The Hunter Wetlands Centre currently has several projects.
Hydrology and Ecological Restoration Set 2010 Project
Shortland Wetlands are a natural drainage depression, a remnant of extensive tidal and floodplain wetlands that once extended east of Ironbark Creek. The land has been altered significantly by urban development around and within the site, including land-filling, the construction of electricity infrastructure, access roads and a sporting complex, causing significant changes in hydrology.
The landscape design for the development of a wetland centre on the site sought to maximise the existing drainage and storage capacity while encouraging the improvement of biodiversity values and the quality of water entering and leaving the site.
Water flowing into Shortland Wetlands is generated by local rainfall and run-off from nearby suburbs.
A series of stormwater pipes and culverts collect stormwater from lands and suburbs tothe south, east and north and deliver water to Shortland Wetlands. (For more information click stormwater factsheet) Shortland Wetlands delivers water to Ironbark Creek via a constructed channel and a series ofdrainage points along Ironbark Marsh and the northern boundary of the site.
However, the flow traditionally occurs only after periods of heavy rain or when Ironbark Marsh is at full capacity.
Flooding of the swamps requires significant and successive rainfall events.
In the past this has occurred predominantly in the summer months.
Historically low rainfall resulted in low water levels or drying out of most of the ponds on the site however the history of the site since HWC took control has indicated that the drying out has become the exception leading to health problems for the trees in Melaleuca Swamp.
Various engineering works over 100 years including the construction of the Ironbark Creek flood gates in 1972 and the western end of sites conversion to fresh water wetland created a situation where Ironbark Marsh has become choked with fresh water reed growth.
This created a damming effect causing water to build up on the site and create a semi permanent state of inundation.
It became apparent by 2007 that the health of the Melaleuca Swamp Forest which is the location of the egret and ibis breeding colony was in a poor state.
Trees were falling over and or dying and there had been a continual decline in the number of egret nests counted in the annual Project Egret
Watch bird count which caused alarm as a result The Wetland Centre commissioned engaged BMT
WBM in 2008 to undertake a Hydrology and Water Study to provide an understanding of hydrology and water quality and hydrology problems of the HWC site.
Based on the results of this study, five management strategies were formulated with the aim of improving the hydrology and/or water quality within the site. Following various meetings a project was designed to implement two of those management two of these management strategies, albeit with some minor alterations.
Application was made to the Federal government through the Ramsar Managers Planning Process and Caring for Our Country Grant streams for funding for an EIS and on ground works to implement the two management strategies.
Funding was granted in 2010.
The Project has been separated into two separate management strategies, each with their own individual objective and subsequent construction and management requirements.
The two management strategies are as follows:
Management of the water level and water quality in the Melaleuca Swamp by pumping it out; and
Water level control throughout all of the ponds on site by use of a series of flow control gates and a drainage channel through Ironbark Marsh.
Strategy A is considered a short-term strategy that addresses an immediate and acute need within Melaleuca Swamp.
Strategy B will ultimately also address hydrology issues in Melaleuca Swamp over a longer timeframe.
It is envisaged that as the changes associated with Strategy B start to transpire, the need for pro-active management of water levels in Melaleuca Swamp (i.e. Strategy A) will diminish
It is anticipated the work will be completed by 2013 weather permitting.
An Operations Management Plan was also completed in 2012 to guide a new era of active water management on the site.
Strategy B involves installing a number of water control gates coupled with cleaning out a choked drainage channel through Ironbark Marsh and extending it from the Marsh to Reed Marsh Pond to facilitate movement of water through the site into Ironbark Creek An Operations Managment Plan is in place to control the timing and conditions of pumping and release of water into Ironbark Creek. The Plan was approved by the NSW Office of Water and Newcastle City Council.
With this project it will allow:
• Storage of rainfall and stormwater to provide habitat for significant wetland fauna and flora species.
• Recycling of nutrients that enter the site in stormwater or through the activity of nesting birds.
• Improvements in water quality draining to Ironbark Creek and Hunter River from the site
Caring For Country "BIODIVERSITY" Grant.
Other projects range in scale and size from participating in the NSW Governments Volunteer Timebanking Scheme being piloted in Newcastle by the Hunter Volunteer Centre to attempts to eradicate on site the significant Alligator Weed.
SAFE VOLUNTEER TEAMS
The New South Wales Mines Safety Advisory Committee recently awarded the Hunter Wetlands Centre a $9,429.00 Community Grant for the centre's "SAFE VOLUNTEER TEAMS" Initiative. This project is about improving a safe workplace for our 150 active volunteers and encouraging safe habits amongst staff, volunteers, members and guests. Under this project we are improving equipment and training for volunteers. Creating plain paper forms as part of our WHS system, making risk assessments easy so that they are second nature and not seen as a burden. Making volunteering safer and easier helps create a more rewarding experience and encourages good practices throughout the wider community.