Wetlands plan approved

(Damjan Janevski). 228421_02

Tara Murray

The future of the Emu Bottom Wetlands in Sunbury is clearer with a masterplan for the wetlands approved.

Having put the draft plan out for community consultation in November, councillors approved the final plan at the March 25 council meeting.

The plan proposes to extend the car park, protect sensitive areas, develop a shared trail, and a new shelter with picnic settings, seats and tree planting while decreasing the dog off-leash area.

More than 700 people visited the council’s consultation page during the consultation with 19 contributions made by 13 people. There were also 14 email submissions.

The reduction of the dog off-leash from 25 hectares proved to be the most controversial aspect.

Five of the submitters supported the reduction of the dog off-leash area from 25 hectares to six hectares, while 12 submitters suggested there should be no dog off-leash area at all on the site.

On the other side, three submitters said there should be an additional area for off-leash activity, while 15 submissions mentioned additional education and/or reinforcement being needed by dog owners.

Members of the Friends of Emu Bottom Wetlands met with four councillors and put forward several suggestions, the most significant being to include a new pedestrian bridge over the billabong, which was also included in the 1997 masterplan.

This was knocked back by council officers due to a range of factors including the bridge needing a connecting path network, additional drainage and needing to have a culture heritage management plan.

The cost of building a bridge would be between nearly $600,00 and $1.2 million.

The masterplan is set to cost $1.9 and $2.5 million.

Councillor Trevor Dance welcomed the masterplan and said spending money on the Emu Bottom Wetlands was always welcome.

He said it was disappointing that some of the views of the Friends of Emu Bottom Wetlands hadn’t been fully taken on.

Cr Dance said the officers had tried to get the balance right so it wasn’t turned into another city style park.

Dance said there had been an increase in numbers of people using the area but the minority hadn’t looked after it, while highlighting there had been an increase of rubbish, wets and rabbits in the area.