New wetlands use old wisdom to bring life to waterways

Article image - New wetlands use old wisdom to bring life to waterways Nick Stephens, Aunty Thelma James and Catchment Management Officer Vanessa Tallon onsite at Slaters Creek with plans for the artificial wetland North Lismore was once a thriving wetland used by local Aboriginal people, and Lismore City Council hopes their knowledge will help restore the land and improve local creeks.

The Council is building an artifical wetland in North Lismore to improve water quality in Slaters Creek, that feeds directly into the Wilsons River, which flows through the city centre.

The project includes recreating the wetland that once existed there along with pathways for cycling/walking, a bird-watching area, native plantings and interpretive signage.

The project complements the extensive restoration of the creek banks already undertaken by the Banvam/Baigham Landcare Group, whose members have worked tirelessly to transform the weed-infested paddocks into a burgeoning native forest.

The area holds cultural significance for local Indigenous people as it was previously an Aboriginal wetland hunting ground.

Aboriginal Elder Aunty Thelma James, who was instrumental in establishing the Landcare group, said it was an important hunting and fishing area to Banyam/Baigham people.

“The water was always clean and the bird life included jabiru and magpie geese.”

It is believed the original wetland was drained and turned into a cricket pitch during the 1950s. Its return to a wetland will improve water quality by reducing sediment and nutrient levels, while enhancing biodiversity by returning native plants and animals to the area.

The constructed wetland will only fill up after storms and rain, allowing the dense native marsh plants to filter and clean the water and then slowly allow clean water to re-enter the creek.

It will be surrounded by densely-planted grasses and reeds that will deter and block both cane toads and inquisitive people from trying to enter the wetland.
Environmental Strategies Coordinator Nick Stephens said this was clever and best-practice management of stormwater.

“[The wetland] will give us an excellent indication of whether this can be used more widely in our 16 urban catchments.

“The project also aligns with what the community told us throughout our recent community-wide consultation process. They told us they value the Wilsons River and want to see more done to restore it. Improving our creeks is vital to improving the overall health of our river.”