The Hunter Wetlands, located at Shortland in Newcastle, is of national and international importance as a vibrant wetland ecosystem bursting with life. The Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia (HWCA) supports a high level of biodiversity with well over 200 bird species, some in great abundance, at critical stages of their seasonal breeding and migration cycles.
The Hunter Wetlands is also important site for the conservation of several vulnerable and endangered species, such as the Magpie Goose and Freckled Duck.
Novocastrians are rightly proud that at the heart of their city is a local wonderland of our natural environment, featuring a vast array of birdlife and a range of outdoor activities, just a ‘stone’s throw’ from the centre of Newcastle.
Approximately 32,000 visitors, school children and volunteers visit HWCA each year and so the facilities are always in high demand. As a community-owned and operated asset, HWCA is dependent on the generosity of the community and sponsors to undertake significant projects to improve the centre.
In November 2020, Newcastle and HWCA were hit by an extreme weather event which decimated hundreds of trees and caused significant damage to the visitor and volunteer facilities.
The large number of fallen trees blocked the walking and access tracks, damaged enclosures and critically, the predator proof fence surrounding the site was breached, exposing the resident and visiting birds and their new chicks to fox attack. Volunteers and Port Waratah to the rescue!
Through a partnership with Port Waratah, a repair and restoration project was successfully undertaken through the tireless efforts of a large number of dedicated volunteers and professional contractors.
The majority of the transformation, including access walkways and the open ceremony area for weddings, was complete before the busy summer holiday period and only achieved by the sheer determination and persistence of the local community who joined forces to protect and restore this remarkable wetland for the benefit of all the biodiversity species of flora and fauna that depend on it. Approximately 25 tonnes of mulch was removed, many damaged trees were trimmed and uprooted trees were made safe, which allowed the HWCA to open their gates to for visitors months earlier than they initially had thought possible.
In 2021, Port Waratah also provided funding for the construction and installation of three natural timber playgrounds. The charming playgrounds are an easy walk from the Visitors Centre and help to foster community interest in this significant environmental haven and provide engaging, active play areas for children.
Wetlands CEO, Ken Bayliss said, “We wanted to add some fun and adventure for kids exploring the Wetlands. We also wanted structures that would sit well in our natural environment and have appeal for visitors of all ages. Port Waratah shared our vision and very generously covered the construction and installation costs.”