the impacts to threatened or protected native plants and animals in NSW, the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, lists the removal of bushrock from rock outcrops or from areas of native vegetation as a key threatening process. More information is available at www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspecies/.

Bushrock is loose, fragile rock found on rock surfaces. Photo: D Pike  

Rock enviornments provide shelter and   protection for many animals. Photo: R Nicolai

Bushrock is loose, fragile rock found on rock surfaces
Photo: D Pike
  Rock enviornments provide shelter and
protection for many animals. Photo: R Nicolai

Health risks

Disturbance of bushrock can also be dangerous to humans. Some of Australia's venomous and poisonous animals live under or near bushrock such as scorpions, funnel web spiders, centipedes, bull ants, jumping jack ants, paper wasps, tiger snakes, brown snakes and the broad-headed snake. Bites or stings from these can be fatal if not treated in time. Stay safe and avoid disturbing animals and their habitats.

Venomous and poisonous animals live under or  near bushrock. Photo: N Williams  

Stay safe and avoid disturbing animals.  Photo: DECC/J Read

Venomous and poisonous animals live under or
near bushrock. Photo: N Williams
 

Stay safe and avoid disturbing animals.
Photo: OEH/J Read

It's Illegal

Disturbance or removal of bushrock could result in a fine or prosecution. For instance, lifting or moving bushrock in a national park or other conservation reserves can incur fines of $300. Furthermore, the damage or removal of bushrock carries greater penalties of up to $11,000, six months imprisonment or both. Similarly the collection or removal of bushrock from state forests and Crown land reserves is prohibited. Some local councils regulate bushrock removal. Blue Mountains City Council and Hawkesbury City Council have prohibited the collection or removal of bushrock from bushland areas.

  Sign - Bushrock removal prohibited - Area randomly patrolled - Penalties apply  

 

Truck carting bushrock

     Photo: OEH/M Lebretan

How you can help

The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is coordinating various programs for the protection of biodiversity and species habitat. State and local government agencies and research institutions are undertaking various actions to contribute to these programs. More information on the recovery and threat abatement actions is available at www.threatenedspecies.environment.nsw.gov.au.

  •    Be mindful of where you tread or drive. Photo: D Pike 

     

     

      Be mindful of where you tread or drive. Photo: D Pike  
         
      Report sightings of interesting plants and  animals to DECC. Photo: DECC  
      Report sightings of interesting plants and
    animals to OEH. Photo: OEH
     
    Use alternatives to bushrock:
    To ensure that bushrock stays in the bush where it's needed as habitat for a variety of species, OEH encourages the use of alternatives for natural bushrock in and around your garden. Quarried rock or artificial rock are both readily available, and have been used to restore habitat for frogs and lizards. Railway sleepers, treated pine or concrete products may also provide alternatives to bushrock for retaining walls and the like.
  • Tread gently: Whether you are bushwalking, mountain biking, rock climbing or 4WD driving, be mindful of where you tread or drive. Sandstone environments are fragile and bushrock can easily break if disturbed, contributing to habitat disturbance and loss. Keep to existing tracks and trails and obey signs for road closures or prohibited activities such as 'No motorbikes' or 'No dogs'. Don't move rocks around for use as cairns, seats, jumps or any other purpose. Minimal impact recreation is desirable and sustainable.
  • Only buy from reputable sources: If alternatives are not suitable, buy rock only from a reputable supplier. Nurseries and landscaping suppliers are encouraged to display signage promoting alternatives to bushrock as well as verify the legality of their collected bushrock. If bushrock is disturbed during approved construction, try to re-integrate it back into the landscape in a natural way once construction is finished.
  • Report sightings: Inform OEH if you see interesting animals or plants or come across any suspicious activities like bushrock collection or someone turning over rocks and/or collecting animals. This information will help OEH take measures to address these threats that cause harm to the survival of various species. Any sightings or reports can be made either via the web at www.environment.nsw.gov.au or you can ring the OEH Environment Line on 1300 361 967 and an OEH officer will follow up your call.
  • Think before you lift: By not lifting or removing bushrock you will avoid disturbing the fragile habitat that bushrock provides. Remember insects, frogs, snakes, lizards and geckos might reside under bushrock. The best way to observe them is to sit, watch and listen. This will allow them to move about freely. Visit zoos and wildlife parks near you - they have a variety of interesting exhibitions of many varied and wonderful animals. In addition, interest groups such as the Frog and Tadpole Study Group and herpetological societies can broaden your interest in frogs and reptiles.
Page last updated: 27 August 2014