Byron Bay Dwarf Graminoid Clay Heath Community

Byron Bay's Graminoid Clay Heath (Clay Heath) is an endangered ecological community consisting of low-growing (to 50 cm tall) woody shrubs, grasses and grass-like plants with patches of taller shrubs and occasional larger trees. Fern-leaved Banksia, Hairy Bushpea, Kangaroo Grass and Broad Sword Sedge are among the most common of its many plant species. 

Clay Heath is a significant cultural landscape for the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal People who used fire to maintain the heathland as a vital source of bush foods including edible tubers. Clay Heath also provides a unique habitat to a range of threatened flora and fauna including the critically endangered Byron Bay Donkey Orchid.

Where is the Graminoid Clay Heath?

Clay Heath is found only at Byron Bay in the area of Paterson Hill and Arakwal National Park. The  restoration project has increased the extent of the Clay Heath community from about 5 to 16 hectares.  

  • Invasion by introduced weeds including garden escapes and encroaching native trees including Coral Fern Gleichenia dicarpa, paperbarks Melaleuca
  • Low-frequency of fire events
  • Erosion, sedimentation and pollution due to runoff from adjacent urban areas surrounding the Clay Heath.
  • Predation of heath fauna by foxes and free roaming domestic cats and dogs.
  • Habitat disturbance during maintenance of roads, trails, pipeline and powerlines.  The Watego water main beneath Arakwal National Park from Paterson Hill and through the Clay Heath may require machinery access to repair/maintain/replace.


To assist in restoring the Clay Heath, we work in partnership with NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and are guided by the Graminoid Clay Heath Management Plan(PDF, 17MB) .

The primary management aim is to restore, to the maximum extent possible, the extent, structure, function, dynamics and integrity of the Clay Heath and associated woodlands and forests and the habitats they support.

To restore the Clay Heath, two broad management strategies are:

  1. Restore the Clay heath to the maximum extent possible by improving the fire and hydrological (water) regime
  2. Management of encroaching species which displace Clay Heath including environmental weed and native trees and tall scrubs.




Over the last decade, Council funds, together with State Government and private contributions have enabled the restoration work.

In 2018-19, we intend to build on previous investment by:

  • Improving community updates on the restoration activities
  • Undertaking 1-3-6-month post burn weed control at Paterson Hill East Water Tower site and installing educational signage and fencing.
  • Follow up weed management and tree removal across all sites on Council-managed land.

Council were recently advised that it was not successful on its grant application for $10,000 under the Public Reserves Management Fund Program for continued restoration activities. Council will continue to identify alternative sources of external funds. Meanwhile, the restoration activities intended for 2018-19 financial year are Council funded.  

In the past we have:

  • Completed a Threatened Species and Aboriginal Assessment, Clay Heath Restoration Management Plan, a Flora & Fauna Assessment and a Review of Environmental Factors to assess the environmental impacts of activities
  • Minimised pollutant runoff from development and roads adjoining heath habitat
  • Rehabilitated unnecessary and unused walking tracks on Council-managed land
  • Managed environmental weeds such as Camphor Laurel, Bitou Bush, Winter Senna, Singapore Daisy and Molasses Grass
  • Undertaken ecological burns at selected sites in 2008, 2009, 2015, 2016 and 2018 with the help of NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, NSW Fire & Rescue, NSW Rural Fire Service and Ballina Aviation Rescue. Council plans to undertake additional controlled burns on other sites in the future.
  • Controlled trees displacing the Clay Heath. Some weeds and native trees shading out the Clay Heath are being removed or killed in-situ
  • Prepared education material and community activities e.g. signage and community information sessions
  • Zoned and secured all known areas of Clay Heath on Council managed land as E2 Environmental Conservation. This applies to areas that contain high ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values. The objectives of the zone are to protect those resources and to prevent development that could destroy, damage or otherwise have an adverse effect on those values. This zone is not applied to national parks and nature reserves, which are zoned E1. 
  • Plant locally occurring native heath species in gardens in adjoining urban areas.
  • Prevent ornamental plants and weeds escaping from gardens into native heath areas.
  • Control weeds.
  • Protect remaining areas of habitat from destruction or disturbance.
  • Stay on established walking trails.
  • Control domestic cats and dogs, particularly at night.
  • Support the restoration activities by taking time to find out about the on-ground works.

Additionally, NSW State Government have a targeted strategy for managing this species under the Saving Our Species program.