Community partnership sees positive outcomes

Additional water flows into the Heyfield Wetlands have had the desired effect seeing increased bird visitation, native vegetation growth and a thriving native animal population evident.

“The inflows of around 10 megalitres in August and October followed by an additional five megs in November has just been wonderful,” said Heyfield Wetlands Committee member Barry Donahoe.

At a recent meeting the Heyfield Wetlands Committee and their project partners came together to talk about how the environmental watering went – and it’s been deemed a great success. “It took a lot of work by people like the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Southern Rural Water, Gippsland Water, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and the State Government but we’re delighted with the end result,” added Barry.

Under the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority’s Water for the Environment program, the 25 megalitres of water were diverted from the Thomson River to bolster the work of volunteers in creating wetlands and revegetating the site and to encourage bird and frog populations to thrive.

Gippsland Water assisted in delivering the water by rolling out temporary piping across half a kilometre and pumping the water into the wetlands over a number of days.

Rains over summer have brought additional benefits, topping up ponds and once again allowing native animals to flourish.

“They’re such an important refuge – we’ve lost so many of our freshwater wetlands, and with the changing nature of the wetlands around the Gippsland Lakes (which are becoming saltier), wetlands like Heyfield are increasingly important for the birds to have somewhere to go.” said Jem Milkins, Environmental Water Resource Officer with the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.

Over recent years the Heyfield Wetlands Committee has constructed two significant ponds and built waterways with the idea of expanding the aquatic habitat for birds and animals. The Committee has been instrumental in planting thousands of trees, shrubs and aquatic plants, thanks to the efforts of committee members including Mike Kube and Terry Stephenson and the help of hundreds of school children.

“These wetlands are an oasis for birds, and we’re so lucky to have them right next to town for everyone to access” said John Gwyther of the Heyfield Birdwatchers, who helped with doing surveys of birds before, during and after the water deliveries.

CEO of the West Gippsland Management Authority, Martin Fuller, said it’s been a great experience to work with the Heyfield community as well as partner organisations to bring about such a positive outcome.

“The Heyfield Wetlands Committee has been such a passionate advocate for their town and the role the wetlands play, really from our side of things, it’s been a delight to work with them.”

“When we work with any community, whether it be a committee like in Heyfield or a group of farmers wanting to revegetate a river bank, we are aiming for outcomes that not only bring positive environmental results but also the stuff that’s a bit less measurable, like participation in community events such as tree plantings, getting people to continue working on local committees, all the things that give a community strength,” added Martin.

The additional water under the Water for the Environment program was delivered in the latter part of 2019. The ponds that received the water will now be allowed to draw down, meaning allowed to dry out naturally, which is a natural part of a healthy wetlands cycle.

Further water deliveries are scheduled for spring 2020, the final part of a two-year trial to evaluate how the wetlands respond to the watering.

Published Thursday March 12th 2020.

Environmental Water Officer Jem Milkins explains the impact of the Water for the Environment at the Heyfield Wetlands.
Ponds at the Heyfield Wetlands after an inflow under the Water for the Environment program.