A Spotted Gum plantation
Gums being planted trees on the eastern slope
of Catherine Park, 26 July 1981.
Unlike the island's Spotted Gums, these trees
were deliberately planted by the local
I read with interest Roy Baker’s article in the March
edition of the PON, entitled ‘Scotland Island’s Tree
Canopy: Is it really dying?’ Roy raised some important
questions about the island’s trees, both in terms of their
history and their present condition, and this prompted me
to throw my two cents’ worth into the debate.
My parents moved to Scotland Island in 1975, when I was
five. I moved off in the late 1980s, but my parents
continued to live on the island and I still own a house
there, meaning that throughout my life I have visited
regularly. I have worked as an arborist for decades, and
have, in a professional capacity, dealt with many trees on
the island and in the bays.
One question I’m sometimes asked is what the island would
have looked like prior to European settlement. I believe
it would most likely have been covered with what they term
'Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest’, a recognised endangered
plant community. Many different species make up this
ecosystem. The Spotted Gum would have formed a significant
portion of tree community but numerous other dominant tree
species would have co-mingled to create the upper canopy.
The understorey would also have consisted of a wide
variety of plants. For a list of likely species, click here.
In his article Roy cast doubt on claims that Scotland
Island was ever cleared of trees. To support his argument,
Roy published a photo of the island, dating from the late
19th century. That shows a significant number of mature
Island, late 1800s. Rocky Point (foreground)
has been partially cleared, but the island has
numerous mature trees.
I agree that the island was probably never clear-felled.
From a practical point of view it seems like a waste of
time to transport to the island the bullock teams and
manpower required. In addition, old growth Spotties do not
generally make good saw logs, and there would be better
pickings further up the Hawkesbury or along the coast.
Even so, the old photos of the island show patches of
sparse tree cover. In its natural condition, Pittwater
Spotted Gum Forest’ is termed open woodland, with canopy
cover ranging from 50% in poorer soils to 80% in the
richer gullies. The photos show a much thinner tree cover
in places, suggesting considerable tree removal had taken
Rather than clear-fell, early European settlers would have
picked the eyes out of the island’s forest, taking, say, a
nice bit of turpentine here or black butt there, as well
as some of the straighter Spotties. The island would have
been selectively logged for local construction, but not on
a commercial scale. There was also extensive clearing of
the understorey. This would have had a major impact on the
ecosystem, leaving the ideal palette for weed invasion.
While the Spotted Gum is not considered a weed, they would
have taken advantage of what Europeans were doing to the
island and, being ideally suited to the local environment,
they proliferated, quickly out-competing other species for
dominant positions. As a result we have ended up with a
proliferation of Spotties, a virtual monoculture that
would have developed from the seed stock already in the
ground and seed dispersal from remaining dominant trees.
Now we are witnessing a notable decline in the health of
the island Spotted Gums, which I have been observing for
the past 20 years. Here is my explanation for what is
instance of Spotted Gum dieback,
surrounded by more healthy species
There is probably a complex interplay of different
factors, ranging from septic systems to climate change.
But, in essence, nature does not like a monoculture. When
they arise nature will turn on itself, with pests and
disease becoming more prevalent. This can lead to
devastating results. To take an extreme example, when a
farmer plants a field of wheat, the incidence of pests and
disease significantly increases and considerable crop
losses can result.
In a natural ecosystem a full tree canopy will rarely
provide space for a young tree to reach maturity. In
short, an older tree first needs to fall down. When that
rare event happens it creates a race amongst the
understorey, which only the strongest trees will win.
Compare that to a situation in which there is extensive
canopy clearing. There is then opportunity for many more
trees to mature. There is less natural selection,
therefore greater propensity for genetically weaker trees
to become dominant.
This is what, I believe, is the main underlying driver for
the current state of tree dieback. And that’s why there
often doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to why some trees
are dying while others flourish. If you look at a group of
trees next to each other you will typically see around
three-quarters in decline but the rest with healthy
canopies. The flourishing trees are those more able to
withstand environmental pressures, while the others are
genetically weaker and probably should not have been there
in the first place.
Basically, what we’ve ended up with is akin to a Spotted
Gum plantation. And a quick Google search will reveal that
Spotted Gum plantation managers are facing similar
situations to what is happening on the island. For a
couple of examples, click here and here.
So what should be done about it? The first steps would be
to steer away from a plantation-type environment. Here are
- increase the understorey. Plants chosen from the
‘Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest’ would be ideal;
- achieve greater variety of dominant trees. Once
again, choose from the ‘Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest’
- learn from the experience of forestry managers,
including maybe the use of the seed stock they are
developing. While they might not be species endemic to
this area, they may be more capable of coping with
reduced understorey coverage, which is always a
feature in urban settings;
- don’t feel too terrible when you have to cut down a
Spotty which has passed its safe life expectancy.
Plant some more biodiversity and you might start to be
part of the solution.
Change of phone number
Please note that Scotland Island’s fire station has a new
phone number: 0491 097 115.
The above is the number to call for non-urgent matters,
The station’s land line is discontinued and should no
longer be used.
- enquiries concerning fire permits;
- questions about joining the brigade;
- other administrative matters.
THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY, PHONE 000
The island fire brigade
will be notified of your call if appropriate.
Tickets are now on sale!
it all began: the very first full script
reading, March 2023
There are now little more
than two weeks to go until the island play. It's time
for the cast to learn their lines!
Performances will be held
in Scotland Island Community Hall on the evenings of 16,
17, 23 and 24 June, with an additional matinée on the
afternoon of 24 June.
We are offering a lot more
than just a play. There will also be a licensed bar at
the evening performances, plus hot food available for
purchase. Doors will open at 6.45 pm for the evening
performances, and 2.30 pm for the matinée.
Presenting The Rest Of
the last two editions we have been introducing key
talents behind the play: Robyn Iredale, co-producer
Kay Reaney, the playwright Jasper Marlow, the
director and lead actor, Sophie Lepowic, and three
other on-screen presences: Roy Baker, Ian White and
Lisa Day. Now we come to the remaining key
performers, once again introduced by order of
Fitzpatrick: Larry Woods
In 1923 Herbert married Florence, daughter to
Catherine Bouffier. They honeymooned on Scotland
Island, which Herbert went on to subdivide, naming
Florence Terrace after his wife and Elvina Bay after
Born 1951, Larry was
moved through 24 different schools. In no case was the
arson ever proven. His working life was similarly
varied, encompassing 50 jobs, including bank teller,
TAB collator, waiter, delivery driver, computer
operator, stand-up comedian, commercial diver, dive
shop manager, dry cleaner, nursing assistant,
handyman, builder's labourer, strata cleaner, and
assistant cruise director.
Larry moved to Scotland
Island after helping his cousin, actor John Jarratt
(the principal antagonist in Wolf Creek),
build there. Larry currently lives in Elvina Bay.
Tilly Devine: Betsi Beem
Born in London in 1900, Matilda Mary Devine moved to
Australia in 1920 and went on to become one of
Sydney's most notorious underworld figures. She was
involved in a number of criminal activities, including
sly-grog, razor gangs and prostitution. She amassed a
considerable fortune, including a house on Scotland
Originally from Miami, Betsi studied economics at
Florida International University and later political
science at the University of Washington. In 2008 she
moved to Scotland Island with her partner, Skip
For many years Betsi has
lectured in Public Policy at the University of Sydney.
A keen quilter, Betsi never quite cut the grade as an
actor in high school, but that hasn't prevented her
from making quite an impression in a number of island
A surprise guest:
The play is a journey, as the major characters
search for something missing in their lives. But
will each fulfil their quest? Expect a surprise at
the end of the play when a star guest reveals all.
And there will be a special opportunity for you, the
Raised on the northern
beaches, Juliet Wills has lived and worked
throughout Australia. She moved to Scotland Island
in 2020, after 25 years in television journalism.
During her career she worked for all major
Australian networks and became Executive Producer of
Channel Nine's A Current Affair in Perth.
Her achievements were recognised with an award for
Juliet has written for
major newspapers and lectured in broadcast
journalism at two universities. She has also
published two books.
... and a lot more
Other on-stage parts are played by islanders Jo
Carter-May, Sophie Blackband, Lisa Ratcliff and Dirk
The stage performers
are just the tip of the iceberg. The play would not
be possible without its magnificent production team,
plus other supporters.
musical director is Markus Plattner, also of
Scotland Island. Markus was deputy director of the
Musikschule Konservatorium in Bern, Switzerland.
During a career spanning many decades he has worked
in many different sectors of the music industry. Rod
Heard is also contributing music. The play's songs
have lyrics by Geoff Bullock and Bill Gye.
The stage manager is
Gilly Unwin and lighting is by Boyd Attewell. Gilly
and Boyd both have many years of experience putting
on plays with the Island Players. Audio effects are
being managed by Mark Martin.
outfit was designed and made by Cathy Kerscher
(Kristina Keneally's mother). Other costumes are
supplied by Lizzie Brand, who runs Interlace, a
fancy dress and costume hire shop in Dee Why.
The poster was painted
by Nettie Lodge. The logo, wine bottle labels and
the program are all designed by Jane Matthews.
Juliet Holmes à Court is supplying stage skirts and
Trystan Unwin will design and build the wine bottle
display unit. Shane O'Neil and Kay Reaney are the
The play is sponsored
by LJ Hooker, real estate agents, Johnson Bros
Enterprise Marine, Church Point Ferry Service,
Church Point Waterfront Café and Scotland Island
Tuesdays, 9 - 11.30
you, council, for fixing our roof!
Children in the Island Playgroup
using the Rec Centre cubby house.
grandparents and their children, from babies to
four, are meeting in the park and playgrounds on
Tuesdays from 9 till 11.30am, weather permitting.
If there were a few more of us, it would be worth
hiring the hall through winter and organising some
inside activities too. Anyone else interested?
Have a chat with me on 0406 806 648.
Seen any of these
construction pieces around?
A lot of the coloured building blocks (pictured
left) have disappeared recently. They are part of
the old kindy playground equipment that kids still
have so much fun with.
Maybe someone thought
they are no longer wanted. But they are. We would
love to have them magically reappear, please.
Shoalhaven, 24 June
There is an upcoming
'row-gaine' in the Shoalhaven. This is paired with
the Festival of Canoe and Kayak (FOCK). For details,
I thought I'd share the
link, as I’ve attended so many of these events over
the years with young kids, and NSW Rogaining runs
them very smoothly - and there is the odd kayaker
around here, it would appear.
I’m keen to have a
look/ paddle. They should do one here….
It would appear you can
choose to go by flamingo, in one category.
Anyone else keen? Let me know if you’re interested.
See you there
Shona - 0401798869
Scotland Island Fire
Saturday 3 June, 7
Only 10 tickets
left! To buy tickets, click here.
Saturday 10 -
Monday 12 June
information and to book, click here.
16, 17, 23 &
Doors open 6:45
pm, play starts 7.30 pm
Saturday 24 June
Doors open 2.30
pm, play starts 3.00 pm
PRIOR TO THE
EVENING PERFORMANCES, BOWLS OF HOT FOOD WILL
beans & brown rice
Cost of food:
$15 adults, $10 kids
ALSO BE A BAR
tickets, click here.
Scotland Island Fire
Sunday 25 June, 9 am -
Brigade members are
encouraged to attend our monthly training session.
If you are interested
in joining the brigade, you will find further
information on the brigade's website
Tuesday 20 June, 11 am -
The Recreation Club runs a discussion group, meeting
on the third Tuesday of each month, from 11 am to
12.30 pm in the Recreation Centre. Everyone is
Members take it in turn to design a session. At the
May session, Bill Gye asked the group to think about
the ingredients for a happy and fulfilling life.
For the June meeting Kathy James asks what makes
travel fulfilling? Many offshore residents have
travelled widely, both in Australia and overseas. What
were we looking for, and did we always find it? If we
are going to travel, how can we do it better? What can
we do to make tourism both ethical and sustainable?
1. Read 'How to be a better tourist' on the BBC website:
2. Read 'Does the ethical tourist really exist?,
3. Read 'There's a buzz
about 'sustainable' fuels - but they cannot solve
aviation's colossal climate woes', The Conversation
The group is administered
via a WhatsApp group, which will be used to distribute
further information about this and future discussions.
If you would like to be added to the group, send your
mobile phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, contact Jane Rich (email@example.com) for
more information or to express your interest in
The Recreation Club asks for $5 per person per
attendance to defray expenses.
Sunday 25 June, 10 am
- 1 pm
Sunday 25 June, 10.30
Nettie Lodge and Bruce
Walker will be launching their new children’s
picture book THE WORLD’S GREATEST TACKLE at the
café/market day on June 25 at 10:30 am in the
Scotland Island Community Hall.
There will be an irreverent reading of the story for
all small people, animals, insects and avid footy
players, and a book signing… and books will be
available for sale. If you have already purchased a
copy from a bookshop, bring it along for signing.
Every year the
insects challenge the animals from all over Earth
to a game of footy. And every year the insects are
trampled and left in a mess. This riotous,
hilarious book and its exuberant illustrations
tell the tale of the year in which the insects
threw off their shackles in a game now referred to
as THE WORLD’S GREATEST TACKLE.
BRING THE KIDS!
Saturday 1 July, 7 - 9
Club asks for $5 per person per attendance to
Scotland Island Fire
Sunday 2 July, 10 am -
To register for
attendance at the AGM, click here.
Please pay your
annual subscription ($20) ASAP to the following
Scotland Island Rural Fire Brigade
BSB: 082 294
Tuesday 4 July, 6 - 9
Wednesday 5 July, 10
am - 12 noon
Double access from 33
Thompson Street or Florence Terrace, directly above
Eastern Wharf steps.
- large open-plan lounge with combustion stove
and impressive Pittwater views
- newly renovated kitchen
- separate sunroom and dining
- 2 bedrooms downstairs, including master
bedroom with ensuite
- 3rd bedroom and main bathroom with separate
- entertainment deck with garden pond and
- semi furnished
Due to an impending and
lengthy overseas stay, a longer lease is possible.
Availability and weekly
rent negotiable by calling 0476 105 858.
Hi Scotland Islanders,
I’m looking to rent a
space on a south-side jetty for my small commuter
boat. I’m on wait lists at public jetties. After 21
years on the Island, I find myself with nowhere to
tie up my boat!
Any tips for tie up -
or best, a spot, would be wonderful.
Missed out on a
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Scotland Island Community Calendar
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expressed in this newsletter are not
necessarily the views of the Scotland
Island Residents Association (SIRA),
or the Western Pittwater Community