Boat trip to explore, protect wetlands

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Guided tour: The Western Port Biosphere Foundation’s Lance Lloyd and Jo McCoy presenting their “report card” while touring Western Port on World Wetlands Day. Picture: Supplied

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire marked World Wetlands Day (Saturday 2 February) with a boat trip in Western Port for “key decision makers across local government, industry, and environmental advocates”.

The trip enabled the passengers 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.

The shire’s boat trip preceded the release this week of new research showing Western Port is increasingly vulnerable to pressures from population growth, urbanisation, run-off from residential and rural land, coastal erosion and sea-level rise.

The research by Melbourne water, Understanding the Western Port Environment, looks at how best to protect the bay and its significant local and international natural habitat.

Melbourne Water’s Rhys Coleman says current rates of urban development in the southeast growth corridor and climate change projections mean “this is a challenging time for protecting the Western Port environment”.   

Those aboard the shire’s boat tour included MP for Western Victoria Andy Meddick, former Federal MP Kelvin Thompson, Frankston councillor Quinn McCormack, representatives from Esso, BlueScope Steel, Phillip Island Nature Park, Friends of French Island, Western Port Biosphere Foundation, Western Port harbourmaster, Save Western Port and Coast Care (DEWLP).

Peninsula councillors Rosie Clark, Kate Roper, Julie Morris and CEO John Baker were also on board. 

The shire says “expert guides” spoke “passionately” about preserving the wetlands “and the flow-on impacts to native bird life, seagrasses and mangroves”.

The mayor Cr David Gill 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,” he said.

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

He said the disappearance of migratory birds “in places like Tasmania” increased the importance of preserving wetlands in Western Port.

Gill said the wetlands helped make the peninsula “special” and their contribution “to the amenity, lifestyle and wellbeing of our residents and visitors should never be underestimated”.

Council wants online “community feedback” on a new Biodiversity Conservation Plan by 5pm, Wednesday 20 February at: mornpen.vic.gov.au/haveyoursay

First published in the Western Port News – 12 February 2019

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