The transformation of a degraded dairy farm into a thriving coastal wetland that has delivered ecological, social and economic benefits for the South West Rocks community, has won Kempsey Shire Council an environmental excellence award.
The Boyters Lane Wetland Rehabilitation Project on the lower Macleay River estuary was named the overall winner of the Natural Environment Protection and Enhancement: On-Ground Works category at the NSW Local Government Excellence in Environment Awards on Monday, 3 December.
Kempsey Shire Council outperformed Bathurst, Tweed Heads and Ryde councils to win the award – which recognises “on ground” initiatives to conserve, protect and enhance natural environments – and was also crowned the winner of the Division A category for council areas with less than 30,000 people.
Director Operations and Planning, Robert Fish, said the long-term rehabilitation project was a great example of council working with the local community to achieve results.
“It’s projects like this that bring to life our community’s values of healthy environment and biodiversity, creating a wealth of experience and working together to make the Macleay Valley a wonderful place to live,” Mr Fish said.
“The site has some fantastic examples of fresh and salt water wetland areas that have regenerated since the rehabilitation project commenced. With small pockets of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, the site is home to many fauna species, in particular birds that are very popular with bird watchers.”
Mr Fish acknowledged the efforts of Council’s Senior Natural Resources Officer, Ron Kemsley, and his drive and passion for the project.
“Ron Kemsley has done an outstanding job for the community in coordinating this project in partnership with the South West Rocks Community Dune Care volunteers,” Mr Fish said.
“Many thanks also to all others who have been involved through the life of the project, whether that be providing advice or works on the ground, including the significant volunteer effort.”
Council purchased the severely degraded 25-hectare site south of South West Rocks in 2002. A detailed environmental assessment was undertaken which identified the area as an important habitat refuge for a range of fauna, including migratory and wading bird species.
The extensive rehabilitation began in 2005 and included planting more than 15,000 native trees and shrubs, protecting and improving eight hectares of mangrove and saltmarsh, and constructing two kilometres of walkways, bird hides and an environmental information hut.
More than 230 species of birds have been detected at the site, including some endangered species. The wetland is also providing an important fish nursery for estuarine species within the broader Macleay River system.
The walking track, bird hide, and information hut has attracted more and more visitors to the area and promoted greater community interaction with the environment.
The approach taken to rehabilitating the Boyters Lane site is now being applied in other council-managed environmental rehabilitation projects.
Kempsey Shire Council plans to further improve the site and develop community facilities including picnic areas, expanded parking and improved access for buses to enable school excursions and visits by other larger groups.