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Welcoming our new wetlands overlords

By johnboy - 3 February 2012 39

simon corbell at dickson wetlands

Simon Corbell yesterday opened the Dickson wetlands with some fanfair:

Improved water quality, flood protection and an oasis for local flora and fauna are among the benefits of the newly constructed wetland in Dickson, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell, announced at the official opening today.

“The Dickson wetland will provide multiple benefits for the local community and the environment as well as reducing reliance on non-potable water for irrigation purposes,” Mr Corbell said.

Mr Corbell said the increase in habitat areas will be provided with locally occurring trees, shrubs, ground covers, grasses and aquatic plants being planted around and in the pond.

“In addition, the Dickson wetland, along with Lyneham ponds, will capture on average 430 mega litres of excess stormwater per year though pump stations at each site to irrigate playing fields,” he said.

But to whom do we owe this nirvana?

Well the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury doesn’t want his party’s role to be forgotten:

Accelerating the program of replacing stormwater drains with urban creek and
wetland systems was part of the Parliamentary Agreement the ALP signed with the Greens in 2008 after plans stalled for seven years, due to lack of funding.

“The Greens are very pleased with the outcome at the Dickson Wetland site, where the native birdlife is flourishing, frogs can be heard each day and many people are using it regularly as a rest and relaxation site,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“This Parliamentary Agreement item was one of the first to be completed after funding was included in the 2009 budget, identifying almost $14m for Lyneham, O’Connor and Dickson Wetland sites.

Which is all very nice, and no doubt the sites will be popular in the future.

But let’s not kid ourselves on a few things.

Firstly stormwater harvesting in an inland city is just me-tooism because the kids in the coastal cities are doing it.

Every drop of storm water we conserve in a drought situation is water we have to let out of our potable water storages to maintain environmental flows in the rivers leading out of the ACT.

(Whereas in a coastal city fresh water is actually lost when stormwater flows into the sea)

Secondly the concrete drain was superb at reducing flood risk by very quickly depositing water into Lake Burley Griffin.

The new system, retaining water in the system for longer is massively increasing flood risk along the creek.

(There may be some issues where they’re building the Molonglo development in which case the wetlands are keeping more floodwater potential in the Inner North in order to make up for bad planning in an unbuilt area).

Inner Northicans can already see that rainfall which used to clear in hours now sees the creek flow for days.

Which can be seen as a win for creating new environments, but not for reducing flood risk.

The environmental benefits and amenity of a nice series of pretty water holes might well be great.

But let’s remember this has come at a cost, particularly in Lyneham where large numbers of mature trees were bulldozed to create a landscaped environment.

[Photo Courtesy of Simon Corbell’s office]

What’s Your opinion?


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39 Responses to
Welcoming our new wetlands overlords
Sandman 10:00 pm 03 Feb 12

No chance of flooding caused by the wetlands at Dickson. The Stormwater drain is still there. If there’s that much water coming down from Hackett it’ll go straight past without even stopping once the wetlands are at their designed capacity.
We love it. It’s a nice easy ride/walk from home and once you get there the kids can ride around as much as they want and still be within view. Can’t wait for the grass to grow on those construction mounds so we can cut loose with the extensive nerf gun collection for a bit of urban trench warfare.

Wonder if they’ve done any feasibility on continuing dual carriageway from Cowper street through to the Antill roundabout? That whole section of Majura will be lined with those bloody apartments soon anyway. Might as well put in a decent road for the increased population.

mistertim 7:26 pm 03 Feb 12

sillysausage said :

The foolish thing is that the properties that border the new wetlands have each just been handed a 40 to 50K windfall, which is all very nice for the fortunate homeowners that overlook the new pond, but with a bit of good planning and appropriate rezoning 2 to 3-storey multi-unit apartments could have been built all along Hawdon St and the revenue would have more than paid for that pond.

I will confess to being one of the fortunate homeowners with a wonderful view overlooking the wetlands. I can confirm that we and our neighbours are very thankful to the Government for increasing our property values (though I did hear someone just around the corner complain that they thought the wetlands would decrease property values in the area because of the increased risk of flooding and mosquitoes. I think that’s crazy talk though.).

One thing though: I thought the Hawdon St side had already been rezoned to allow for medium density developments, but the Dutton St side hadn’t. Or was that part of the area where Andrew Barr got into a fight because he proposed rezoning but it was opposed by a residents group?

Also, re some of the earlier comments about flooding, there is an outlet/sluice of sorts underneath the observation deck bit at the North-West end of the wetlands to prevent that. There are also several very large water tanks that store water from the wetlands to be used to water the playing fields.

Jethro 7:24 pm 03 Feb 12

johnboy said :

2) for the greens this is just the start, they want to whole creek to be wetlands where the water moves through much more slowly, that is it can back up.

If you have a look at the research, most of the ACTs creeks were originally little more than a series of large puddles that joined when it rained. The removal of trees and the introduction of sealed surfaces led to a massive increase of runoff into the creeks, while the introduction of damned lakes slowed the flow of water out of the creeks, thus helping them become the year-round free flowing things they are today.

The idea of permanent wetlands sits far outside the natural state of our creeks.

That being said, I think the ACT generally manages its storm-water really well. The use of ponds and lakes as water filtration and flood mitigation systems is fairly effective, and human created wetlands do create habitats for native birds and recreation areas for us.

sillysausage 4:11 pm 03 Feb 12

I confess that we live a short walk away from the new Dickson wetlands and for the first time in 17 years we’re thrilled that there’s somewhere beautiful to take a walk around, with ducks and coots and a cacophony of frogs – great for our kids too, because they now ride their bikes and scooters where we used to struggle to fly kites while trying to avoid stepping in someone’s dog poo.

The foolish thing is that the properties that border the new wetlands have each just been handed a 40 to 50K windfall, which is all very nice for the fortunate homeowners that overlook the new pond, but with a bit of good planning and appropriate rezoning 2 to 3-storey multi-unit apartments could have been built all along Hawdon St and the revenue would have more than paid for that pond.

Many Dickson residents support higher densities in suitable locations – and land next to a new wetlands is a perfect example of a redevelopment opportunity the govt should rightly encourage and pursue. We all need a range of good housing options in our suburbs: well-designed apartments and townhouses will always be in demand, not just by younger householders but by people like us when our kids leave home and we start rattling around the place.

There were so many problems with the Marsden St development because anyone who took the time to look at the plans realised that occupants and their visitors couldn’t get in and out without complicated manoevring (which would produce noise and fumes for people who lived there and for the neighbours’ bedrooms and living areas over the fence), the private open space was so inadequate that only 2 out of 10 units met even the minimum criteria for the zone (which are only 6m x 6m, barely enough space to put an outdoor table and chairs let alone a clothes line, bins, BBQ or bike), and both side and rear setback rules were breached. At the last minute, AFTER 4 successive bites at the cherry while ACTPLA ummed and aahed but finally consented, they stripped away what little landscaping there was in the centre of the development to squeeze the driveway in and said voila!

Five or six units would have been fine, and that’s exactly what the govt’s new rules (which said overlord is sitting on) will allow if they ever get enacted. The RZ3 zones and RZ4 zones are where medium density housing was supposed to go and that land was identified by strategic planners in consultation with the community back in 2002, but canny developers have cottoned on to the fact that the planning agency is open to a bit of pushing and shoving and more than happy to let their own rules slide. Problem is, they don’t have to live next door to what they’re approving and the rest of us do!

inlymbo 3:52 pm 03 Feb 12

The Inlymbo household LOVES this wetland area. The footpath is good, little inlymbo can ride a bike safely around the whole thing (with me in tow). Give it a try, have some fun and be happy.

damien haas 3:02 pm 03 Feb 12

According to the published figures in Saturdays CT, dam levels are around the 99.6% level. looking out my window i note that the .4% appears to be falling today.

Can this stormwater really be harvested and used?

Chop71 2:17 pm 03 Feb 12

I give it 6 months and it will be filled with shoping trolleys and Mozzies.

davo101 1:52 pm 03 Feb 12

Every drop of storm water we conserve in a drought situation is water we have to let out of our potable water storages to maintain environmental flows in the rivers leading out of the ACT.

No it doesn’t. Care to point out where in the environmental flow rules it says this?

Secondly the concrete drain was superb at reducing flood risk by very quickly depositing water into Lake Burley Griffin.

The new system, retaining water in the system for longer is massively increasing flood risk along the creek.

How so? Unless you design them really badly detention basins reduce peak flows. Dickson pond is an off-line pond so by design really can’t add to the problem. Lyneham pond is in-line so could cause local flooding problems in the immediate upstream area. However, the cycle path on the southern side is at least 2m of above the spillway crest and that’s a metric shed-load going over the spillway.

shadow boxer 1:25 pm 03 Feb 12

pajs said :

Fanfare, rather than ‘fanfair’, please.

I’m interested in your comment that the new system ‘is massively increasing flood risk along the creek’. Do you have some evidence that this is the case? Other than seeing water in the creek for longer (hint: this might not be evidence for your proposition). Perhaps there could have been some reports already produced that look at this issue, which may have been part of the cost of these projects? Harkening back to your quoting of Grog recently, perhaps these are even available to a journalist with a web connection?

I also note the reference to environmental flows. Stormwater harvesting and detention/retention schemes can make a pretty big difference in the quality of the water that ends up being discharged into rivers and creeks to maintain environmental flows. Or to the lake. Turbidity, nutrient loads, suspended solids etc can all be improved by schemes like these. It’s not just a matter of local amenity or local biodiversity.

I could also point to successful, inland, stormwater harvesting schemes that make a positive contribution to local water quality, river quality, recharge aquifers and displace reliance on costly potable water for open space irrigation. But maybe I’ll leave that for you when you feel like doing a bit of research rather than a lazy paste of media releases & a rant I could have got down the pub.

I think the main problem will be rubbish, sure the reeds will filter it but someone still needs to go and pick it up.

I used to love walking up my street and playing junior footy on Hawdon street oval. $10m would have kept it watered for decades

Different times I guess

EvanJames 1:22 pm 03 Feb 12

Seems like a great idea to me, but I’m surprised no one has screeched about fencing it so Thuh Childrun can’t drown themselves.

pajs 1:12 pm 03 Feb 12

Fanfare, rather than ‘fanfair’, please.

I’m interested in your comment that the new system ‘is massively increasing flood risk along the creek’. Do you have some evidence that this is the case? Other than seeing water in the creek for longer (hint: this might not be evidence for your proposition). Perhaps there could have been some reports already produced that look at this issue, which may have been part of the cost of these projects? Harkening back to your quoting of Grog recently, perhaps these are even available to a journalist with a web connection?

I also note the reference to environmental flows. Stormwater harvesting and detention/retention schemes can make a pretty big difference in the quality of the water that ends up being discharged into rivers and creeks to maintain environmental flows. Or to the lake. Turbidity, nutrient loads, suspended solids etc can all be improved by schemes like these. It’s not just a matter of local amenity or local biodiversity.

I could also point to successful, inland, stormwater harvesting schemes that make a positive contribution to local water quality, river quality, recharge aquifers and displace reliance on costly potable water for open space irrigation. But maybe I’ll leave that for you when you feel like doing a bit of research rather than a lazy paste of media releases & a rant I could have got down the pub.

XO_VSOP 12:41 pm 03 Feb 12

10 million is a ridiculous spend of tax payers money. I visited the wetlands yesterday and theres not even a bar ? I would want a bar for that money.

johnboy 12:41 pm 03 Feb 12

New Yeah said :

I wonder just how big the flood risk in the inner north actually is – Washed out bridges? Submerged apartments? I doubt it.

If a big storm was predicted, then surely the various wetlands along Sullivans Ck could be emptied prior to the dump and then fill up with the rain, thus mitigating any possible flood damage. Is this not an improvement?

I noted that the Lyneham wetland filled up overnight from being perhaps 1/4 full.

1) I have not observed any sluice facility

2) for the greens this is just the start, they want to whole creek to be wetlands where the water moves through much more slowly, that is it can back up.

New Yeah 12:39 pm 03 Feb 12

I wonder just how big the flood risk in the inner north actually is – Washed out bridges? Submerged apartments? I doubt it.

If a big storm was predicted, then surely the various wetlands along Sullivans Ck could be emptied prior to the dump and then fill up with the rain, thus mitigating any possible flood damage. Is this not an improvement?

I noted that the Lyneham wetland filled up overnight from being perhaps 1/4 full.

krasny 11:33 am 03 Feb 12

Possibly even introduced with fanfare? I agree though, from the moment I realised what they were up to behind that fence I wondered how this could not end in flooded houses. But screw the Inner North, apparently. Enjoy your lagoon and stop complaining about your ruined carpets.

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