Wetlands Australia National Wetlands Update 2012

Issue No. 20, February 2012
ISSN 1446-4843


Australian wetlands are dynamic ecosystems which are host to a variety of native species, from seagrasses to sandpipers, crocodiles to curlews and duckweed to dugongs. Wetlands vary in size and character. They provide benefits and services which help sustain Australia's landscapes as well as our urban and rural communities.

A total of 64 Australian wetlands, covering 8.1 million hectares, have been listed as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (www.ramsar.org). There are also 900 wetlands listed on the Directory of important wetlands in Australia.

This year the theme of Wetlands Australia is 'Wetlands and Tourism'. This aligns with the theme of World Wetlands Day 2012 and is also linked to the theme of the 11th Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention ('Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation'). This conference is being held in June 2012 in Romania.

In 2009-10 tourism directly employed over half a million Australians and contributed $34 billion or 2.6 per cent to Australia's gross domestic product (Tourism satellite account 2009-10, Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism). Wetlands occur at many tourism destinations, including iconic sites such as Kakadu National Park. Wetlands also provide local tourism and recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing and bird watching.

Tourism can have a variety of positive and negative impacts on a wetland. This year, articles in Wetlands Australia consider the benefits and challenges of tourism and recreation in and around wetlands. These articles also consider how tourism activities can be managed to maintain the ecological value of wetlands.

In 2012 Wetlands Australia celebrates its 20th edition. Over the years it has been published in partnership with a variety of organisations, including the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (now Authority) and WetlandCare Australia. The publication has evolved significantly since its inception in 1995 when it was introduced as a simple six-monthly newsletter. With this issue Wetlands Australia moves to a new format, with an e newsletter linked to a fully online magazine. The publication includes new features such as online subscription and live links to relevant websites.

The interest that has sustained this magazine over many years is evidence of the ongoing commitment and enthusiasm of Australia's wetland managers, researchers, governments and local communities to work together and share their stories.


  • Government Updates
  • Tourism - Ramsar Wetlands
    • Kakadu National Park - a distinctive natural and cultural experience Internationally famous, World Heritage and Ramsar listed, Kakadu National Park is Australia's largest mainland national park. It is an ancient landscape of exceptional beauty and diversity. The Aboriginal people of Kakadu (known as Bininj in the north and Mungguy in the south) are proud to share their country with visitors.
    • Securing a healthy future for the Coorong and Lower Lakes The internationally important Coorong and Lower Lakes wetlands are a popular tourist destination within South Australia, but prolonged drought and water over-allocation across the Murray-Darling Basin left it on the brink of collapse.
      The return of water in 2010 provided much-needed relief, but more work is needed to restore these unique wetlands, which support a range of local industries including tourism. With funding from the Australian Government, the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Recovery Project aims to restore the environment and secure a healthy future for the region.
    • Active Tourism - The Key to Achieving Core Wetland Objectives at the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia The Hunter Estuary Wetlands are the only community owned and run Ramsar listed wetlands in Australia. At the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia, tourism and recreation offer an important opportunity to raise funds to supplement membership income and grant funding to enable conservation and education goals to be achieved. Recently the centre changed its motto from "A Haven for Wildlife and People" to "Conserve, Educate and Discover".
    • An integrated approach to protecting our wetlands in Port Phillip 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. This site regularly supports more than 20 000 water birds. Being close to Victoria's major population centre it is not surprising that over the years many factors have combined to place pressure on the Ramsar site and adjoining lands. With increasing use of the site for recreation and demands for public open space by rapidly expanding urban communities adjacent to the site, it is clear that development of well planned and integrated approaches is required for management of the unique values of our Ramsar wetlands.
  • Tourism - Urban Wetlands
    • Protecting Gold Coast Beaches: using coastal wetland habitat to improve water quality. Found within walking distance of Surfers Paradise CBD is the Gold Coast's Southport Broadwater Parklands, a multimillion-dollar sustainable urban waterfront redevelopment. Following the Parklands pathway along the beach front, visitors will find themselves in a newly constructed 1.2 hectare tidal mangrove wetlands area.
      Thousands of mangrove, seagrass, saltmarsh and dune plants have been established, not only to provide stormwater treatment but also provide habitat for coastal animal species, education to visitors about the importance of protecting our oceans and increase the recreational and tourism values of our city.
    • Small constructed wetland makes it mark on the community, Canberra 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. 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.
    • Saving What's Left - A Manly Community Success Story Established in the 1850s, Manly was Australia's first tourist resort. 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. For the past 20 years the Manly Environment Centre and the local community have worked together with Manly Council on many diverse projects.
    • Conserving and enjoying urban wetlands: Tamar Island Wetlands, Launceston, Tasmania Tamar Island Wetlands are an important urban wetlands located about 10 minutes' drive from Launceston in the north of Tasmania. They provide habitat for a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, fish and invertebrates. The wetlands attract local community users as well as visitors from mainland Australia and overseas. Interpretive talks are offered to school students and special interest groups throughout the year.
    • Adelaide's Botanic Wetlands Located in Adelaide's inner city parklands, the unique Adelaide Botanic Garden First Creek Wetland will address the impact of drought and climate change through the development of a self-sustaining natural environment combined with an aquifer recharge and reuse facility. Adelaide Botanic Garden attracts 1.5 million visitors each year. The First Creek wetland project, opening to the public in 2013, will provide a unique opportunity to connect visitors with an innovative approach to addressing water scarcity.
  • Visitor Engagement
    • Queensland's wonderful wetlands: what do wetlands visitors want to know? What's so wonderful about wetlands? Why are wetlands worth a visit? What makes them valuable and why should we look after them? These were the questions the Queensland Wetlands Program, a joint initiative of the Australian and Queensland governments, wanted to answer for wetlands visitors in its 2011 publication Queensland's wonderful wetlands.
      These questions resulted in a brochure and accompanying poster being produced by the Program, to meet the needs of both the Program and its community-oriented stakeholders - local government agencies, wetlands centres, educational organisations and the general public.
    • The Living Murray's icon sites - a natural tourist trail The Living Murray program is helping to restore the health of the Murray River by focusing on six icon sites which were chosen for their high ecological and economic value as well as their cultural significance. The Murray forms a unique environment with outstanding ecological values and has long been a popular tourism destination.
      Interpretation signs and displays help introduce tourists to the natural values of the area, including the largest river red gum forests in Australia and the internationally important Coorong, at the mouth of the Murray.
    • The Value of our Volunteers The contribution volunteers make to wetlands is not just cheap labour. Volunteers participate in a wide variety of activities in and around wetlands, including events management, bush regeneration and community education activities. They play a significant role in providing eco-tourism services to the wider community, acting as tour guides, event staff, organisers and participants. Motivations for environmental volunteers include a feeling of obligation to the environment and/or community and a desire to spend time with family and friends doing something positive, either in the local community or packaged as a holiday or gap year.
    • Events linking wetlands together in Wimmera's south-west It might not be obvious what Chicks in the Sticks, the Kowree Yabby, Swamp Talk and Habitat Tender all have in common. But for people living in the Wimmera's west, the connection is clear. Over the past 12 months, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority has hosted a range of events that are fun, are a great day out and most importantly, lead to healthier wetlands and more sustainable farming.
    • A strategy for engaging people in the East Asian - Australasian Flyway In September 2011 a group of wetland specialists gathered at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore to develop a Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness (CEPA) Strategy for the East Asian-Australasian (EAA) Flyway Partnership. The Flyway is home to 45 per cent of the world's human population and in many locations people obtain their livelihoods from the same wetland systems that are supporting the birds. Tourism is one area of economic development that often shares desired locations with those of migratory birds. This poses challenges as well as opportunities.
  • Tourism - Coastal Wetlands
    • Declared Fish Habitat Areas benefit tourists, fishers and nature lovers Declared Fish Habitat Areas (FHAs) protect Queensland's key fish habitats from development impacts and therefore help to sustain productivity of the state's fisheries. These often pristine wetland areas are great places to visit, with no restrictions on day to day tourism activities such as boating, bird watching and fishing. Education and engagement with the community, in combination with strategic planning, is essential in order to prevent human impacts on the areas.
    • Coastal Wetlands and WetlandCare Australia's Blue Carbon program Coastal wetlands provide significant scenic and recreational value, food and habitat resources for recreationally and commercially important fish species and are an important buffer against some of the consequences of climate change. Coastal wetlands also capture and store significant quantities of atmospheric carbon. WetlandCare Australia, Australia's leading wetland conservation organisation, launched its Blue Carbon program last year. The goal of this program is to work towards the inclusion of coastal wetlands in Australia's climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.
    • Coastal 20 - An investment for future tourism and recreation WetlandCare Australia's $2.5 million Coastal 20 Wetland Project will deliver significant on-ground, education and community engagement initiatives to protect and restore 20 important wetlands in New South Wales and Queensland. The project will not only achieve environmental improvements, but provide valuable flow-on benefits for recreation, tourism and local communities.
    • Connecting freshwater ecosystems and increasing tourism value Providing connectivity between freshwater ecosystems is essential to maintain and enhance fisheries' productivity and overall wetland biodiversity. This is because many fish require free passage within freshwater wetlands and between freshwater wetlands and the marine environment to fulfil a number of key life stage requirements. Barriers such as weirs and road crossings impede fish migration, negatively impacting wetland biodiversity. Remediating barriers through the construction of fishways enables free movement of fish, which in turn provides many tourism opportunities such as recreational fishing and wildlife watching.
    • WetlandCare Australia expands floodplain management across the Nambucca and Bellinger Catchments The Nambucca and Bellinger catchments on the mid north coast of New South Wales contain expansive areas of coastal floodplain wetlands. They supply critical environmental services that not only support healthy habitat but also provide opportunities for local tourism and recreational activities. The Sustainable Floodplain Management Program was established to address issues impacting these coastal systems. The program promotes sustainable land use and community awareness of the importance of these wetlands.
  • Visitor Health
    • Wetlands and mosquitoes: Reducing the public health risks to visitors Wetlands can provide opportunities for education and engagement. Mosquitoes associated with Australian wetlands are a natural component of local ecosystems. However, their propensity to occur in highly abundant populations, and their potential to transmit disease-causing pathogens, often requires the implementation of mosquito management strategies. While broad scale mosquito control activities may not be sustainable, wetland managers should be aware of potential health risks and provide suitable personal protection advice to visitors.
  • Tourism - Case Studies
    • Wonga Wetlands (NSW): ecotourism on Albury's doorstep Albury's Wonga Wetlands are both a must-see tourist destination and a stunning example of environmental management based on lateral thinking. Formerly affected by the damming of the Murray River, the area has been brought back to life using wastewater to recreate natural river flows.
    • The Mareeba Wetlands (Qld) - Conservation through Sustainable Tourism The Mareeba Wetlands in Far North Queensland harness seasonal excess water overflowing from the Mareeba Dimbulah Irrigation Area through a series of wetlands. Set within a 2500 hectare reserve, these wetlands compensate for the significant past loss of natural wetlands in the region. The Mareeba Wetlands are managed by the non-profit Wildlife Conservancy of Tropical Queensland, with revenue from sustainable tourism funding ongoing conservation initiatives, including work on a wide range of wetland species, including sarus cranes and cotton pygmy geese.
    • Nunnock Swamp (NSW) - a hidden treasure perched on the escarpment Perched on the edge of the escarpment between the Monaro and the coast, Nunnock Swamp is surrounded by a mosaic of forest communities and natural grasslands within the South East Forests National Park, New South Wales. The swamp is an excellent example of an upland sub-alpine bog with significant patches of raised sphagnum hummocks.
      The Nunnock Swamp walking track follows the edge of the swamp and provides opportunities to experience the sharp contrast between the sphagnum and sedges with the adjacent towering eucalypt forests.
    • Yanga National Park (NSW) - a wetland wonderland Yanga National Park has been transformed since its purchase in 2005. Visitors are able to make camp along the river, delve into the area's cultural history and experience its unique environment. With more than 200 000 megalitres of environmental water being efficiently funnelled to the river red gum forests and many wetlands Yanga supports; this diverse ecosystem is enticing, tourists, scientists, researchers and students who are making sure they are onboard this exciting voyage. A developing gem, Yanga is sure to be a tourism hot spot in future years.
  • In Brief
    • Construction of the Gingham pipeline and restoration of core areas of the Gwydir Wetlands, NSW Completion of the Gingham domestic pipeline concludes a major infrastructure project providing a reliable domestic water supply for landholder homesteads. Significantly, it has also provided the opportunity to rehabilitate the Gingham watercourse, a component of the Gwydir Wetlands, located north-west of Moree in northern New South Wales.
    • A $20 million wetland restoration project underway - Winton Wetlands The restoration of the Winton Wetlands is under way following the decommissioning in July 2010 of Lake Mokoan, formerly Victoria's fifth-largest water storage. The challenge of restoring the former 8750 hectare water storage has attracted a lot of interest in the scientific community, according to Winton Wetlands CEO, Michael Vanderzee.
      After years of drought, the wetland is now full of water and the birds and people are flocking back to the 3000 hectares of wetlands set in the 8750 hectare Winton Wetlands Reserve in north east Victoria.
    • Warren to the Barwon Project, NSW The Warren to Barwon Project is an initiative of the NSW Government and community members, which aims to assist in the control of invasive species in wetland and floodplain areas along the Macquarie River from Warren to the Barwon River, including the Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes.
    • Namoi's Endangered Wetlands Passing through the spectacular landscape at the far east of the Namoi catchment in northern NSW, you may catch glimpses of sunlight on water and the deep greens of moss and macrophytes. These small signs indicate the presence of elusive natural wetlands - highly concentrated pockets of biodiversity in the fertile grazing country of the Great Dividing Range.
    • Swamp tea-tree forest conservation supported by landholders The endangered swamp tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) characterises one of Australia's most critically endangered forests. Confined to South East Queensland, only eight per cent of the original vegetation remains today
    • Edutainment: For a Sustainable Future It is important that our children learn and understand about the environment and what harm human impacts have upon it. Children need to be exposed to the reality of the devastation our influence can have on important habitats such as wetlands. Ocean Life Education believes that Edutainment: education through entertainment is an effective way to engage and enlighten today's children to become tomorrow's custodians of a sustainable future.
  • 2012 Calendar of Events

Previous editions of Wetlands Australia are also available: