Australia is not without its invasive species and a large number of them are plants. Brought in to the country by European settlers, many of these species have come to threaten the local flora and fauna. One such species is the willow – a beautiful riverside tree but one which has clogged up Australian waterways for decades. Now, with the help of American artist Patrick Dougherty, Melbourne Waterways has come up with a novel approach to conservation.
Dougherty has built what can only be described as a willow cathedral in the Federation Square district of Melbourne, using only secateurs and gloves. The ten tonnes of willow reeds were harvested from the Yarra, Maribyrnong and Werribee rivers. The willows were removed and will be replaced by indigenous species of plants so that animals like the platypus can enjoy their habitat as it should be once more.
This diagram shows how the project is helping the waterways.
As well as helping to provide the people and wildlife of Melbourne with healthier waterways, this project has enabled Dougherty to create another one of his spectacular trademark works. During his decades long career he has built over 230 of these stickworks and his work can be seen all over the world. This, however, is his first foray in to the Australian art scene – and it’s wonderful!
Above: Artist Patrick Dougherty with Federation Square CEO, Kate Brennan and Melbourne Water's Waterway Manager, Gavan O'Neill.