It’s heartening when fellow creatures such as our feathered friends have a win against the relentless march of “development”.
That’s what’s happened at the Port of Brisbane where no less than five State Government politicians have stepped in to save “Swan Lake” which is home to some 150 species of water birds, including black swans and migratory birds.
The birds and their aquatic home were about to fall victim to the expansion plans of the newly privatised Port of Brisbane Authority. In a perfect Joni Mitchell “pave paradise put up a parking lot” scenario their lake was to be paved over to create additional parking for the Port’s ambitious car importation plan.
But in an acknowledgment that politicians know an effective and potentially vote-costing grass-roots campaign when they see one, the birds can continue to nest in peace after the intervention. This reprieve is thanks to the efforts of a savvy coalition of local avian lovers and environmental groups, including Birds Queensland and the Bulimba Creek Catchment Committee, who recognised they could make good use of the powerful parallel with the popular Joni Mitchell song.
“Swan Lake” was built as a man-made retention basin collecting stormwater from the surrounding industrial area to improve its quality before it enters into Moreton Bay. Birds on the lookout for the perfect nesting place made themselves at home and at recent counts up to 1000 birds could be spotted in one day including 150 black swans, pied stilts, terns pelicans, teals, Pacific black ducks, egrets, coots and swamp hens.
Migratory birds also find safe haven there. Australia is a signatory to the international Ramsar Convention to protect wetlands for migratory birds and Moreton Bay is one of our 49 nominated sites. The local wetlands have ties with the Yatsu-Higata Tidelands of Japan as part of the East-Asian Australasian Shorebird Reserve Network. Large numbers of international migratory shorebirds visit to feed between September and May.
Next to the lake, set amid lawns and trees running down to the waters edge, is a visitor’s centre which used to offer a spectacular view of birdlife and facilities for theatres, displays, public education and dining. Sadly, although only 10 years old and in good condition, it is earmarked for demolition. Apparently the centre was built as a community benefit to compensate for the loss of valuable wetland habitat when the port was originally extended some years ago.
It would be wonderful if this could be saved too.