Western Sydney organisations band together to protect the region’s wetlands


Farmers, environmentalists, community groups and academics gathered at Western Sydney University last week to discuss the best ways to protect the region's threatened and degraded wetlands.

Organised by the Hawkesbury Environment Network (HEN) and supported by the National Landcare Program in partnership with the University, the two-day event saw over 120 locals and stakeholders discuss the region's incredible natural diversity, and plan new methods to better protect the local ecosystem.

HEN Project Co-ordinator, Robin Woods, says the conference aimed to establish a new partnership of community stakeholders, agencies and researchers to help restore stressed local environments.

"Wetlands are crucial to maintaining water quality and quantity for the future of our community," says Ms Woods.

"For too long they have been neglected as the economic value of rural productivity on the surrounding floodplain grew, and became simply the drains to carry stormwater or pollutants back into our river system."

"Researchers, farmers and local agencies need to work together, and this conference is just the first step in making this a reality."

At the conference issues such as water quality, citizen science, urban living and constructed wetland management were discussed by Western Sydney University academics Dr Ian Wright, Dr Ricky Spencer, Dr Dharma Hagare Dr Roger Attwater and PhD candidate Nakia Belmer.  The Georges River Combined Council Committee's Aboriginal Riverkeeper team presented on cultural perspectives of working on country, and the Parramatta River Catchment Group discussed how to make the river swimable again.

Internationally acclaimed wetland ecologist Phil Straw gave the keynote speech about the importance of mudflats for the shorebirds, which travel between Asia and Australia and rely on several Sydney region sites for rest and breeding areas.

The Community Greening Officer at Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands Elizabeth Docking says the conference was just the beginning. 

"While our programs do not regularly connect directly with wetlands, the community focussed groups and presenters at the conference have already provided great connections for our programs, specifically in the areas of disadvantaged youth, refugee and asylum seeker groups."

On the second day, participants visited weed covered banks at Yarramundi Lagoon affected by high nutrient inputs, as well as the Pitt Town Lagoon Nature Reserve, where dense reed beds shelter a range of a hundred or more species.

Landholders joined the tour, and gave talks about the changes and problems of local wetlands, from weed infestation, carp, and bank collapse.

Professor Simon Barrie, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning Transformations), says many of the participating organisations are partners in the UN Regional Centre of Expertise network, based in the University's Office of Sustainability.

"This new collaboration is a great example of how we can support each other in thinking globally and acting locally," says Professor Barrie.

"In addition, a wide range of students are involved in this project, granting them real life learning challenges with organisations centered on environmental sustainability."

Further information and contacts may be made through HEN website www.hen.org.au or by contacting Robin on 0414 672 014 or emailing the Office of Sustainability on: sustainability@westernsydney.edu.au.


21 September 2016

Media Unit