A decade of de­liv­ery

Just be­fore Christ­mas in 1848, the Rev­erend Wil­loughby Bean set off to ad­min­is­ter to the Mont­gomery fam­ily on their prop­erty next to the Heart Mo­rass.

Field and Game - - HEART MORASS -

“We had,” Rev. Bean told the Gipp­s­land

Times, “now to cross the nat­u­ral bound­ary of up­per and lower Gipp­s­land — a large mo­rass un­der water, about a mile-and-a half-broad in a di­rect line, but fully three miles as we had to travel across it.”

Even with a guide, Rev. Bean man­aged to get his horse into a hole and had to get off and wade some 300 yards then swim the horses across the La­trobe River.

Rev. Bean would not have recog­nised the Mo­rass by the time Field & Game Aus­tralia, WET Trust and the Hugh D. T. Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion pur­chased the land.

Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion chair­man, Martin Carl­son, re­mem­bers well his first site visit to what was a col­lec­tion of five farms on marginalised coun­try. “Wil­liamson was ap­proached by a num­ber of peo­ple in Sale who were part of a small en­vi­ron­men­tal group we funded called Water­mark,” he said. “They kept talk­ing to us about the Heart Mo­rass so we came to see what it was.”

The seed planted, the Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion saw the wis­dom of pur­chas­ing the land and turn­ing it back into an iconic wet­land. “It was then five farms that were even­tu­ally pur­chased in a joint ven­ture be­tween Hugh Wil­liamson and Field & Game Aus­tralia; we both put in the equiv­a­lent of a mil­lion dol­lars each, that’s big money,” Mr Carl­son said.

“Pri­mar­ily it is a con­ser­va­tion project but we need the public to want to own them; ev­ery­thing we are do­ing has to be re­lated to public own­er­ship oth­er­wise you are wast­ing your time.”

At the same time, the Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion was grow­ing Bug Blitz, a hands-on pro­gram to help stu­dents ex­plore and dis­cover their lo­cal habi­tat.

More than 25 000 stu­dents have par­tic­i­pated in Bug Blitz at 65 sites in­clud­ing Heart Mo­rass.

Af­ter a decade of hard work, it’s likely the Rev. Bean would again recog­nise the area. Af­ter re­cent rain­fall the Mo­rass is flush with water, the veg­e­ta­tion is get­ting thicker ev­ery year and the birdlife is a re­mark­able sight. “It is an­other world, and that is why we are now start­ing dis­cus­sions about how it can be­come open to more peo­ple and per­haps with some el­e­ment of tourism,” Mr Carl­son said.

Chair­man of the com­mit­tee of gov­er­nors for the Heart Mo­rass and Field & Game Aus­tralia pa­tron David Hawker AO ad­dressed the crowd at the 10th an­niver­sary open day where the trans­for­ma­tion of the Heart Mo­rass was there for all to see. “It is quite re­mark­able by any mea­sure,” he said. “It is a great credit to ev­ery­one who has been in­volved, par­tic­u­larly the lo­cal Field & Game Aus­tralia mem­bers who have put count­less thou­sands of hours into mak­ing it what it is, sup­ported very strongly by the

West Gipp­s­land Catch­ment Man­age­ment Author­ity, WET Trust and the Hugh Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion who con­tinue to be so gen­er­ous.”

Vol­un­teers have planted 50 000 in­dige­nous trees and en­cour­aged the stun­ning re­growth of na­tive cover by col­lect­ing seed from 50 species, and more than 20 000 tonnes of in­va­sive carp has been re­moved. “The re­ally big mes­sage is this can be repli­cated and we have rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Geelong Field & Game who are do­ing a sim­i­lar thing at Con­newarre with the Wet­land Cen­tre,” Mr Hawker said. “What you are see­ing here is an ini­tia­tive that started with Field & Game and it demon­strates some­thing that is repli­cated world­wide: when it comes to con­ser­va­tion, it is hunters that gen­er­ally lead the way.”

John Cham­bers, who joined FGA in the 1970s, re­calls be­ing a reg­u­lar visitor to marvel at the en­gi­neer­ing of the nearby swing bridge. “I’ve been a duck hunter and a wing shooter over those years but the more shoot­ing you do, the more you want to do to en­sure for the fu­ture that the en­vi­ron­ment is avail­able for all,” he said.

Mr Cham­bers con­serves wet­lands on his own prop­erty but mar­vels at the achieve­ments at the Heart Mo­rass. “It is one of the great achieve­ments in en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment. It is a very spe­cial place for me; my heart is in the Heart Mo­rass,” he said.

A fish trap used to har­vest carp

Wet­land sup­porter John Cham­bers with Martin Carl­son from the Hugh Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion

Trent Leen used a drone to cap­ture this aerial view of Heart Mo­rass

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