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Queenscliffe Herald Article - November 2007

Ten Year Celebrations for Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Project

Sue Longmore, Coastal Officer, Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Committee

An innovative project, highlighting how the desire to protect a marine wetland can stimulate better coastal and catchment management, began at Swan Bay in 1997. Ten years later the project is still flourishing, has expanded to include the whole Bellarine Peninsula and is highly regarded as an excellent model for other coastal communities in the integration of catchment, coastal and marine based issues.

Swan Bay is one of the most intact areas of wetland and marine ecosystems within Port Phillip Bay. Swan Bay’s values include a rich diversity of habitats -marine, seagrass meadows, mudflats, saltmarsh, foreshore dunes and remnant woodlands- making it an important area for juvenile fish, migratory waders and Orange-bellied Parrots.

In 1996 Coast Action Coastcare Coordinator Russell Irving initiated a meeting of key catchment stakeholders, representing a range of organisations and interest groups, to discuss a project that would aim to protect Swan Bay and its catchment through holistic action. Overwhelming support was given and agreement was reached to submit a funding application to employ a part-time coordinator to develop and implement the project, together with community.

Richard Allen, the first Swan Bay Catchment Facilitator, held workshops with the catchment community and captured their ideas in the Swan Bay Catchment Action Plan, which is the guiding document for the Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Project (SBICMP). The Plan identifies priority issues and actions to: protect waterways and improve in-stream water quality; improve urban stormwater quality; protect, enhance and link remnant local native vegetation; promote adoption of pest plant and animal control; increase adoption of sustainable agricultural practices; and increase community awareness and participation.

In 1998 Sue Longmore replaced Richard as the Swan Bay Catchment Facilitator and commenced the task of implementing the Plan with support and guidance from the Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Committee (SBICMC). Steve Smithyman joined the catchment team as a full-time Catchment Officer in 2000, with Sue remaining as Coastal Officer. In 2006 Matt Crawley replaced Steve as Bellarine Landcare Coastcare Coordinator.

One of the first projects in the rural area of the catchment was the fencing and revegetation of a series of large gullies along an eroding waterway to reduce nutrient and sediment entering Swan Bay. Many people were involved, from school children who propagated the indigenous plants, to Green Corps who helped the farmers fence their waterways, to adults, children, local community groups and Alcoa staff and families who together planted over 5000 plants along the waterway.

Since that time SBICMP has grown and flourished. Many waterways have been fenced and planted; wildlife corridors snake across the catchment linking remnant vegetation; resources, workshops and displays have been developed to increase people’s appreciation and knowledge about our local natural environment; numerous field days showcasing sustainable farming practices have been held; and school and community have become more involved in looking after our dunes, woodlands and wetlands.

SBICMP has been acknowledged through a variety of awards including Victorian Landcare Catchment Management Award 2000, Victorian Coastal Awards for Excellence Community Group Award 2002, City of Greater Geelong’s 2005 World Environment Day Award and the 2007 Victorian Landcare Awards- Australian Government Coastcare Award.

Over the past ten years SBICMC has grown into the peak community environmental committee on the Bellarine Peninsula, with a wide cross section of community groups, local government, committees of management and agencies represented on the Committee. It is this integration of community, local government, agency and industry that has led to the high level of achievements and ability to identify emerging issues and respond to them.

The next ten years will bring new challenges to SBICMC. Already fragile and fragmented coastal habitats face further strains from increasing population shifts to coastal townships on the Bellarine Peninsula and development poised to spread along regional wetland corridors. The effect of Climate Change on our coastal and marine habitats is an emerging issue.

However as the end of this year approaches, SBICMC will gather with many in the community to celebrate and reflect on our landcare and coastcare achievements so far and the friendships and partnerships formed along the way.

Over the next few months this Local Environment column will showcase individual groups in the network of groups and organisations that form the Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Committee.

For further information about SBICMP activities contact Sue Longmore, Coastal Coordinator, 5258 1836 BH.


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