RENISHAW Hills, the new mature lifestyle village on the South Coast, is centred on the natural beauty of the region with a focus on restoring the indigenous flora throughout the development. This belief is behind the indigenous rehabilitation project being led by renowned South African landscaper and botanist, Elsa Pooley, with assistance from a leading expert in rehabilitation in KZN, Geoff Nichols.The Renishaw Hills project, which is already under way, aims to return the area, as closely as possible, to its original form, removing alien vegetation while planting local species to enhance the region’s biodiversity. This is being funded by Renishaw Property Developments – a subsidiary of Crookes Brothers Limited, the JSE stock exchange-listed organisation driving the Renishaw Hills development near Scottburgh. The first phase of the rehabilitation has already begun with the cutting down of invasive alien trees, including gum trees and other Australian species. Those on very steep slopes, have been ringbarked.“Although the trees are being cut down, the stumps will remain, leaving the root system in place in order to prevent erosion,” explained Pooley. “As these gum trees use a lot of water, the area will soon see a big improvement in the water supply with their removal.”Every aspect of the work, which is being performed in conjunction with Mpambinyoni Conservation Development’s estate manager, Gareth Hampson, follows the guidelines of the Environmental Impact Assessment that was carried out in preparation for the development. All plants being removed are category one and two on the government’s alien invasive plant species list, rendering their removal necessary.The tree removal stage will only last a few months, although the Renishaw team will continue in the elimination of all other alien invasives. Clearing IAPs is a tough, work-intensive process that requires regular follow-ups. It will continue as part of the regular estate management to ensure there is no re-emergence of the opportunistic plants.“Because of the size of the project the restoration and rehabilitation will be done in stages,” explained Pooley.The project has created about 80 new jobs with all staff receiving thorough training. The trainee manager holds a diploma in horticulture and is currently undergoing training in the various aspects of practical gardening, garden maintenance and staff control. The Izinyoni Indigenous Nursery at Crocworld Conservation Centre has been set up specifically to produce enough of the correct plant material for returning natural vegetation to the estate. The nursery boasts one of the biggest ranges of indigenous flowers, trees and shrubs in the country.The final result of the project will see a vast improvement in the biodiversity of the area, bringing with it an abundance of natural bird, insect and animal life. The wetlands will potentially become great birding areas while managing the heavy rainfall more efficiently than the current farming systems.Phillip Barker, managing director of Renishaw Property Developments, said that, although the rehabilitation project was a vast undertaking, the developers were committed to ensuring it was done properly from start to finish.“Elsa and Geoff have vast experience in the field of vegetation rehabilitation with a real knowledge and understanding of South African plants. They are providing essential guidance to the teams under them, ensuring this knowledge and commitment to the indigenous flora and fauna continues throughout the development,” said Barker. - Supplied.