Saturday, 15 November 2014

What will be the fate of the Everlasting Swamp?

Letter to the Editor in The Daily Examiner 11 November 2014:

LIving across the other side of the nation, I have just recently been alerted about The Daily Examiner articles on the Sportsmans Creek Weir and the Everlasting Swamp and the discussions about retaining the status quo or returning this wetland to the magnificence it could be and a truly beneficial and highly productive protein source and tourism opportunity for the community. While the original reason for the 1927 construction of the weir had merit a century (almost) ago it has no place in today's world - despite the spurious claims by locals to the contrary. But let's deal with the facts. The weir is no longer needed; it has served its purpose even though, in hindsight, that was probably the incorrect thing to do. What it has done is slowly strangled and damaged Sportsmans Creek and the Everlasting Swamp. However, all is not lost as the creek system and wetland can be revitalised by removing the weir and returning the tidal regime to the upper reaches. The capacity of the Everlasting, if returned to its original state, will deliver far greater protein than using it for marginal grazing and cropping as has been the norm for the past century (Google 'valuing wetlands'). The commercial and recreational fishing industries will be enormous beneficiaries of any rejuvenation - producing fish, prawns and other seafood for the local and regional communities. The resultant boost to fish stocks in the Clarence River from this habitat restoration will deliver significant long-term benefits and profits to those sectors. The 'Everlasting' could be as good as any wetland in Australia, including the renowned Kakadu. I lived in the NT for seven years and know that the jewel of wetlands in the Clarence, the Everlasting, will, if allowed, provide a platform that would emulate if not better that on display in many parts of Kakadu. The increase in people wanting to see birdlife and other attractions like improvement to vegetation, including the return of the impressive saltwater mangrove trees that my Pop told me about, will be enormous. I urge everyone to work out the benefits to the local businesses. The improved habitat for fish stocks and birdlife will deliver many benefits across the community. Holding the government of the day to account on managing the transformation of the Everlasting is essential, but just as essential is the need for the community of the Clarence to accept change. The Darwinian theory of adapt or die comes to mind. So does the great story of "Who moved my Cheese." I urge the community to have the conversation - you may be surprised to see that change is good. 
John Harrison, former resident of Weir Rd, Sportsmans Creek; former CEO of the Professional Fishermen's Association on the Clarence; former CEO and President of Recfish Australia; and current CEO of the WA Fishing Industry Council

The Everlasting Swamp National Park will combine an additional 1700 hectares of land 
to the existing Everlasting Swamp State Conservation Area. 
Photo: Terry Deefholts / The Daily Examiner.

ABC News 12 November 2014:
NSW MINISTER for the Environment, Rob Stokes, has announced the Government has purchased 1,700 hectares of Everlasting Swamp, a shimmering wetland in the Clarence River floodplains, to establish a new National Park. The newly acquired land will be combined with the existing Everlasting Swamp State Conservation Area.
In a press release, Mr Stokes said: "The Everlasting Swamp and the adjacent Imersons Swamp form one of the largest coastal floodplain wetlands remaining in NSW and an intact ecosystem of this size is extremely rare and globally significant."
The minister first announced the creation of the new national park at the annual general meeting of the National Parks Association of NSW on Monday night. Mr Stokes was applauded when he listed a string of "significant acquisitions" that would be added to national parks and reserves in the state's wetland, coastal and mountain areas.
Kevin Evans, CEO of National Parks Association of NSW said: "This is an exciting and significant addition to the national park estate. Everlasting Swamp National Park will ensure the protection of this internationally critical wetland area and the many threatened species that rely on it — including iconic species like the jabiru and brolga. We commend the government for persevering with the negotiations necessary to secure this fragile wetland."….
Dr Greg Clancy, an ecologist and birding and wildlife guide who has been visiting the Everlasting Swamps since the late 1970s, said he was "over the moon" to hear that it will become a national park.
"The Everlasting Swamp is really important for the brolgas," said Dr Clancy. "We've had up to 100 brolgas in that area and that's very rare in New South Wales. And there's a whole range of other waterbirds like whiskered terns, which come in their hundreds, and glossy ibis. The abundance and diversity is just incredible."
Because many wetlands in the Clarence have been drained, the Everlasting Swamp has become increasingly important as a habitat for birds. But Dr Clancy notes it is not pristine. Parts of the swamp have been invaded by feral pigs, weirs have been built to prevent salt water flowing in and cattle have turned some areas into temporary dustbowls. "It's going to be an interesting management challenge," said Dr Clancy.
"Now that it's a national park, I would certainly be keen to take tourists or birdwatchers into the area."

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