Wet­land ed­u­ca­tion

The Con­newarre Wet­land Cen­tre on the ur­ban fringe of Gee­long, Vic­to­ria’s sec­ond big­gest city, will be a hub for Field & Game Aus­tralia to ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity on wet­land en­vi­ron­ments and con­ser­va­tion.

Field and Game - - WETLAND ECUCATION CENTRE -

Hun­dreds of peo­ple at­tended the of­fi­cial open­ing of Con­newarre Wet­land Cen­tre, which was the cul­mi­na­tion of a huge vol­un­teer ef­fort.

Field & Game Aus­tralia, the Wet­lands En­vi­ron­men­tal Task­force (a pub­lic fund es­tab­lished by FGA in 2002 to pur­chase and re­store wet­lands) and Gee­long Field & Game have been gen­er­ously sup­ported by the Hugh Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion, Bug­blitz and Winch­ester to build the fa­cil­ity.

The Cen­tre sits on 36 ha of wet­land ad­join­ing Hospi­tal Swamp, which is part of the Lake Con­newarre State Game Re­serve.

Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Re­gional Vic­to­ria Danielle Green, who cut the green rib­bon to open the cen­tre, said it was a boost for wet­land con­ser­va­tion and hunters alike. “Since Vic­to­ria’s State Game Re­serve sys­tem was in­tro­duced, hunters have helped main­tain and im­prove the nat­u­ral habi­tats at 200 sites, to­talling over 60 000 ha across the state,” she said.

Ms Green went fur­ther, ac­knowl­edg­ing the clear link be­tween hunt­ing and con­ser­va­tion. “There’s a quote that I like from a well­known en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist: ‘There wasn’t a Na­tional Park sys­tem un­til 1966 in Vic­to­ria, there was no land re­served for wildlife, it was the duck shoot­ers who im­posed a levy on them­selves that re­ally pre­served the first land in Vic­to­ria for wildlife.’ That was Tim Flan­nery speak­ing in an in­ter­view in 2012,” she said.

“I think it is re­ally im­por­tant for those of us who love out­door pur­suits to push back on the dom­i­nance of say­ing that you can’t be in­volved in out­door pur­suits like hunt­ing and fish­ing and be an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist.

“I think hunters and con­ser­va­tion­ists are one and the same.”

FGA chair­man Rob Tre­ble de­scribed it as an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment. “Gee­long Field & Game are a fam­ily and mem­bers have a long as­so­ci­a­tion with the Con­newarre Wet­lands do­ing con­ser­va­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal works, carp man­age­ment, nest­ing boxes and all sorts of projects,” he said. “We now have a fa­cil­ity as a base for ed­u­ca­tion so the wider com­mu­nity can share our pas­sion for wet­land en­vi­ron­ments and their con­tin­ued con­ser­va­tion.”

Gee­long Field & Game pres­i­dent Trent Leen said the de­vel­op­ment couldn’t have pro­gressed with­out the sup­port of vol­un­teers and the many busi­nesses that do­nated time, money and ser­vices. “This was part of our old fam­ily prop­erty and I joke with my wife that I spend more time here now that we don’t own it,” he said. “The com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and ed­u­ca­tion is the key to this project but it also pro­vides a base for the branch and ac­cess to man­aged hunt­ing.”

The wet­land is al­ready used to as­sist re­search into Avian In­fluenza Virus. AVI is present in wild duck pop­u­la­tions but lit­tle is known about how the virus changes and spreads. AVI poses a very real threat to the poul­try in­dus­try and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion is con­cerned about the po­ten­tial for an emer­gent strain to cause a hu­man pan­demic.

Field & Game mem­bers are vol­un­teer­ing their time to help re­searchers gather sam­ples through live trap­ping and from ducks har­vested dur­ing the 2017 Duck Sea­son.

Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Re­gional Vic­to­ria Danielle Green (left) and FGA pa­tron David Hawker AO (right) make a pre­sen­ta­tion to Gee­long pres­i­dent Trent Leen.

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