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Our new native nursery in the Daintree Rainforest

If we are going to help mitigate climate change and restore more rainforest, then we need to plant more trees. To plant more trees… we must produce more trees.

Because of your incredible support, we are increasing tree production in the Daintree for restoration by over 1000%. Breathing life into new restoration projects that will see the size of the Daintree increase and its resilience grow.

Why did we build a new native nursery?

You know that rainforests are under threat through development, agriculture, and the increasing pressures of human activities and settlement.

You also know that rainforest habitats around the world are rapidly shrinking. As we witness these changes, we see significant impacts and the decline of many species globally. Climate change is upon us and we need to do whatever we can to mitigate the challenges it brings.

One way to make a real difference is to plant trees. Many, many more trees. To do this, Rainforest Rescue has built the largest nursery in the Daintree region. This means we ultimately restore thousands of acres of Daintree rainforest through this uniquely funded project, driven by the generosity of our supporters.

Previously, Rainforest Rescue’s Diwan Nursery provided around 12,000 trees a year for planting through our Plant a Rainforest projects. All these trees are going towards our restoration efforts at ‘NightWings’ to reconnect what were once cane fields back to the Rainforest along the Katharine Range and the Daintree. And it’s working. Such efforts are truly transformational.

There were three other nurseries in the Daintree region that produced around 35,000 trees annually together. Combined with Rainforest Rescue that’s about 47,000 trees in the Daintree per year. At a stretch, perhaps 50,000. We felt this was not enough. Dramatically, climate change and habitat loss are happening faster than anyone predicted, and we need to scale up to combat the effects.

If we are going to help mitigate climate change by drawing down more carbon, then we need to plant more trees—it really is as simple as that—#TreesAreTheAnswer. Now, through your help, we have built the Daintree’s largest nursery that will ultimately produce 150,000 trees per year—ready for the replanting of almost 25 hectares of rainforest habitat every year!

Cow Bay Native Nursery Specifications

The native nursery footprint is 0.8Ha and comprises:

  • Large propagation house
  • Large shade house
  • Seed storage and potting area
  • About 4,000 m2 of growing area
  • Nutrient extracting reed bed and a settling pond/bio-retention basin for water recirculation
  • Our Daintree HQ
New Native Nursery in Cow Bay

What is the benefit of a large-scale native nursery in the Daintree?

While our Cow Bay nursery is not the only one in the Daintree region, it’s the biggest. This is important for several reasons:

  • Size means more plant production in sheer numbers, which means more trees in the ground to support the long term future of the Daintree lowland rainforest, as we’ve mentioned!
  • Size also means we have more opportunity to grow more different species. Considering the Daintree rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, then giving biodiversity the best possible start in a regenerated area is vital.
  • Size gives us flexibility. While it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, we can prepare for events like extreme weather with more plants available. If the Daintree rainforest experiences a cyclone or flooding event, we could support the regeneration work because we have stock at hand.
  • Size gives us options. As Rainforest Rescue continues to grow in its fieldwork and restoration teams, we can support different kinds of restoration projects that may need particular plant types or focal species. We can now accommodate this.
  • Size means commitment. Infrastructure projects like this are not taken lightly! Rainforest Rescue is committed to the ongoing protection and sustainable management of the rainforest in the Daintree region, which we want to support through our seed-to-tree process and restoration expertise.
  • Size supports future regional growth. We’re working towards the capacity of our native nursery, which will take several years to realise. To do so we will need to grow our team, which means more employment opportunities within the Daintree region, helping to sustain the local economy.

Significant Nursery Milestones to Date

  • October 2020 – The dream was born and planning began! Read more here.
  • Council on-side & Project management support from QTFN
  • Rainforest Rescue Nursery Manager, Marine Deliens, will spend 25% of her time on the new nursery, working alongside Project Manager, Allen Sheather.
  • Using Firewheel Rainforest Nursery as a template we can transfer valuable learnings, capacity, and planning
  • Partnerships with QTFN and Jabalbina Aboriginal Corporation are strong and compelling – giving us greater capacity than ever before and the opportunity to undertake this bold initiative.
  • April 2021 – Phase 1 fundraising completed – the nursery will be built! Read more here.
  • October 2021 – A site change from Lot 83 to the old Cow Bay Airstrip. Read more here.
  • March 2022 – A strong, long-term lease with partners who fervently believe in our work is in place and a Development Application (DA) with Council. Read more here.
  • April 2022 – Unanimous approval of the DA at Council meeting.
  • August 2022 – Thanks to your support we successfully scaled up the equipment and supplies necessary for the New Nursery. Read more here. 
  • December 2022 – The New Native Nursery nears its initial operational functionality. Read more here.
  • July 2023 – As we near Phase 1 completion, we have grown over 25,000 plants in the new nursery. Read more here.
  • August 2023 – Our first order of native plants for a rainforest regeneration project is collected by Daintree Life‘s conservation team.

Why did we choose this site for a native plant nursery?

Working in Far North Queensland always comes with its own unique challenges, and we’ve surmounted most of the ones that have been standing in our path. At the time, we had the budget and the timeline and the planner and the earthworks specialists and the irrigation designers and implementers and the shed and the office and the equipment chosen – most of it. In fact, many of the things necessary to begin building are in place and ready to go.

Originally we’d landed on Lot 83 as the site for the new nursery, which we’d helped Queensland Trust for Nature (QTFN) secure. With almost 300 hectares rescued and as many as 300 acres set for restoration, it came with lots of positives. It also came with one significant negative for the project but positive for Nature – an unforeseen remnant and rare ecological restoration opportunity was found upon assessment by our ecologist partners. Good for Nature, tough for us.

Then a miracle of sorts – the old defunct Cow Bay Airstrip property was on the market and in danger of becoming an active airstrip again, directly increasing traffic and development pressure in this World Heritage Area. Thanks to the committed conservationists who purchased it, this 126 Ha site will be protected. And more! It now houses the new native nursery on part of the already-cleared area, allowing production of native rainforest plants to increase a thousand fold.

There are 16 hectares of land previously used for the airstrip where we are beginning our Plant a Rainforest lowland rainforest restoration work, including research plots with James Cook University to monitor the effects of climate change on plant species.

Thanks to everyone who’s making this new facility – and millions of trees – possible.

We wouldn’t be able to do this without you.

Stay in the loop

Head over to Rainforest Rescue’s News page for the latest updates on our work preserving a vast biodiversity of plants and wildlife in our rainforests. Make sure you’re subscribed to our quarterly eNews to receive updates direct to your inbox!


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