Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Goulburn Wetlands Project - Private Members Statement
Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn—Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women) [7.00 p.m.]: Like many of my colleagues I spent some time during the summer recess assessing applications for the Community Partnership Grants program. In an electorate as large and diverse as mine the submissions were varied, ranging from ambitious plans for the construction of a grandstand on local playing fields to the need for secure lockers in a small Rural Fire Service shed. As members on both sides of the House know, the grant scheme is very generous and very well sought after as it offers $300,000 for each New South Wales electorate—but I received applications for over four times that amount. It is evident that the communities in the Goulburn electorate are extremely active and supportive. Men's groups, youth groups, animal welfare organisations, sporting associations, church groups, and groups for emergency services, heritage and the arts all featured in the applications. Inevitably some of these groups will be disappointed, some will be offered lesser amounts than requested and seek funding elsewhere with my support where appropriate, but some fortunate projects will be able to go ahead thanks to this welcome funding round.
One such project that received funding through a previous Community Partnerships Grant is the Goulburn wetlands project. The 13.5 hectare site for this project is located to the south-west of the city of Goulburn—an area of abandoned brick pits bordered by both the Mulwarree Chain of Ponds and the Goulburn golf links. Positioned in a flood plain, the site had become an inaccessible eyesore of overgrown ruins and stagnant ponds. However, a group of interested business and community leaders aptly named the Goulburn Group has had the vision and energy to turn this useless area into a safe and attractive open space that can become a community asset and an attraction for us all to enjoy. The project incorporates the heritage value of the site by preserving the original footprint of the brick pits, and any archaeological artefacts found will be featured in the design. The project will harvest, retain and treat stormwater through a sustainable wetland system that will improve the quality of water entering the chain of ponds and encourage native flora and fauna to re-establish throughout the area.
Working with a number of volunteer groups from the district and local and State Government authorities and with business and community support, the working group already is underway clearing and preparing the land and stabilising the structures. Our region has certainly experienced much rain of late. Recently I visited the site with members of the Wetlands Working Group—Bill Wilkes, Rodney Falconer and David Marsden-Ballard—accompanied by Urs Walterlin and Catherine Falk representing The Goulburn Group. I was thrilled by how much work had been done so far and the continued energy and passion for the project that was displayed. When a group of local residents get behind a project, clearly there is no stopping them.
The Goulburn Group has planned the construction in manageable stages and, although further funding will be needed for this project, a significant portion of the construction work is to be donated in kind. Some already has been committed by Mother Earth Works Pty Ltd, Divali's Bulk Haulage, Australian Plants Society, TAFE, Mission Australia and the Middle Arm Bush Fire Brigade, to name a few. Once complete, the vision for the wetlands will include extensive opportunity for community access through sensitively landscaped areas that will provide a range of educational, sporting, leisure and cultural activities. Bird hides and viewing platforms, informative signage and sensory trails will be a part of the educational experience with local students being actively encouraged to take part in monitoring the improvements to the ecosystem.
The wetlands project will be an asset that can be enjoyed not only by local residents but also by visitors to the city of Goulburn. If the project can get a Ramsar listing, undoubtedly it will draw tourists to the area. The project has already captured the imagination of the community and a support group, aptly named FROGS, or Friends and Residents of Goulburn's Swamplands, is being formed. I look forward to becoming a founding member and getting my hands dirty working on the site. Local families, individuals and business and community groups will be able to sponsor areas of the wetlands through providing items such as seats, sculptures and groves. I have already committed to sponsoring a bird hide to get things going.
Goulburn, Australia's famous first inland city, celebrates its 150th anniversary in March 2013. The town has been talking about a water feature for over a century and finally it is happening. Goulburn has suffered drought and some tough times, and all that makes the significance of this project all the greater. Goulburn is well known to be a city with an important rural heritage that we shall remember throughout the numerous events planned for the 2013 celebrations. What the wider community has only just recognised is that the city of Goulburn is gaining a reputation as a forward-thinking, environmentally responsible and beautiful place to be.