National Wetlands Update 2012
Issue No. 20, February 2012
An integrated approach to protecting our wetlands in Port Phillip Bay
SW Tuohy, Parks Victoria
"The Tower" at Point Cook is a Monument to Migration and Aspirations and provides a 360 degree view of the Cheetham wetlands (Parks Victoria).
The Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site is one the most complex in Australia. The ecologically significant site extends along the western shore of Port Phillip Bay from Altona South to Limeburners Bay near Geelong, contains parts of the Bellarine Peninsula including Swan Bay and Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve, and includes the Mud Islands section of Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. Key locations along the western shoreline include Point Cook Coastal Park and Cheetham Wetlands, Melbourne Water's Western Treatment Plant, The Spit Wildlife Reserve, Point Wilson, Limeburners Lagoon in Corio Bay, Avalon Coastal Reserve and Werribee River Park.
Situated close to Melbourne and Geelong, the western shoreline of Port Phillip Bay and the Bellarine Peninsula are popular visitor destinations. Some of the main activities undertaken by visitors include recreational fishing, bird watching, duck hunting, boating and swimming.
The Point Cook Coastal Park and Cheetham Wetlands is popular among nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers and family groups. The park provides an excellent opportunity to see a diverse range of flora and fauna with the added benefit of being close to Melbourne and adjacent coastal suburbs. Visitors can participate in a variety of recreational opportunities across the entire complex, which is crossed by kilometres of walking tracks. At Point Cook the adventurous can follow marked trails to the bird hide at Spectacle Lake or climb “The – Tower, a Monument to Migration and Aspirations” to see the 360 degree views and catch a glimpse of some of the international migratory birds that frequent the wetlands below. The beach recreation area provides spectacular views of the city from across the bay and has all the facilities required for a family picnic, including free gas barbecues, picnic tables, a children's playground and regularly maintained toilets with wheelchair access.
The park regularly plays host to a variety of community events including World Wetlands Day, Harmony Week, Clean Up Australia Day, Coast Care summer programs, and tree planting days. Such activities provide numerous opportunities for community members and schools to actively participate in these important awareness initiatives and environment protection programs.
View of wetlands from above (Parks Victoria).
The Port Phillip Bay Western Shoreline and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site is one of 11 wetlands of international significance in Victoria listed under the Ramsar Convention. The endangered saltmarsh communities provide a valuable food source and roosting habitat for many of the native and migratory birds that frequent the wetlands, and are vital in supporting the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot.The site regularly supports more than 20 000 water birds, and more than 1 per cent of the global population of several listed species including curlew sandpipers, double-banded plovers, red-necked stints, and sharp-tailed sandpipers.
Given the wetlands are so close to Victoria's major population centre, many factors have combined to place pressure on the Ramsar site and adjoining lands over the years. Rubbish dumping, poor drainage, stock grazing and infestation by pest plants and animals such as boxthorn or rabbits have all taken their toll on the vegetation communities throughout the region.
In addition, there are increasing demands on the use of the site for recreation and open public space for health and well-being in rapidly expanding urban communities such as nearby Point Cook. It is clear that a well planned and integrated approach is required to sustainably manage the unique values of the Ramsar wetlands and the globally important species they support.
In 2008 the Port Phillip Bay Western Shoreline Protection Program commenced as a partnership between Parks Victoria, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Port Phillip Westernport Catchment Management Authority, local government and other key stakeholders, including Melbourne Water and Birds Australia. The program aimed to establish effective partnerships with stakeholders, deliver integrated and effective pest plant and animal control programs, map vegetation and site use by shorebirds, and develop community engagement programs for building stewardship within local communities.
The work of the Program was recently recognised when it was awarded a Victorian Coastal Council Award for Coastal Planning and Management in 2011. The award acknowledged the value of the conservation initiative and the establishment of successful partnerships between the various land managers to meet the challenges of wetland management. Since late 2008 the steering committee has obtained significant site investment, delivered improved pest management, informed and provided opportunities for engagement of local communities, and has also established a framework for improved cooperation across the site.
The successful delivery of the project has enabled Australian Government Caring for Our Country funding to be secured until 2013. This will enable further engagement with local communities to help protect flora and fauna in this internationally significant wetland.
For further information contact Parks Victoria Information Centre on 13 19 63.