Volunteers rejuvenating culturally significant Aldinga Washpool Lagoon now want it protected

A community south of Adelaide is fighting to protect an environmentally and culturally significant wetland from urban growth.

The Aldinga Washpool Lagoon is one of the last wetlands of its type along the metropolitan coastline and is home to about 250 species of flora and fauna.

It has been the focus of a major re-wilding project, including the reintroduction of plants and wildlife once lost from the area.

“It’s an incredibly valuable locality for both us and nature, it’s an area that has great opportunity for the conservation of species,” University of South Australia biology professor Chris Daniels said.

“The ultimate aim is for us to be able to live really well with nature, to appreciate the quality of areas like the washpool, to engage with it, support it, and for it to become part of our sense of place.”

Kaurna project leader Allan Sumner (centre) with Matt Endacott (left) and Kerri Bartley (right) planting gahnia seedlings.(Supplied)

Volunteers have helped plant seedlings of gahnia, upon which the yellowish sedge skipper butterfly lives.

A group of the endangered butterflies were released by hand after the local population were eradicated through habitat destruction and pesticide use.

A butterfly on a plant.
The endangered Sedge Skipper butterfly live among the Gahnia plants.(Supplied)

“It’s a tiny little butterfly, many people wouldn’t notice it. But it’s a really beautiful little animal,” Professor Daniels said.

“There are other species that have now come up to use the area — the hooded plover is a great example. It’s able to nest, become established, and we hope to be able to keep this species increasing in number over the next few years.”

A group of people in grass and puddles with a range of hills behind
Volunteers at the Aldinga Washpool Lagoon site.(Supplied)

Land allows Indigenous to connect with history

The site also holds great significance for the Kaurna people, as the place of creation ancestor Tjilbruke.

“We have layered history here on Kaurna country … through our histories and the stories of our elders there have been a lot of stories passed on about why this place was so important to the Kaurna people,” Kaurna project leader Allan Sumner said.

“But not only that, the artefacts and the histories that lie beneath the surface. I think that’s important for Kaurna people today, that we preserve those natural areas.”

The Aldinga wetlands is culturally significant to the Kaurna people.(Supplied)

He said it was rewarding to engage with young people on the project.

“Often our young people don’t get an opportunity to be on our country and learn about themselves. So I think that is very important. A cultural expression is certainly something that we don’t get to practise that much these days,” he said.

Volunteer Julie Burgher said she had been involved with the project for many years and the area was looking far better.

“You learn something new and you never know what you’re going to see,” she said.

Two birds on a rocky beach
Hooded plovers are among the many species of plants and wildlife reintroduced to the wetlands area.(Supplied)

She said the washpool was previously considered as a site for a marina development but she wanted it protected from urban growth.

“I really care about the environment, I really care that the plants are protected and this place is protected for the future,” she said.

Environment Minister David Speirs said he recognised the environmental and cultural significance of the site and was working to protect it.

The State Opposition wants it declared a conservation reserve.

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NT Police record road deaths in The Narrows and Knuckey Lagoon

One person has died in a crash on McMillans road near Knuckey Lagoon on Saturday and a 37-year-old man has died after being hit by a vehicle on the Stuart Highway in Darwin on Friday night, NT Police say.

NT police said it received reports of the Knuckey Lagoon crash about midday Saturday.

The fatal crash in The Narrows was the second accident within hours on the same strip of road, after another man was hit by a car shortly before 2:00pm on Friday.

NT Police said it received a report of the fatal crash at The Narrows at about 9:30pm.

The occupants of the vehicle remained at the scene, and the driver tested negative to alcohol and drugs, NT Police said.

Detectives from the Major Crash Investigation Unit are now investigating the crash.

NT Police said the man who was hit by a car earlier in the day tripped over his thong just prior to the accident.

That man was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

One witness told the ABC he has seen people injured on the stretch of road by recklessly dodging cars while crossing the highway,

Thomas Rigney, who has lived in an apartment building opposite the scene of both crashes for 20 years, said he had seen people play “chicken with the cars at night”.

Thomas Rigney resides in flats opposite to the accident.(ABC News: Sowaibah Hanifie)

Mr Rigney said he had seen drivers who attempt to render assistance to those pedestrians hit by vehicles “get assaulted” and “have rocks thrown them”.

“The post truck had to lock his brakes up because [someone was] playing kamikaze and he almost had an accident,” he said.

According to NT Police’s road toll website there have been 22 fatal crashes on Northern Territory roads in 2020.

The 2020 toll compares to 23 deaths on NT roads at the same time last year.

There were 35 deaths on NT roads in 2019.

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Airlie Lagoon to reopen today

AIRLIE’S iconic lagoon will reopen today but it will be with significantly reduced numbers of people.

Under the government’s three-stage roadmap to recovery, swimming pools and lagoons can open from today but attendees are limited to 10 people at one time.

Whitsunday Regional Council has secured permission for there to be 10 people in the water and 10 people in the surrounding parklands, but it will still mean people being patient, according to council’s business improvement officer Lauretta Rogers.

“We will have one entry/exit point, which is located at the Night Owl end of the facility, near the amenity block,” Ms Rogers said.

“We will have security at the entry/exit point. Customers will sign in and be asked to clean hands with sanitiser prior to entry.”

The 10-person limit includes parents and carers that are supervising their children in the water.

“This means we need to be considerate of others that may be waiting to enter the lagoon,” Ms Rogers said.

“For those wanting to enjoy the sunshine, have a picnic and catch up with family and friends (gatherings of up to 10 people), we encourage you to visit other recreation areas such as local beaches or the Airlie Beach Foreshore.”

The State Government has said that pools and lagoons could open with greater numbers with an approved plan.

Whitsunday Regional Council disaster management co-ordinator Matt Fanning said council had submitted a request to reopen the lagoon for up to 100 people but was still waiting on a response.

“Council has put a request for information through to the State Government seeking exemption for the ten-person ruling so that we can allocate a larger number of persons to the Airlie Lagoon,” he said.

“We submitted with that application a management plan stating how we would control the numbers.

“We’ve requested for up to 100 people to use the lagoon and to have the lifeguard services managing the social distancing, as well as water safety aspects of the operation.”

Mayor Andrew Willcox said if 100 people were allowed under council’s application, the lagoon would be strictly monitored to ensure everyone was abiding by social distancing.

“We’re putting in a rapid response plan so if things do go pear-shaped or we have a peak or a spike we can deal with it, but we need to start opening some things and trying,” he said.

“I believe the people of the Whitsundays have done the right thing and they need to be rewarded for their efforts.”

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