A photo taken in about 1983 of egrets nesting in ‘Hannah’s Swamp’ at Lawrence. One local claims the wetland is dying through lack of drain maintenance.
A photo taken in about 1983 of egrets nesting in ‘Hannah’s Swamp’ at Lawrence. One local claims the wetland is dying through lack of drain maintenance.

Wetland in trouble, says local

A SENSITIVE wetland in Lawrence may already be under threat, irrespective of a development application for a 35-lot housing subdivision nearby, according to a lifelong resident.

Terry Harrison, who for the past few years has been involved in a project to rehabilitate a wetland known as Little Broadwater, lived for some time near a bird sanctuary and wetlands not far from the Lawrence ferry.

It is that wetland that some residents and ecologist Greg Clancy believe would be under threat if the subdivision is given approval.

But Mr Harrison said it was already in danger.

He said most of the melaleuca trees in the wetland had died, forcing many of the migrating and breeding egrets that once made the swamp their home, to move elsewhere.

And he claimed the trees had died because of inaction by the Clarence Valley Council.

He said that before roads were built there would have been a free exchange of water between the river and the wetland so water in the wetland never became stagnant.

When engineers built the road, they installed a large pipe to allow that exchange to continue but through lack of maintenance the pipe is now blocked and water in the swamp goes foul.

“At least 80 per cent of the trees are dead,” he said.

“There used to be thousands of birds nest in there, including spoonbills, but now there are not nearly so many.

“The drain needs to be opened but the council won’t touch it.

“It’s all blocked with flood mud.

“They need to bite the bullet and clean it.

“When it was dry, the water levels used to rise and fall with the tide, but that doesn’t happen anymore.”

Mr Harrison said that in the past the wetland, known locally as Hannah’s Swamp, had some real peculiarities.

For one, trees in the swamp moved with the wind.

He said that trees sat individually or in groups on floating islands and could be blown around.

“When there is a strong westerly they will go to the east and when you get a nor’ easter they go the other way,” he said.

But he believed that no longer occurred as there was insufficient water in the wetland for the islands to float.

Another feature was that the vegetation was able to cope with changes between fresh and salty water.

In periods of heavy rainfall the wetland would fill with fresh water but when dry, salty water from the river would flow in and out without hurting the vegetation.

The development application is likely to be considered by a new regional planning panel, not the Clarence Valley Council.

Objections to the DA closed on May 7.



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