Wonga Wetlands is a living example of conservation in our city - where environmental innovation and the protection of our native plants and wildlife can be seen up close in a spectacular floodplain environment.
A bit of background
A wetland is an area of land covered with temporary water (year-round, seasonally, or sporadically), long enough for its plants and animals to rely on those wet conditions for survival.
Our wetland sits on the Murray River floodplain and incorporates seven lagoons across 80 hectares. Wonga is home to spectacular ancient red gums and a variety of wildlife, including 176 bird species, all relying on the wetland for survival.
Why Wonga exists
Since the Hume Dam was built in 1919, the Murray River has been used for irrigation, which has changed the natural flow of our river. This change has reduced flooding, and altered the time of year that floods can occur. As a result of that change, many of our floodplain wetlands and billabongs dried out, destroying the breeding habitats of local birds and fish. The Wonga Wetlands development which commenced in 2000, has helped re-create the natural flow of water into these floodplains, and as a result our birds and other wildlife are coming back.
How it works
The water bringing new life to this beautiful area isn’t from the river - it’s from the city’s reclaimed water treatment systems. Wonga Wetlands is an innovative and ecologically sustainable way for us to manage and re-use Albury’s reclaimed water.
During drier months Albury’s reclaimed water is used for irrigation and in the wetter months it’s redirected to these wetlands. The wetting and drying cycle recreated by this system replicates what would be happening in an uncontrolled river floodplain - flooding in winter and drying out over summer. Our treatment process uses biological nutrient removal and chemical processes to produce high quality water, which meets the most stringent standards available.
Before European settlement the original inhabitants and traditional owners of the Murray River area near Albury and Wodonga were the Wiradjuri, Wavereoo and Dhudhuroa people. The river was considered the giver of life, not a divider of communities.
These people moved up and down the river, using bark canoes cut from the majestic red river gums. The river, billabongs and wetlands were a rich and valuable food source. There were fish, mussels, turtles, crayfish, snails and birds and other animals to eat, and mussel shells to use as knives, spoons and scrapers
In recognition of the Wiradjuri people and the assistance they provided in establishing the Wonga Wetlands, particularly the construction of the replica Indigenous campsite (see Wiradjuri Campsite), Council named them ‘Wonga’, which is Wiradjuri for the Little Black Cormorant – still one of the most abundant bird species in this area.
Other Wiradjuri words include:
- gunyuck - Black Swan
- bringen - Red Kangaroo
- munjar - Murray Cod
- coleen - water
- wangarang - Turtle
- wargan - Crow
- womboyne - Grey Kangaroo
In the 1830s, European settlers began to establish homesteads in the area. The previous owner of the Wonga Wetlands site, Mrs Margaret Pearce, recalls:
“In June 1901 my Grandparents, Jacob and Pauline Lobbe purchased 'Hillview', later renamed 'Riverdale'. Possibly the name changed following the 1917 flood. The house is said to have been erected in the 1880's.
I can remember watching in awe my Grandfather working in the blacksmiths shed at the back of the lock-up shed. He had a portable saw mill and cut the slabs which formed the walls of the shed in which he did his blacksmithing. He also cut all the post and rails which formed the boundary fencing around ‘Riverdale’.
A platypus family used to live in Bagnall’s Range Lagoon below the large steel tank at the pump house. Swans, Pelicans, Swamp Hens, Shags and of course hundreds of ducks as well as small birds in the bulrushes were to be seen. Of course one cannot forget the Tiger and Black snakes which were very plentiful.
The original Murray River flowed beside Waterview Road, until the present creek eroded to such an extent that the River changed its course (note the NSW/Victoria state border still follows the original river course).
Prior to the construction of Hume Dam (the late-1920s/early-1930s) it was not unusual to have floods annually, depending on winter and spring rainfall. With the construction of Dartmouth Dam (in the late-1970s), floods became rarer. However, we then had to suffer high water levels throughout summer/autumn because of the irrigation flows.”
What’s in a name?
Wonga means ‘cormorant’ in Wiradjuri language. Around this place, you might spy the Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris), the Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos), the Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) and the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). Keep your eyes peeled!