Council unites environmental advocates and industry reps for wetlands

Published on 06 February 2019

World Wetlands Day 2019.jpg

Mornington Peninsula Shire recognised World Wetlands Day on Saturday 2 February by bringing together key decision makers across local government, industry, and environmental advocates to explore one of the Peninsula’s most internationally significant regions.

The Western Port Ramsar wetlands near Hastings is part of the United Nations (UNESCO) declared special biosphere reserve of the Western Port catchment and is one of only nine biospheres in Australia.  

Attendees included Andy Meddick MP Member for Western Victoria, former Federal MP Kelvin Thompson, Frankston City Councillor Quinn McCormack, representatives from Esso, Bluescope Steel, Phillip Island Nature Park, Friends of French Island, Western Port Biosphere Foundation, Western Port Harbour master, save Western Port and Coast Care (DEWLP).

Deputy Mayor Cr Rosie Clark, Cr Kate Roper, Cr Julie Morris and CEO John Baker also attended on behalf of the Shire. 

The group was led by expert guides who spoke passionately about preserving this wetland of international significance and the flow on impacts to native bird life, sea grasses and mangroves.

Shire Mayor Cr David Gill who instigated the tour, said the common thread from all attendees was the importance and immediacy of protecting this unique biosphere reserve.

“We heard from a number of subject experts discussing a range of topics from importance of the region for migratory birds, sea grasses and mangroves to industry, fishing and tourism ventures.

The key theme expressed throughout the day was sound management and protection of this environmentally sensitive region was essential”.

Each year over 5 million birds fly from the Arctic to Australia and New Zealand, many to Westernport to feed, rest and breed.

Populations of migratory birds have been disappearing in places like Tasmania, which increases the importance of preserving our unique wetlands.

The tour departed from Hastings and took in the northern areas or Western Port and the coast of French Island where they were treated to a visit from around 20 Eastern Curlews rising up from feeding on small crabs and flying past the boat with their long downcurved bills. 

Eastern Curlews are the world’s largest shorebird and, as a migratory species occurring only in our flyway, highlight the importance of our commitment to international agreements protecting water quality and habitat and coordinating and funding local actions.

Mayor Gill said these wetlands are an integral part of what makes the Mornington Peninsula so special. “Their contribution to the amenity, lifestyle and wellbeing of our residents and visitors should never be underestimated”.

Council is advocating for strong political and planning support from all levels of government to ensure areas such as the Western Port Wetlands are protected from the pressures of development, population growth and climate change.

What you can do?
Council is currently calling for community feedback on a new Biodiversity Conservation Plan designed to help manage, protect and enhance biodiversity on the Peninsula. The Plan establishes strategies and actions to help achieve best practice environmental stewardship and draws on the Shire’s State of Biodiversity Report.

The report details data from scientific, government and community sources - essential reading for anyone interested in the Peninsula’s natural environment.

Have your say online by 5pm, Wednesday 20 February at: mornpen.vic.gov.au/haveyoursay

PICTURE CAPTION: Photo 1 - Lance Lloyd and Jo McCoy from the Westernport Biosphere Foundation presenting their report card. Photo 2 – Shire Mayor Councillor David Gill presenting to the group.