National Wetlands Update 2012
Issue No. 20, February 2012
Saving what's left - a Manly community success story
Judy Reizes, Founding Manager, Manly Environment Centre, and Dave Thomas, EcoDivers
Hanging Swamp (Jenny Wilson)
For the past 20 years the Manly Environment Centre and the local community have worked together with Manly Council on many diverse projects.
Established in the 1850s, Manly was Australia's first tourist resort and almost all of it is heritage listed. Wherever you are in Manly, wetland environments are never more than half a kilometre away. Within the local government border of 31 kilometres are surf beaches, shallow coves and seagrass, a lagoon, a dam, wetlands, creeks, waterfalls, mangroves and streams. Sand, water and Hawkesbury sandstone were the making of Manly, providing exceptionally clear water for snorkeling and diving.
Volunteers from Manly-based EcoDivers are committed to protecting all kinds of marine creatures and their habitats, and their activities range from rescuing marine birds and animals to mapping seagrass, education and cleanups.
It is also possible to enjoy the underwater experience without getting wet. An eco-walk at Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Sydney's only no-take aquatic reserve, features sculptures of the local "residents", including threatened and protected species like the eastern blue groper, weedy seadragon, eastern blue devilfish, black rock cod and the little penguin.
The only aquatic reserve in Sydney Harbour, the North (Sydney) Harbour Aquatic Reserve is located around the national park areas in Spring Cove and Dobroyd. Together with Cabbage Tree Bay on the ocean side of North Head, these aquatic reserves are the "Reef in our Backyard". The interpretative shelter, on the site of a rehabilitated gasworks at Little Manly Point Park, looks down over the reserve and on the site of the initial encounter between the first Europeans and the local Aborigines. Indigenous carvings and rock engravings scattered around Manly depict the marine species that thrived pre-European occupation.
Bantry Bay, with its deep green waters, mangroves and saltmarsh, was chosen 100 years ago as the site to store explosives used in mining and quarrying. The complex was shut down in 1974 but the magazines remain. A national park foreshore trail skirting the magnificent rocks and caves with brilliant views can take you all the way to that other great wetland system, the Hawkesbury River.
In 1837 at the nearby quarantine station, Dr James Stuart divided his time between nursing the sick and painting exquisite pictures of Australian wildlife. Many of his 200 works depicting birds and marine life were of species unknown to the scientists of his day. Weakened by the typhus he contracted from his patients, he died in 1842 at the age of 40. His works, rated as some of the best of their kind and including the earliest paintings of marine life in Australia, are held in the State Archives.
Some of the species that inspired James Stuart are now extinct; others struggle to survive the onslaught of progress, protected by dedicated volunteers, including members of the Manly Environment Centre. For example, Manly boasts the only mainland breeding colony of little penguins in New South Wales, but they are constantly under threat from dogs, discarded plastic, fishing debris, development and tourists.
Monitoring seagrass (David Thomas)
Nudibranch (David Thomas)
Like the little penguins, the Manly population of the longnosed bandicoot was one of the first common species in the world to be listed as a threatened population (NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995).This last colony of bandicoots in Sydney Harbour inhabits the vegetation growing on the harbour's last ancient sand dunes and the unique hanging swamps at North Head. The other species are right out of the celebrated children's book, Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding.
Manly Environment Centre has run a comprehensive restoration and education program over 17 years. Once considered beyond salvation, the Manly Lagoon is coming back to life. Its 10 iconic species even include a unique Gondwanaland fish, the climbing galaxias.
Additionally, Manly's only creek, Burnt Bridge Creek which feeds into the lagoon, has now been rehabilitated from top to bottom with funding of about $4 million from Manly Council's Environmental Levy and a significant grant from the NSW Department of Environment. This rehabilitation was started more than 25 years ago by a local resident, Ernie Murray, who received the 2011 Manly Environment Centre Eco Award in recognition.
Storyboards, murals and sculptures by artists and interpretative signage by school children provide an outdoor classroom for visitors and celebrate the crusade that instigated the rehabilitation work. Read more about the Manly Environment Centre's outdoor classroom in the 2004 article "Hop in and help Manly Lagoon" Project in the 12th edition of Wetlands Australia.
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