Hundreds of people attended the official opening of the Connewarre Wetland Centre on Sunday.
The centre is the culmination of a huge volunteer effort and will serve the Geelong region as a place for education on wetland environments. It will also promote the work of Field & Game Australia members in conserving wetland environments across Australia.
Field & Game Australia, WET Trust and Geelong Field & Game have been generously supported by the Hugh Williamson Foundation, BugBlitz and Winchester.
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria Danielle Green cut the ribbon to open the Connewarre Wetland Centre calling it a boost for wetland conservation and hunters alike.
“Since Victoria’s State Game Reserve system was introduced, hunters have helped maintain and improve the natural habitats at 200 sites, totalling over 60,000 hectares across the state," she said.
Ms Green said the volunteer effort to create the centre demostrated that there was no distinction or conflict between being a hunter and conservationist.
The Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve incorporates wetlands that are home to more than 150 bird species, and the Centre will play an important education role by promoting wetland conservation and restoration.
The official opening included guided wetland tours, educational activities for families and retrieving dog demonstrations.
Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve is one Victoria’s most significant wetlands and plays an important role in maintaining the ecological diversity of the Bellarine Peninsula.
Ms Green said wetland habitat is fast diminishing across the state, and State Game Reserves are critical in providing habitat for a range of wildlife, including threatened species.
"The Reserve is considered a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar convention, and the unique and diverse habitats that comprise Lake Connewarre are an important breeding ground for birds and wildlife," she said.
"Wetlands Environmental Taskforce volunteers from Field & Game Australia have been working hard to restore the wetlands outside the hunting season and ensure they are preserved for future generations."
The Reserve offers Victorians a variety of leisure activities, such as picnicking, fishing and duck hunting, and is an important player in the Bellarine Peninsula’s tourism economy.
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh, Member for Geelong Christine Couzens, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Daniel Young, Liberal MP Gordon Rich-Phillips, Member for South Barwon Andrew Katos and newly apponted chair of the Game Management Authority Brian Hine also attended the official opening.
FGA chairman Rob Treble told the gathering he hoped the centre would help the broader community learn more about wetland ecology and share some of the organisations passion for the environment.