Levi Springs

FOMS Volunteers Fence Levi Springs

Location of Levi Springs

Regular readers of the FOMS newsletter may recall that the fencing of ten springs at Levi Springs, on the Peake Pastoral Lease, has been under discussion for several years. It is pleasing to report that this fencing has now been completed through the efforts of nine FOMS volunteers, the work being undertaken in July 2019.

Levi Springs comprise an important group of springs adjacent to impressive rock outcrops with petroglyphs. The area to be fenced also includes the remnants of a shepherd’s hut and coolabah yards – rare surviving relics of early pastoral times when sheep were being run on the country.

This project has had a long gestation period. As part of the State Environment Department’s $1 million Desert Jewels project (2013 to 2016), it was proposed that a number of springs at Levi Springs be fenced to provide protection from stock. In August 2015, a combined group from FOMS and the Department inspected Levi Springs and plotted a proposed fence alignment that would include all but one of the springs at Levi and most of the associated stony outcrops. Subsequently, the proposal was considered by the Directors’ Group of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation and, after considerable deliberation, a more modest fencing alignment, taking in the springs but not the main associated stony outcrops, was given formal endorsement by the Arabana Directors’ Group. The project was also endorsed by the then lessees of the Peake, S Kidman & Co.

However, the Environment Department’s Desert Jewels project concluded without any fencing work at Levi Springs. The Department had purchased some of the fencing materials needed but did not have the resources to undertake the on-ground work. At about that time, S. Kidman & Co sold the Anna Creek and Peake Pastoral Leases to the Williams Cattle Company.

Cattle on one of the springs at Levi, prior to fencing

With the Department’s reduced scope for involvement, it was left to FOMS volunteers to continue efforts to see this fencing project through to fruition. In August 2017, FOMS members met with Tony and Trevor Williams, of the Williams Cattle Company, at Levi Springs and subsequently the Company advised that the fencing could proceed as planned.

The logistics involved in preparing for up to 2.5km of fencing to be erected by volunteers in a remote environment are complex and many months were taken up in finalising the fence design, reviewing equipment requirements, ordering additional materials needed and arranging for transport of materials to Levi Springs. Earlier plans for a timber post, four-barb fence were superseded by an all- steel design, still four-barb, fence that would require far fewer post-holes to be dug. FOMS member Brenton Arnold led the way with this work and FOMS is extremely grateful for his contribution.

By mid-2019, the final arrangements for the fencing settled into place. The fencing team was finalised and dates were set for the work: 16th to 26th July 2019. The team comprised Brenton Arnold, Bruce Gotch, Bren Lay, Chris Wenham, Steve Taylor, Colin Harris and Simon Lewis. Simon Rathbone was a last- minute withdrawal due to illness.

Because of the scale of the project, it was decided early in the planning process that a catering team should be engaged to look after food preparation and general camp maintenance. Experienced tour guide / caterer and fellow FOMS member Rick Moore took on this role, ably assisted by another FOMS member Stafford Dow.

All group members except Brenton travelled to Woomera on Tuesday 16th July, then continued on to Levi Springs on Wednesday 17th, via Billa Kalina and William Creek. The camp for the following eight nights was set up on Levi Creek, a coolabah / red gum creek-line close to Levi Springs. In the meantime, Brenton assisted with the loading of fencing materials at Port Augusta by McArdles Transport before joining the group at Levi.

Early on Thursday 18th, Colin and Simon drove the 35km to the Peake homestead to rendezvous with the McArdles truck and to guide the truck down to Levi Springs. The truck arrived on schedule at the homestead at about 9am and all were very relieved when the truck made it all the way to the springs. With enthusiastic assistance from truck-driver James, unloading was readily completed and the stage was set for ground-work to commence.

The first task was to confirm the fence alignment and some modifications were made to avoid saltier ground, rationalise drainage line crossings and include the coolabah spring near the rock outcrops. Then the physical fencing work commenced and over the next six days the crew slipped into a regime of post-hole digging, strainer assembly, star- dropper ramming, barbed wired run-out and straining and spacer installation.

By Wednesday 24th, all but a short run of fencing near the main spring and some fine-tuning of drainage line crossings were complete. This work was readily completed, whereupon there was an official gate-opening ceremony followed by a walk through the newly created exclosure. As part of this walk-through, Brendan and Simon established a number of photo-points to be used in following the progress of the springs and some dryland areas.

On Thursday 25th the group headed back to the Eldo at Woomera via William Creek and Billa Kalina. A flat tyre on Stafford’s vehicle was the only mishap on the journey. Lengthy showers and a celebratory meal at the Eldo were enjoyed by all.

Many thanks to all for making up a very convivial group and for completing a major project safely and enjoyably. A complete team effort, fine catering and an achievement FOMS can be proud of!

FOMS is particularly grateful to the SA Arid Lands Natural Resources Management (NRM) Board and the Friends of Private Bushland for providing funds to support this project. The NRM Board has provided FOMS with a $10,000 grant to support spring protection works and vegetation monitoring and $5,000 of this grant was used as a contribution to the Levi Springs fencing work. The Friends of Private Bushland provided a very generous grant of $2,000 and this was fully allocated to this project.

Fence alignment at Levi Springs

Bollards replaced at Peake Carpark

At the Peake OT site, indiscriminate access by vehicles to both the historic site and nearby creek- line was a significant problem until 2008 when FOMS volunteers installed timber bollards to define the carpark and limit vehicle movement. This work was subsequently reinforced through additional fencing installed as a cooperative venture by FOMS, the Environment Department and then lessees S Kidman & Co.

However, by 2018, the timber bollards were starting to deteriorate and some had been removed by visitors for firewood. During the May 2019 working bee, FOMS replaced ten of the timber bollards with synthetic recycled plastic bollards. The site is now secure and the remaining six timber bollards will be replaced by FOMS in 2020.

Brian Wheeler (L), Brian Donaghy and Greg Wheeler (R)
pause for the camera while Craig Whisson carries on regardless.
Installation of the new bollards is complete

Hopeful Signs for Fencing at Levi Springs

Levi Springs – approx. location

Readers of recent FOMS newsletters may recall the proposal to fence several mound springs at Levi Springs, on the Peake pastoral lease. This proposal originated as part of a major mound springs project (known as Desert Jewels) undertaken by the then state Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (now Department for Environment and Water). This project concluded before the Levi Springs fencing could be organised and FOMS has been trying to see this through to completion. The area proposed for protection is about 10 – 12ha, with approximately 2.3km of fencing.

Many of the steps needed to enable the fencing to proceed are now in place. The local Arabana people have approved the proposed fence alignment, as have the new pastoral lessees at the Peake – the Williams Cattle company. The Department for Environment and Water has organised the necessary fencing materials and has indicated that funding will be available for an Arabana fencing team to assist with fence erection. There has been some concern as to how the 200 or so required post-holes could be drilled but it now appears that funding approved by the SA Arid Lands NRM Board (see other item in this newsletter) will assist FOMS in hiring the equipment.

At the time of this newsletter it was unclear whether the on-ground fencing works will be completed in spring 2018 or autumn 2019.

FOMS acknowledges the ongoing support of the Department for Environment and Water – particularly Tony Magor, Manager, Parks and Co-management – in helping to progress this project.

Area to be fenced blue line shows original alignment, red shows agreed fence extension
One of the springs at Levi to be protected

Fencing of Levi Springs still under Discussion

Levi Springs – approx. location

The State Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has recently completed a three year project, known as Desert Jewels, looking at the management of mound springs and the FOMS has had some involvement. As part of that project, fencing of several springs at Levi was proposed. An initial proposal to fence all of the springs at Levi was not supported by the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation and a revised and reduced fence alignment was marked out on the ground during a visit in 2016 by FOMS and Arabana Elder Uncle Dean Stuart. The Arabana Aboriginal Corporation subsequently endorsed the revised alignment which is shown in red on the image below. The area proposed for fencing is around 10 – 12 ha.

Former lessees S Kidman and Co were fully supportive of the proposal but the on-ground works were not undertaken before the sale of the property to the Williams Cattle Company. In an effort to progress this matter, FOMS members Colin Harris, Bren Lay, Bruce Gotch and Simon Lewis met with Tony and Trevor Williams during the FOMS trip of August 2017.

During this on-site discussion it was clear that the springs were being heavily impacted by cattle. Tony and Trevor agreed that the current situation was in nobody’s best interests. They stressed that any decision about fencing would need to be made by their company and noted that a watering point would still be needed in the vicinity. In this respect, the group inspected the bore nearby, currently used by cattle, but in need of an upgrade. There was also some suggestion that the fencing could be extended to include the main spring in the bottom left of the image below, by following the alignment marked in blue on the image.

The meeting was positive and FOMS is confident of a good outcome. FOMS has sent further information to the Williams Cattle Company and we await their decision.

Proposed fencing of Levi Springs

Protective Fencing organised for Levi Springs

One of the springs at Levi to be protected in the proposed enclosure

As part of DEWNR’s Desert Jewels project, it is proposed that a number of springs at Levi Springs, on Peake Pastoral Lease, be fenced to provide protection from stock. In August 2015, a combined group from FOMS and DEWNR inspected Levi Springs and plotted a proposed fence alignment that would include all of the springs at Levi and most of the associated rock formations. In early 2016, DEWNR’s Sam Gitahi, then Project Officer for the Desert Jewels Project, re-visited Levi with representatives of the Arabana people to check the acceptability of the proposed fence alignment to the Arabana community.

Subsequently, the proposal was considered by the Directors’ Group of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation, which decided not to support the proposed alignment. The Directors’ Group indicated that a modified fencing alignment, taking in the springs but not the main associated rock formations, might be acceptable.

Accordingly, in the July 2016 trip FOMS volunteers returned to Levi Springs to review the situation.  Arabana elder Dean Stuart accompanied the group. Along with Dean the FOMS group comprised Colin Harris, Elizabeth Lay, Bernice Cohen, Claire Bockner and Simon Lewis.

These ruins of a shepherd’s hut will also be included in the fenced area

An agreed alignment was readily identified, taking in several springs on the northern side of the main rock formations, as well as the ruins of the former shepherd’s hut nearby. Peake manager Jim Wheeler met the group at Levi Springs and foreshadowed no particular concerns from the Kidman perspective in relation to the fencing. Following the field inspection of July 2016, the Directors of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation met in Marree on 20 August and endorsed the revised fence alignment. Pastoral lessees S. Kidman and Co have also given the go-ahead.

Materials for the originally proposed fence alignment have already been purchased by DEWNR and this Department and FOMS are now in discussion about arrangements for erection of the fence. This work will provide protection for an important area of springs and, as such, will be a significant milestone for the Desert Jewels project.