The Hunter Wetlands National Park is a wildlife sanctuary that’s rich with native flora and fauna. It’s a haven for nature lovers and a place to cycle, walk, fish and birdwatch. But the saltmarshes also provide an important breeding ground for international migratory shore birds who each year fly up to 12,000km from as far away as Alaska, Korea and Russia.
‘Newcastle is one of the few places on the East Coast of Australia that the birds come to roost. Around the world salt marsh landscapes are shrinking. Ours are ideal feeding grounds to escape the northern winter but they’re also at risk of being completely taken over by native mangroves. If we lose these ideal feeding grounds we put the birds very existence at risk,’ says Steve Travers, Regional Manager, Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Conservation Volunteers Australia has managed projects in the lower Hunter to improve the health and biodiversity of the Hunter River Estuary. They work with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service on Ash Island, Kooragang Island and the Hunter River Estuary on a range of restoration initiatives.
Volunteers who give up their time to help protect our local environmental heritage come from within our community as well as from abroad, and almost 2300 volunteer hours during 2018 have been clocked-up around the Hunter Estuary.
Mr Travers says, ‘We regularly attract students from Hunter TAFE and Newcastle University. Last year we started a University of Newcastle Student Placement Program and we had eight students sign up. Most of their time would have been on Port Waratah funded projects for Hunter Wetlands National Park. They get insight on what it’s like to be on a project, and we involve them in the project planning and delivery from the office point of view. It gives them a bit of practical experience.
‘We also get a lot of volunteers coming from northern Europe – Belgium, Germany, France, England – as well as northern Asia – Japan, China, South Korea. Many of them are students who get credits from their university for volunteering on our projects. There’s also a connection to with the international migratory birds and the volunteers whose countries are part of the international flyway.’
CVA also ran projects around Nobbys, Stockton River Mouth at Pirate Point, Stockton Sandspit.
‘We recently planted 13,000 plants on Nobby’s Beach, half way along the beach on the way to the lighthouse. It will stabilise the beach during storms, but it also looks a lot better too. Historically the area had a lot of illegal campers, and we’ve spent a lot of years cleaning out all of the rubbish. It will all grow and protect the beach, but it also looks a lot better than broken bottles!’.
‘Port Waratah is easily our biggest corporate supporter in the lower Hunter and these projects wouldn’t happen at all without their support.’
Conservation Volunteers Australia protects, maintains and restores our environmental heritage through practical action delivered by volunteers.