Friends of Williamstown Wetlands Inc.
President’s Report 2021
As the number of reported infections with the Covid-19 virus rose and fell, so our activities—like most aspects of life in Melbourne—waxed and waned. We responded by emerging to meet and to work when we could, and restricting contact to email when we couldn’t venture out.
This meant that committee meetings were less frequent, with more decisions taken after consultation by email and news distributed that way, too, as it was to the wider membership through newsletters and the forwarding of, for example, Council notices. Workdays had to be fitted into the revised calendar, too, but we were able to add to our Sunday morning efforts with some ‘pop up’ mid-week planting session on land controlled by Council and Parks Victoria for those who could be available. Fortunately, the Clean Up Australia event fell within one of the windows between lockdowns, and our effort, organised as usual by Peter Smith, was able to go ahead.
Despite the lockdowns, the Rotary Club of Williamstown went ahead with their project to mark one hundred years of Rotary in Australia—the construction of a new bird hide on the south side of the eastern lake. The view from the first bird hide, on the northern shore, has been largely obscured by rampant growth of aquatic vegetation, but the new hide is on higher ground and from it the view is panoramic. It’s on Crown Land managed by Parks Victoria, and permission had to be obtained from that body. The fence at the end of the Arboretum will be realigned and a new path is in place to facilitate access to the hide.
With assistance of Council, a group of students from the Bayview Campus of Williamstown High School devoted some of their ‘service’ time to working in the Jawbone Reserve in May. On four afternoons they planted indigenous plants on a patch near the school; weeded a patch near the causeway and then planted there, too; and removed stakes and guards from a site where corporate volunteers had planted in 2019.
Over the years we have expressed to Council and to Parks Victoria our concerns that people and dogs, travelling along the sandbars at low tide, were disturbing migratory waders and shore birds feeding there in the warmer months. We are pleased to note that both authorities have installed signage and made other changes to access to deter such intrusions.
The device that maintains the level in the eastern lake has been repaired, and with persistent rain (especially in 2020) we have seen the lake rise to something more like its original level. Planning for stage two of the project to renovate the lake, Council engaged Practical Ecology last year to conduct an impact assessment on proposed control of over-abundant vegetation (Typha sp.) and possible desilting of that part of the lake.
The investigation completed in April 2021 identified several significant fauna species and made the following recommendations:
- Develop a removal plan that limits removal of Typha and silt to those areas of the wetland cells that are strictly needed to meet the objectives of the project minimising impacts to other parts of the wetland accounting for access for machinery
- Incorporate a fauna salvage strategy into the removal plan based on a zoologist being present to salvage and relocate any native animals or euthanise any exotic animals recovered
- Consider the desired post-removal conditions and ensure the works achieve those conditions through creating acceptable water depths and installing new wetland plants to take up the ecological space created by Typha removal
- Investigate and determine if the works require a planning permit in consultation with Council planners
Within the report it recommends restricting works between August and March, due to migratory birds and frog breeding, which leaves the period April to July to do any significant on site works. Council intends over the coming months to develop a removal plan that will better define areas of works and methods of removal to minimise any potential impact. This means there won’t be much change over the next six months or so but it should be possible to begin any works from April 2022.
Governance and Organisation
We were well served by our office-bearers, especially Secretary Sandra Thorn and Treasurer Vesna Djuric, and the organisation of work days by Vice-President Richard Leppitt who, together with Andrew Thornton, prepared sites for planting by auguring-out the holes! Our peripatetic efforts were supported by Andrew Webster and Suzette Rodoreda from Hobsons Bay City Council, and by Shaun Davis from Parks Victoria. We are lucky to have such people to work with.
Ian D. Rae