When UNSW’s famous Water Research Laboratory (WRL) was asked by Greater Taree City Council in 2011 to tender for a swamp restoration project, neither the Council nor WRL’s project engineers could know how the project would get under their skin.
“The 2000-hectare area had been extensively drained for agriculture in the early 20th century and was widely recognised as one of the worst acid hotspots in the country,” says Will Glamore, Principal Research Fellow at WRL.
Following 18 months of on-ground sampling, Glamore knew the project had some fascinating research possibilities, so when a large flood came through the land he was quick to move. “The university and Council invested considerable resources into monitoring that flood and tracking the acid plumes.”
One of the most significant outcomes from the project was in demonstrating how acid runoff was destroying oysters and fish life downstream. This not only made headlines in the national press, but was also a key trigger in getting the local community involved so that on-ground restoration works could get underway.
“There was a petition tabled in the NSW Parliament against the project when we initially started it,” says Glamore. “As such, it was an important thing to say: ‘We’re going to use science to lead this process, to show the community that we can do something beneficial.’”
“Their research helped us gain the trust of the community and secure further funding” - Big Swamp Project Manager, Tanya Cross
So far, the project has transformed over 700 hectares of degraded landscapes into functioning wetlands, including 80-hectares of new tidal wetlands. It has also elevated ground water levels above the acidic soil layer and re-inundated over 620 hectares. The project’s success was recognised in 2015 with a prestigious Green Globe Award.
Glamore can’t speak highly enough of Council and Big Swamp Project Manager at the Council, Tanya Cross, feels much the same. “Our relationship with WRL has developed way beyond that of consultant-client. Their research helped us gain the trust of the community and secure further funding. We have more projects planned with them in the pipeline,” she says.
Greater Taree City Council
Ongoing - UNSW and the Council continue to invest significant time, money and resources in the project
$2m Federal Government grant (plus a number of subsequent grants won by the Council and Water Research Laboratory)
Create a large new wetland and remediate a badly degraded landscape
Successful community engagement, on-ground eco-engineering and ongoing wetland creation