The Connewarre Wetland Centre on the urban fringe of Geelong, Victoria’s second biggest city, will be a hub for Field & Game Australia to educate the community on wetland environments and conservation.
Hundreds of people attended the official opening of Connewarre Wetland Centre, which was the culmination of a huge volunteer effort.
Field & Game Australia, the Wetlands Environmental Taskforce (a public fund established by FGA in 2002 to purchase and restore wetlands) and Geelong Field & Game have been generously supported by the Hugh Williamson Foundation, BugBlitz and Winchester to build the facility.
The Centre sits on 36 ha of wetland adjoining Hospital Swamp, which is part of the Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve.
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria Danielle Green, who cut the green ribbon to open the centre, said it was 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 ha across the state,” she said.
Ms Green went further, acknowledging the clear link between hunting and conservation.
“There’s a quote that I like from a well-known environmentalist: ‘There wasn’t a National Park system until 1966 in Victoria, there was no land reserved for wildlife, it was the duck shooters who imposed a levy on themselves that really preserved the first land in Victoria for wildlife.’ That was Tim Flannery speaking in an interview in 2012,” she said.
“I think it is really important for those of us who love outdoor pursuits to push back on the dominance of saying that you can’t be involved in outdoor pursuits like hunting and fishing and be an environmentalist.
“I think hunters and conservationists are one and the same.”
FGA chairman Rob Treble described it as an incredible achievement.
“Geelong Field & Game are a family and members have a long association with the Connewarre Wetlands doing conservation, environmental works, carp management, nesting boxes and all sorts of projects,” he said.
“We now have a facility as a base for education so the wider community can share our passion for wetland environments and their continued conservation.”
Geelong Field & Game president Trent Leen said the development couldn’t have progressed without the support of volunteers and the many businesses that donated time, money and services.
“This was part of our old family property and I joke with my wife that I spend more time here now that we don’t own it,” he said.
“The community engagement and education is the key to this project but it also provides a base for the branch and access to managed hunting.”
The wetland is already used to assist research into Avian Influenza Virus. AVI is present in wild duck populations but little is known about how the virus changes and spreads. AVI poses a very real threat to the poultry industry and the World Health Organisation is concerned about the potential for an emergent strain to cause a human pandemic.
Field & Game members are volunteering their time to help researchers gather samples through live trapping and from ducks harvested during the 2017 Duck Season.