World Wetlands Day 2002: Australia

16/02/2002

15 February 2002

Dear Ramsar People

I just thought I'd drop you a line and let you know what we did for World Wetlands Day here in the Hunter Valley, Australia. Perhaps you might put it on your site (which is extraordinary, by the way!). I love the picture quiz and the rapporteur.

Our WWD activities were a joint exercise between Australian Wetland Alliance and Ramsar (funded by the Natural Heritage Trust). It was held at The Wetlands Centre in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. The Wetland Centre is a 45 ha site comprising natural and restored wetlands adjacent to the city of Newcastle. It is community owned and managed.

It rained the day before and the day after but was glorious on World Wetlands Day (fortunately).

In the morning we held a free forum on the wise use of wetlands including Ramsar, community activism and community participation in the management of wetlands. It was fabulous to hear the enthusiasm of so many people from diverse backgrounds.

After lunch the participants were rotated through three hands-on activities. They looked at the nature and structure of hydric soils and did some simple soil tests including pH, salinity and moisture content. Then they went dipnetting in our ponds and had a close look at the pond animals which we used as an indicator of water quality. Following the pond animals they moved up the food-chain to go for a short walk and look at our amazing water birds, including two Avocets and several Pied Stilts which were taking advantage of the muddy margins. The ponds were as low as most people can remember.

Once they had some wetland skills we showed them several sites throughout the Lower Hunter Valley including Kooragang Nature Reserve (a Ramsar site), the floodgates which manage the water levels in Hexham Swamp, an overview of the Swamp itself, and a fascinating talk on weed control at Pambalong Wetlands. A local environmental group (Trees in Newcastle) had spent nearly two years manually removing Water Hyacinth from the wetlands. They told some gruesome stories!

It was a great day. Our bus was full and we even made the local news.

Cheers

Helen Aitchison
Ramsar Officer
The Wetlands Centre
Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

PS Attached is a photo of a third of our group birdwatching. The ponds were very low.

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