NSW birdos and many others who have travelled within the state will know
what a great location is Kooragang Island, in the mouth of the Hunter
River. The Hunter Estuary is utilised annually by over 10,000 shorebirds
(approx 40 species), and as a result the Kooragang Island Nature Reserve
was nominated and accepted as a Ramsar site.
The general management of the Nature Reserve is currently not an issue.
However, those who have visited the Island will know that there is a
freshwater area (known colloquially as the Big Pond) which is an excellent
habitat for certain species. At least 78 species have been recorded at the
Big Pond - these include most of the common migratory waders as well as
local/regional rarities such as Ruff, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Banded Stilt,
Pectoral Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail.
The future of the Big Pond is of concern, although there is no immediate
threat. It is an artificially created wetland that was formed when a
railway line was constructed many years ago. In 1994, after expansion of
the coal handling facilities, the water table rose such that shorebirds
could no longer use the area effectively. We were able to persuade the
company involved to install a small weir to better regulate the water
level, with the happy result that large numbers of migratory shorebirds
again began to utilise the Big Pond.
The Big Pond land is actually owned by the Public Works Department, and has
the potential for industrial development at some future time. Recently,
the PWD have removed
the weir, and are refusing to reinstall it.
We have been making representations aimed at: in the short term, having the
weir replaced; in the long term, obtaining some sort of protective status
for the Big Pond that would guarantee its survival. Bob Carr and Pam Allen
have supported our case, but unfortunately not the minister with actual
authority over the Big Pond - the Minister for Public
Works and Services (first Carl Scully and now Ron Dyer).
If any of you would care to write letters of support, this would likely be
beneficial to the cause - especially with a state election coming up next
March. Probably, Bob Carr is the best person to target. A message that
this is more than just a local issue would be a useful one to send. Most
of the local electorates around here are safe Labor ones; it would be good
for him to
see that there is a wider interest.
Your help will be appreciated.