Western Treatment Plant, Werribee Victoria (WTP)

To: "Birding-aus (E-mail)" <>
Subject: Western Treatment Plant, Werribee Victoria (WTP)
From: John <>
Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 15:20:05 +1000
Having retired 2 weeks ago, I am now in a better position to read and 
contribute messages to Birding-aus.  I also have to document some important 
observations over the last few years that my previously absurd working 
hours did not allow - more on that later.

I have been a member of the Melbourne Water Wildlife Consultative Committee 
(WCC) for about 14 or 15 years (from memory it was set up about 1987 or 
1988) and am now its Chairman.  I have, however, been hopelessly remiss at 
letting others know what the committee does.

The WCC was set up by Melbourne Water (MW) to provide them with input on 
matters relating to the natural environment at their Werribee plant.  MW 
makes a significant financial commitment to the environmental programmes 
recommended by the Committee and has been willing to change work practices 
where these have been in conflict with the natural values of the site.  All 
of the members of the WCC are volunteers, with a majority having a primary 
or some interest in birds.  I represent the Bird Observers Club of 
Australia and Dr Clive Minton represents Birds Australia.  The WCC is 
extremely fortunate to count amongst its members Richard Loyn, who most 
readers of Birding-aus would know is a professional ornithologist with NRE 
and Peter Menkhorst, who most would also know as the author of the 
fantastic new mammal field guide.

As most people would be aware, the WTP is a Ramsar site, meaning that it is 
of international significance for waterfowl.  The WCC has recently 
completed a Ramsar Management Plan and some time ago completed a 
Conservation Management Plan for the site.  Conservation priorities 
identified from both plans have been ranked in priority order (as agreed by 
the WCC) and are now subject to specific actions.  Whilst some funding has 
been obtained from other agencies, MW bear significant costs in 
implementing these programmes.  The following give an indication of the 
things being done:

1. Assess the impact of the Environmental Improvement Plan (required by the 
EPA to reduce nutrient and other discharges to the Port Philip Bay) on 
shorebird numbers, waterfowl use of Lake Borrie and the new style lagoons;
2. Assess the status of threatened species in the dry pasture zone (eg 
Dunnarts and Legless Lizards);
3. Investigate the decline in Orange-bellied Parrot numbers in The Spit 
lower saltmarsh zone and the decline in habitat quality in The Spit upper 
saltmarsh zone; and
4. Establish the status of the Growling Grass Frog on the site.

There are many other projects being undertaken or identified to be done in 
the future.

Waterfowl counts undertaken by a member of the WCC (Bob Swindley) on a 
regular basis for many years, have confirmed that a new record for 
waterfowl numbers was set this year, with a count of 120,000 waterfowl. 
 This amazing total included 45,000 Pink-eared Ducks, 11,000 Blue-billed 
Ducks (the previous assessment was that there were only 12,000 Blue-billed 
Ducks in the whole country), 17,000 Australasian Shoveler and most 
incredibly, 471 Freckled Ducks, consistent with large numbers of this 
species in
other locations.

Due to the significant workload of the WCC and to deal with other matters, 
MW have recently advertised for a full-time Wildlife Officer.  I did not 
see the advertisements and was unable to alert readers of Birding-aus who 
may have been interested in applying.  I understand that final interviews 
are now being undertaken.

The WTP has a large diversity of weeds and more work is to be done in this 
area.  Chilean Needle Grass has been found on the site and I understand 
this (with Blackberry and other things) is to be identified in a new 
Federal initiative to control invasive weeds.

We hear there is a proposal for a major Regional Park from the Geelong 
Highway to the mouth of the Werribee River.  We will undoubtedly learn more 
of this in the future (it is not something being considered by the WCC). 
 Access to the Werribee River is at present quite difficult with all access 
roads on the WTP now closed.  It is still possible to walk in from the east 
end of Boundary Road and from behind the new housing estate on the original 
Farm Road (not New Farm Road).  At the request of the WCC, MW engaged 
contractors to remove all of the introduced weed,Spiny Rush, along the 
Werribee River (on MW's side only) and the committee organised a tree 
planting on the river flats opposite the Werribee Mansion.  This tree 
planting was to continue along the river but has stalled pending 
consideration of the Park.

MW is working on a 100 year Land Use Strategy for the WTP.  This is in 
response to the various land use pressures on the site.

Please remember if you want to visit the WTP it is easy - get a permit 
first (a telephone call to MW to have the form sent to you; fill it out and 
send it back with the $20 or $25 fee) and then a phone call each time you 
visit, quoting your permit and car registration details.  I strongly 
recommend that you also get a G2 key (the key to open certain gates 
designated on the permit) for an extra deposit of $50.  Your deposit is 
refunded if and when you return the key.

That is probably enough for now.

If you want to go there sometime and you need someone familiar with the 
site or the birds - give me a call.  I always enjoy sharing my passion of 
birds with others.  But first I have to get Jack his 700th bird!!!

John Barkla

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