Deb creates thriving farm wetland

Delighted: Deb Hill at the revived wetland at Warrenbayne.

They say nature has a way of healing itself, and Deb Hill can attest to this sentiment since her farm dam was transformed into a wetland.

Four years ago, Ms Hill’s dam, located on her farm in Warrenbayne, was degraded.

The water was turbid, with a high coliform and nutrient content, causing algal blooms in summer. Salinity affected the soil stability in the inflow zone. Livestock had been allowed access for many years.

She decided to transform the dam into a wetland, fencing off the area from her livestock and allowing nature to take its course.

Fencing off the dam cost about $2000, but Ms Hill said no other costs or work was needed for the wetland to thrive. Native aquatic and marginal plants were already there, even after years of access by livestock, and they just needed the right conditions to thrive.

“My only input was the fence. I left everything else alone and let nature take over,” Ms Hill said.

The water is now clean and a perfect habitat for a diversity of aquatic plants and macroinvertebrates, birds, reptiles and frogs.

This dam is now a hotspot for biodiversity and is teeming with life. The chorus from eastern banjo and spotted marsh frogs, common froglets and Peron’s tree frogs is raucous during the breeding seasons.

“There is a fallen red gum tree that was placed on the bank of the dam when it was cleaned in 2008 and that has helped create habitat for eastern long necked turtles, birds, frogs and aquatic macroinvertebrates,’’ Ms Hill said.

“The dam is a really good example of how a healthy wetland can be created in a short time with minimal effort and be a wonderful natural asset for any farm.”

A few months ago, Ms Hill sold 80 hectares of her farm to her neighbour, including the wetland.

Thankfully the new owner continues to allow Ms Hill to visit the site and has indicated that he will leave the dam as is. He was also inspired to fence off another small spring-fed dam.

Ms Hill, who is a grandmother of three, enjoyed taking her grandchildren to the wetland before she sold the property.

“I remember taking my then four-year-old grandson, Charlie, to this lovely wetland and we sat on the fallen tree and watched eight turtles poking their heads just above the water as they repeatedly emerged to breathe.”

Ms Hill, who is a keen bird watcher, has seen little pied cormorants, Australasian grebes, white-necked and white-faced herons, Pacific black ducks, Australian wood ducks and grey teal, while brown goshawks and whistling kites also hunt over the wetland.

“My biggest thrill was seeing a water rat and the turtles because that is a good indicator of a healthy wetland,” she said.

Her much-loved wetland has been sold, but Ms Hill plans to incorporate a small ephemeral wetland in garden plans for her Violet Town property.

“This wetland is a win-win for the environment and the farm,’’ she said.

“It’s a really lovely place to be and enjoy and it’s a worthwhile possibility for any property with a suitable dam.”