JournalOpen Day at Surbiton Park

Open Day at Surbiton Park

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William Rajendram, Western Water’s Senior Environmental Engineer was also present to represent Western Water. William Rajendram has authority over environmental activities at Surbiton Park and has given inestimable support to environmental restoration here.

This was followed by a walk along the flood plain, which is Riparian Woodland (EVC 641) while looking up at the dramatic rocky escarpments rising starkly above us. The vegetation of the steep escarpment is Escarpment Shrubland (EVC 895). A rare plant, Cobberweed (Sigesbeckia australiensis) has been found among the rocky of the steep escarpment here. Simon Jolly also pointed out several now locally uncommon Sweet Tobacco plants. This is a night flowering native tobacco plant that has a sweet perfume when the white tubular flowers open at night. It was once fairly commonly found around Melton but has now largely disappeared under housing.

At this point Melbourne Water’s representative Louise Nicholas (Waterways & Land Officer for the Lower Werribee River), explained the extensive boxthorn and rabbit control undertaken by Melbourne Water along three kilometres of the gorge this year.

Glenn Clapton, Crew Leader of Wurundjeri Land Management Council’s environmental team, the Narrap Rangers, described in detail the native heritage of the area, illustrating how the history of people in this region dates back many thousands of years. He described how the Werribee River formed the boundary between the Wurundjeri people and the neighbouring Wathaurong people. The local clan, the Kurunjang baluk, are still commemorated locally by the Melton suburb of Kurunjang.

We then moved down to the riverbank where Frances described how PLEG have been collecting water samples for eDNA platypus testing. The water samples are then taken by Melbourne Water to be analysed to detect traces of Platypus DNA. This is a more effective means of checking for the presence of Platypus. The old method of simply sitting by the water hoping to see a Platypus, although a pleasant way to spend an hour or so by the river as evening fell,  was largely hit and miss, and not very effective. Monitoring by eDNA testing has shown that Platypus are still present in the river here. The vegetation here is Stream Bank Shrubland (EVC 851).

Daryl Akers of PLEG described the local wildlife, explaining how natural corridors such as the Werribee River are vitally important in providing both habitat for native wildlife but also crucial corridors for wildlife to move through the region in a social environment where much of our local landscape is being taken over by swift and massive development. These corridors are also important for migrating wildlife, especially birds as they migrate seasonally though the region.

The day was judged a great success, with attendances illustrating wide community interest in our local natural environment.