Saturday 30 January 2016

Show support for Geelong’s Moolap salt works in Australia.

John Newman of the Geelong Field Naturalists Club has written to us asking for some support for a local community conservation project and it is something we can all get involved in, even those of us who live at the other side of the world. The problem may be local in one sense, but as part of the already struggling East-Asian Australasian Flyway, it is of international concern that such places are under threat. John rightly points out that we cannot keep badgering the Chinese and Koreans to protect sites for migrating birds if in Australia they don't do the same. From our perspective as people with a global concern for what is happening to waders, the fact that it is a long way away does not make the issue any less crucial or important to our aim of securing a safer world for our waders.

Geelong's Moolap salt works (460Ha) in Victoria Australia is at risk of becoming a housing and marina development. 

Geelong Moolap Salt Works. Photo: David Tytherleigh

A Governmnet land use study is to take place and all community input is due by Friday Feb 12. The State Govt DELWP team are looking for as much community input as they can and we want to try to mobilize to mobilize our Friends, Sponsors and supporters to contribute. Whilst we do not have local knowledge of the site, the information that follows and links within it give some back ground. The site regularly had 10,000 shorebirds probably just 15 years ago and still has >2000, but as we all know so well, wader populations have crashed and in this case, the site has degraded since decommissioning several years ago exacerbating the situation. It is still very valuable and eminently suitable for rehabilitation.

Banded Stilts at Moolap. Photo: David Tytherleigh


The area covering Geelong’s Moolap salt works and all of Point Henry  is now part of a planning study, including the closed Alcoa Smelter. The State Government DELWP (Department of Environment Land and Water Planning) is seeking community input by way of a “Moolap Coastal Strategic Framework Planas to what future use the land may look like.
Ridley Corporation lease 2/3 of the Moolap saltworks site, and own 1/3. They bought the land and the lease from Cheetham Salt who until recently used it for salt production for over 100 years and as a consequence the salt fields have become a habitat for many water birds.
Salt production has now ceased and Ridley (in partnership with Sanctuary Living) are proposing a canal type housing, marina and commercial development. Whilst the details of these proposals have changed over several years, the essential features of canal style development persist with total disruption of this unique habitat and adjacent Stingaree Bay seagrass meadows.
The DELWP process allows for community input as to preferred uses of this land and the extensive Point Henry site. See below for how to submit ideas.

Banded Stilts. Photo: David Tytherleigh

Some of the Issues

·         The site continues to provide critical habitat for over 2000 shorebirds every summer. Australia is signatory to 4 international treaties vowing to protect such habitat. Many of these bird species migrate between the Arctic and southern hemisphere every year, flying 13,000km each Autumn and Spring.  Most are in serious worldwide decline due to loss of habitat.
·            2/3 of the salt works site is Crown Land that belongs to all Austrlians. It is not privately owned.
·         Important sea grass meadows thrive in shallow adjacent Stingaree Bay, essential for fish breeding and act as a carbon sink. Boat access to the proposed marina /canals would involve dredging these shallow meadows with significant destruction.
·         The marina/canal plans would bring the sea closer to properties in Moolap that are already prone to flooding. Wetlands provide efficient protection to sea-level rise and flooding.
·         Geelong has ample sites earmarked for development that do not have these sensitive environmental values.
·         Saltmarsh and wetlands provide efficient carbon storage and sequestration more efficient than rainforests. A future new managed wetland would provide for treatment of stormwater from the suburbs.
·         The saltworks site is very likely to have extensive acid sulphate soils based on similar sites elsewhere. So long as these soils are kept underwater they are safe. Once exposed to air and disturbed, dangerous sulphuric acid is formed, a major environmental corrosive.
·         Geelong is reinvigorating its CBD and ‘green spine’ .Protecting this vast green space and centralising the population rather than further dispering it aligns with Geelong’s Action Plan.

Curlew Sandpipers are now critically endangered in the flyway having been 3rd most common migratory shorebird. Photo: David Tytherleigh

What is an alternative vision?

The Geelong Field Naturalists Club and other groups propose that this site be developed into a Wetland Centre of international standard that would protect the wildlife and provide a space for locals and visitors alike with walking and bicycle trails, bird viewing hides, access to the bay, Heritage museum and other amenities. It can be a centre of educational excellence for school and tertiary students. There are many examples of such centres worldwide that are economically sustainable and that are ecotourism icons.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

What can individuals and community groups do?

*Make the issue known to their members
*Groups and individuals can make their own comment or submission on the potential future of the entire site. This can be simply a paragraph, a page, a drawing or a detailed document. It is required by DEWP by Friday 12 February.
Individuals can also make their views known via an online survey.
Deadline is Friday 12th February

Red-necked Avocets and Banded Stilts. Photo: David Tytherleigh

More Information

Information that expands on the GFNC vision

Please help us to let the people who will make these important decisions that the birds need this place more than people do and that local people will also benefit more from its preservation than its destruction.

Red Knot.

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