WONGA WETLANDS' WOW FACTOR

A SECOND attempt to transform Wonga Wetlands into a major tourism destination has been approved by Albury Council.

A year ago the council rejected an initial consultants’ report that set out to position Albury as home to a nationally recognised nature-based attraction.

It was considered “too ambitious” and has never been publicly released.

The watered-down plan approved by the council this week includes a re-prioritisation of key features beginning with an upgraded entrance, interpretative centre and functions and events area.

Also part of an estimated $5 million revamp are adventure towers, walking trails, boardwalks and a themed mountain bike course.

Private investment will be sought to build a high ropes course and flying fox at a later stage.

Federal and state government funding will be sought for earlier priorities.

Wonga Wetlands has more than 10 kilometres of Murray River frontage, but much of the area is not accessible to the public.

It was established in 1999 and has evolved into an important ecosystem and sanctuary for more than 154 bird species and other wildlife.

The predominantly man-made lagoons have been restored with reclaimed water from the council’s nearby wastewater treatment facility.

Existing facilities include an aquatic education centre, which attracts a large number of special interest groups, TAFE, university, primary and secondary students each year.

It attracts an estimated 10,000 visitors per year and has been identified as having major potential for development for tourism and recreation pursuits.

The Wagirra Trail being built along the Murray River from Noreuil Park to Horseshoe Lagoon is expected to reach Wonga Wetlands this year.

Albury mayor Kevin Mack conceded significant capital investment would be required.

Proceeds from the still-to-be-sold former OzeWildlife sanctuary site will be used in the initial stages.

“The council will need to work with the private sector and state and federal governments to secure financial support,” Cr Mack said.

“We now want to hear what the community thinks of this plan.”

It will go on public display for two months and an information session will be held on May 6.

Cr Darren Cameron said Wonga Wetlands had the potential to become a bird watching centre of excellence.

“It is surprisingly popular throughout the world,” he said.

“It has the potential, when linked with other bird watching sites around us, to form a chain of tourism.”

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