The Beginning of Friends of the Wetlands
When my wife and I arrived in Russell Island in 2006, it took about a year before we realized the real extent and diversity of the wetlands and other conservation areas. The reason for this was, that most of the areas were hidden and inaccessible. We approached council to find out about their plans to bring these diverse areas more accessible to public, and to protect them from the growing urbanization. Council was busy with projects on Stradbroke and on the mainland and it was indicated that we should come back in five years’ time and they would reconsider examining the possibility then. As a result of this Friends of the Wetlands was born and we started gathering support letters from other island organizations and associations. We were also able to obtain a support letter from the council and one from our local councillor.
The project, that was envisaged, was to be a three-stage project with Whistling Kite and Turtle Swamp being the main initial focus.
Stage one – in conjunction with the council – data collecting, surveying of the two areas and raising public awareness (for example articles, public meetings and a website.
By data collection it was envisaged that we would endeavor to establish what was there. Our interpretation, of what was there, meant that we would:
1. Map and collect data and photos of the areas for their flora diversity.
2. Endeavor to find, document and photograph as many of the fauna species as was possible.
3. Find, photograph and document invasive species, urban impact and the general state of the areas involved.
Stage two – in conjunction with the council – designing, planning and preparing tenders.
Stage three – in conjunction with the council – implementation of walkways / bikeways.
On this basis we set about getting funds from the federal government to enable the first stage of the project.
As, at the time, Friends of the Wetlands was not an incorporated body, but a loose group of enthusiastic locals, in order to obtain federal funding, Bay Islands Community Centre agreed to act as our auspicing body.
During the early to mid 2000 Redland City Council changed many areas on Russell Island to conservation areas. As a consequence, more than a third of the island became conservation, not to be developed for urban purposes. Some of these areas had been impacted by growing urbanization, but the majority was, and still is, in pristine condition. Our aim was to document what exists in these areas and to what level they have been impacted by the surrounding urban community. It was proposed that once all the data was collected by GIS mapping survey, plans and maps would be prepared. These maps and plans, with other data collected, would be used to raise public awareness and to further develop plans to give both the island community and visitors to the island controlled public access to these fragile areas. The long term plan and vision was to develop pathways/bikeways, which would link the major wetlands and conservation areas and create a scenic route around our island. The first stage of the project was Whistling Kite and Turtle Swamp, where a survey was conducted, data collected and initial plans prepared in 2009. On April 21, 2008 the name, Friends of the Wetlands, was first mentioned.