Waste swamps wetland

Not everyone cares for wetland environments in the same way as Field & Game Australia members, as a recent cleanup at Baillieu (Richardsons) Lagoon revealed.

A golden rule when enjoying the Australian bush is that you should take your rubbish with you when you go.

However, the problem with rules is that they are never followed by everyone and are openly flouted by an ignorant minority. It’s why illegal dumping was given its own category when Keep Australia Beautiful released its National Litter Index for 2014–15.

Illegal dumping represented the largest contribution to estimated litter volume found at a range of sites nationally (1.22 litres per 1000 m2), which makes sense given the long list of dumped
items included chairs, stools, desks, fish tanks, mattresses, heaters, televisions, VCRs, heaters, printers, carpet, computer monitors, doors, cupboards, barbecues, abandoned car parts and batteries, shopping trolleys and bags of rubbish and clothes.

Sadly, illegal dumping was abundant at Baillieu (Richardsons) Lagoon near Gunbower in Victoria when FGA members gathered for a clean up prior to the 2016 Duck Season. Tyres, a rear axle and abandoned tents were part of a 15 cubic metre haul of rubbish.

The lagoon is a 120 ha freshwater marsh located on the Murray River floodplain within a 248 ha State Wildlife Reserve. A pipe has been put in place to enable environmental water to be
delivered from the nearby Murray River but it was natural flooding in 2011 that flushed an unwanted flotilla of empty bottles into the lagoon.

“It is very disappointing and the finger is often pointed at the hunters but there are many other users of these wetlands and a lot of it has been washed in as a result of the 2011 floods,” FGA board member and Bendigo FGA conservation officer Mark Daley said.

“Most of the stuff we’ve picked up is bottles and many of them are old, they’ve been washed in from the river.”

Bendigo FGA organised the clean up but members from Echuca-Moama, Seymour, Geelong, Kyabram and Wodonga Albury also turned up to help.

“It’s fantastic; when there’s a call to arms, Field & Game members are there — whether it is nest boxes, cleaning up, any conservation work, we are there,” Mr Daley said.

“State Game Reserves were purchased with hunters’ money many years ago so it is up to us to look after them because there doesn’t seem to be anybody else putting up their hand to do it.”

In all, the 26 members logged 65 hours of volunteer work. Among them was Graeme “Sarge” Saunders, 77, who worked tirelessly bagging rubbish until he was forced to rest because of a misfiring pacemaker.

“I always enjoy getting out into the bush and enjoying what it has got to offer,” Mr Saunders said.

“I’ve got my kids and grandkids doing the same thing. What we’ve picked up today, we could
have done with a small tip truck, there’s so much of it. It is not at all good for the environment.”

Member for Northern Victoria Daniel Young MP (Shooters and Fishers Party of Victoria) joined in the clean up while Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh also dropped in to support the volunteers.

Love for wetlands

As they searched for rubbish around Baillieu (Richardsons) Lagoon FGA volunteers made a special discovery which underlined why they were spending part of their weekend cleaning up a wetland

Set back from the high water mark the volunteers came across a simple concrete plinth on which was mounted a memorial plaque commemorating the life of Wayne Bennett 1950–2008.

The plaque read simply; ‘Wayne loved hunting pigs in the scrub, ducks in the swamp, wetting a line and telling stories around the campfire. Sadly missed and never forgotten.’

Mark Daley said the memorial demonstrates the deep connection hunters have with the environment.

“It speaks of culture, it talks about family and it talks about friends,” he said.

“I stood there for five minutes reading it, it is quite moving and if more people knew about this sort of stuff they would understand.”

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