National Wetlands Update 2012
Issue No. 20, February 2012
Small constructed wetland makes its mark on the community, Canberra
Edwina Robinson, ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate
Kids play in ephemeral zone at the first community planting day March 2010 (Edwina Robinson)
The Banksia Street, O'Connor wetland is one of three water bodies constructed by the ACT Government in Canberra's inner north during 2010-2011. Together these wetlands improve the quality of urban stormwater entering the iconic Lake Burley Griffin. As well as enhancing water quality and detaining floods they provide a diverse aquatic and terrestrial habitat in the suburbs. At the much larger Dickson and Lyneham wetlands, harvested stormwater will be delivered to irrigate local sportsgrounds instead of potable water.
One of the unexpected consequences of the development of the Banksia Street wetland is how it has been embraced by the community and provides a destination for individuals, community groups and educational institutions.
Although only 1250 square metres in area, this wetland provides informal recreational opportunities for locals. Pedestrians stroll along paths or sit quietly to observe waterbirds and eastern long-necked tortoises. Children veer from the path to get closer to the water's edge and create pathways through the native grasses. They play imaginative games focused on 'catching' fish and yabbies and construct cubbies from sticks. It's rewarding to see primary school-aged children interacting with the ‘natural’ environment in the suburbs.
While the wetland is not a tourist hot-spot it has become a focus for field trips and community events. Local primary students and Girl Guides have participated in planting and Waterwatch activities. Recently ANU School of Art students visited the inner-north wetland and are designing sculptures that respond to the site.
As part of its engagement strategy, the ACT Government has organised a number of community events at Banksia Street. These aim to promote the Wetland Development Program and have a sustainability focus. Prior to excavators moving in, a community fair was staged on the site in 2009. Residents were treated to a smoking ceremony, live music, games, food and information about the wetland proposal. On World Wetlands Day 2010, the Urban Waterways team organised a bike tour of the inner-north wetland sites accompanied by Minister Simon Corbell. A twilight picnic was staged for World Wetlands Day 2011, but many residents were kept away by looming thunderstorms.
Cormorant drying its wings on tree perch (Edwina Robinson)
The Banksia Street Wetland Carers played an active role in planting and maintaining the wetland. Thousands of macrophytes, grasses, groundcovers, ephemerals, climbers, shrubs and trees from local provenance stock were planted over 10 community planting days. Tree guards were installed to thwart marauding cockatoos. In the coming years, volunteers will play a role in weeding, replanting and monitoring the water quality of the wetland. A local resident trained in herbicide use has tackled invasive couch and Chilean needle grass. It is anticipated that a volunteer will be recruited to collect information on frogs for the Frogwatch census which occurs in October each year.
The ACT government has worked closely with the Banksia Street Wetland Carers to establish the vegetation surrounding the wetland and will continue to support the group in the future. Contractors engaged by government will continue mowing dryland grass and will desilt the wetland when required in the future.
Like many other ACT waterways, one of the key challenges is controlling the presence of gambusia. Though small, this feral fish has an outstanding reproductive rate and is an aggressive predator of macro-invertebrates, tadpoles and fish. It was first spotted in the wetland in early 2011. Ecologists and the ACT Waterwatch Coordinator have banded together to trial methods of controlling gambusia. In winter the fish congregate in warm shallow areas and are easy to trap, so in August 2011 staff used seine nets to capture these predators. A single net sweep caught two handfuls of fish - 447 individuals!
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