A plea to save the wetland

Save our swamp: Gavin Cerini and Mullawallah wetlands volunteer Sandra Dillon in front of the Ballarat-Carngham Road wetland. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Save our swamp: Gavin Cerini and Mullawallah wetlands volunteer Sandra Dillon in front of the Ballarat-Carngham Road wetland. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Home and habitat: A duck and her ducklings at the wetland this week. The site is home to scores of birds, including swans and silver gulls. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Home and habitat: A duck and her ducklings at the wetland this week. The site is home to scores of birds, including swans and silver gulls. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

A wetland and its birdlife will be obliterated when large-scale residential developments are erected along Ballarat-Carngham Road, an environmentalist has warned.

The slated developments form part of City of Ballarat’s western growth zone, with hundreds of houses in the pipeline.

No sense: Environmentalist Gavin Cerini questions the wisdom of developing Carngham Road, which was submerged in the September floods. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

No sense: Environmentalist Gavin Cerini questions the wisdom of developing Carngham Road, which was submerged in the September floods. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

However, part of the site contains a swamp area home to scores of native birds including black swans, black ducks, silver gulls and mountain ducks.

The site, hit by heavy spring rain in September leaving sections of the road submerged, must be drained before construction begins.

Ditchy's view.

Ditchy's view.

The City of Ballarat told The Courier the site was not an official wetland, but simply retained stormwater post major rain events.

But the swamp remains wet more than eight weeks after Ballarat’s last major rainfall event, with 38mm recorded on October 3.

The area was assessed in April 2010, with consultants noting the growth area had “no nationally significant” flora or fauna.

However, former Ballarat Environment Network chair Gavin Cerini said the assessment occurred when Ballarat was still in drought, meaning the consultants missed the fact Ballarat-Carngham Road was home to a wetland.

The drought was declared over in 2011. Since then, Mr Cerini said the wetland returned, with the threatened bird species brolga sighted there. He said if the swamp was drained while wet, infant birds would die.

“Council and state government strategies for over 20 years have said we shouldn’t be draining wetlands,” he said.

“These shallow ones, in the region, over 70 per cent have been drained.”

Mr Cerini approached council in 2013 to have the wetland classified as protected open space. Council rejected this, stating while the swamp was subject to inundation, it was not of environmental significance.

The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, responsible for water and catchments in the area, declined to comment, stating the project was “council-led”.

Terry Demeo, council director of infrastructure and environment, said a $6 million, developer-funded drainage and basin strategy had been planned.

“Council created a drainage strategy during the development of the precinct structure plan which relied on a single drainage basin on the north side of Carngham Road,” Mr Demeo said.

“In reviewing the development in more detail, the adopted solution for the subdivision development includes both south and north wetlands to appropriately drain the area and deliver the highest quality stormwater to the receiving waters to Kensington Creek.”