Chris Whackett has seen firsthand the steady revival of bushland and coastal rainforest previously destroyed by historic mining.
The 41-year-old joined Fern Creek Gully Landcare Group at Dudley six years ago to lend a hand.
He said the group’s monthly working bees had made a huge contribution during that time.
“For a lot of other people my age, it can be difficult finding time – I have two children and a demanding job,” he said.
“But, for me, it’s important to go, even for purely selfish reasons.
“It’s getting outside in the bush, doing some manual work, and using my body.
“It’s also about reconnecting with my community and working together for a common goal that’s external to my everyday life.”
Despite its success, Fern Creek Gully is one of the Landcare groups on the hunt for a new generation of fresh faces to help rehabilitate and protect wild areas throughout Lake Macquarie.
The group recently launched a Facebook page to attract younger volunteers.
Lake Macquarie Landcare Coordinator, Jason Harvey, said more than 200 volunteer groups managed to clear over 19 hectares of weed and replanted native species across the city last year.
However, he said most of the people involved were aged over 55 and there needed to be a “succession plan”.
“The value of the effort they contributed last year would be knocking on the door of $1 million,” Mr Harvey said.
“We’re hoping this next generation – people in their 30s and 40s who care about their local environment and want to do something for their community – will start to get involved.”
Mr Harvey added there were obvious benefits to going outdoors and being active.
“There is the community aspect – getting together with people from your local neighbourhood who are like-minded, forming new friendships, and building that sense of pride and belonging.
“There’s also an aspect of skill development. We’ve recently had a couple of young lads put their hands up to join us for this reason.”
The Fern Creek Gully group meets on the first Saturday of the month, but meeting times vary for others across Lake Macquarie.
Visit lakemacquarielandcare.org for more information.