Mokoan wetland ‘healing sense of loss’

WINTON Wetlands is well on the way to becoming an attraction for Benalla and in doing so healing some of the pain from the contentious decision to drain the former Lake Mokoan, says its acting chief executive.

Yvette Campbell says in 12 months there will be a tourist centre and community hub at the former Lake Mokoan yacht club, along with bike trails and boardwalks over sensitive wetlands.

On the eve of World Wetlands Day tomorrow and a host of activities at Winton, she says plans to establish a world-class wetlands were “back on track”.

Ms Campbell inherited the top job when former chief executive Michael Vanderzee resigned suddenly in October sighting management tensions for his decision.

She said there was a sense of loss when the decision was made to drain Lake Mokoan and unusually high expectations of what could be done with the $20 million fund set aside for the project.

“It affected farmers who had given up the land for the lake, people who had built on the foreshores for the views, hunters and the people of Benalla in general,” she said.

“But in the next 12 months we will take steps to re-establish this area.

“The concept plans to transform the yacht club will go to a community meeting on February 20 and we hope to have that up and running in a year.

“There are also plans for bike trails (linking with the Murray to Mountain rail trail and Benalla) and boardwalks.

“But the organisation itself has to survive on the interest from that fund, and so that limits what we can do with maintenance around the wetlands.”

Ms Campbell said there was encouraging environmental data to support the wetlands transformation.

“Mother Nature has given us a boost in the past two years with two wet summers and now a dry, hot summer,” she said.

“The natural cycle of the wetland is to be flooded then dry out.

“It has benefited the food chain and the fish in the lake, while in some areas we are seeing native grasses now outgrowing the weeds.”

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