EDITORIAL: Wetlands can help tourism
BIRDS of a feather flock together, so they say — and Albury’s Wonga Wetlands is apparently quite the hotspot for just such a gathering.
Those in the know won’t be surprised to learn that the wetlands has been named 54th in a new book listing the top-100 birdwatching spots in Australia.
It joins other popular North East sites in the book — simply titled Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia, by Sue Taylor.
Chiltern is in fourth place, Rutherglen 79 and Winton Wetlands at 87.
Attracting birds wasn’t the primary intention when Wonga Wetlands was created as a reclaimed water system, but supervisor John Hawkins said that had been its logical side effect.
More than 150 species of birds spend time in the area, with pelicans, black swans, freckled ducks, cormorants of all varieties, whistling kites and the white-bellied sea eagles regulars.
“It’s because we manage the wetlands as mother nature meant it to be — full in the winter and dry in the summer,” Mr Hawkins said.
“It was never meant to be a tourism site but we’re in front of a lot of well-known places on the list. Tourism is something we should improve on.”
He said the wetlands had had almost 8000 visitors this year. Schoolchildren and Albury-Wodonga Birdwatching Society members boosted the numbers.
The bridwatchers’ group has operated for about 20 years.
Spokesman John Saw said the wetlands had much to offer “birders”, as they’re known.
“To be in a publication of this ilk is a wonderful thing for the Albury Council,” he said.
“We’ve been urging the council to recognise its great asset here.
“Avian tourism is one of the growing trends globally — birds are fascinating and can be so pretty — people are willing to travel to different habitats to see them.”
Mr Saw has travelled to America, England and Ethiopia on his bird-watching exploits.
He visits Wonga up to 10 times a year.
He believes it’s not a question of trying to move higher up the list to beat places such as Chiltern, well-known for its regent honeyeaters.
Rather, he says cities and towns should work together to create bird-watching tours, that would also boost regional tourism.
“The birds are very different at each site so it would be very complementary,” he said.
“Sites quite close together can live off each rather than compete.”