The Importance of Bangalow Wetlands

Environmentalists, biologists and others concerned about the health of the planet and its inhabitants recognize the key role wetlands play in life on Earth. Besides containing a disproportionately high number of plant and animal species compared to other land forms, wetlands serve a variety of ecological services including feeding downstream waters, trapping flood waters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat.

The rate of loss and deterioration of wetlands is accelerating in all regions of the world. The pressure on wetlands is likely to intensify in the coming decades due to increased global demand for land and water, as well as climate change.

Bangalow Land and Rivercare partnered with Byron Shire Council engineer Dirk Wymer and Bangalow stalwart and film maker Terry Bleakley applied for funding for a wetland to treat Bangalow’s storm water. That application was unsuccessful but the idea was born.

The proposed wetland site was the old creek line that was infested with Blue Taro and Camphor Laurel weeds. Five years ago Rous Water and Sustainable Futures in partnership with the Widjabul people secured funding from the NSW Environmental Trust and the Bangalow Park and Wetlands in Deacon Street was born.


How the wetlands work

A design feature of treatment wetlands is to detain, treat and restrict run off that enters the central inlet cell via storm water pipes, fills this cell and overflows to the other two arms of the wetland, then slowly filters through the vegetation to outlet pipes before flowing into Byron Creek. This wetland will treat the many smaller flows up to about 10mm of rain on the catchment, which at the moment consists of the main road from the Bangalow Police Station to the Service Station and all the houses south of it – probably about six hectares. Extensive research has shown that it’s these smaller flows that wash off the majority of storm water pollutants that collect between rainfall events

The next stage of work was placement of a pipe to bring the ‘first flush’ flows from the main street shopping district down through the park to the wetland effectively treating all the run-off from town before it reaches Byron Creek. This work has now been completed. Research on the Bangalow Sports Fields (another Bangalow Land and Rivercare project) indicated the run-off contains sediments, nutrients and bacteria, some heavy metals such as zinc, and loads of grease and oil off the main road. A dense bed of aquatic plants do the main work of breaking down these pollutants.

The wetland plants can tolerate elevated water levels for durations of about two weeks, while spillways allow discharge in extreme events. The wetland has been under full flood from the creek three times. Another smaller soil filter type wetland has also been designed for the park to be built when funds are available. At the eastern end of the wetland development space has been set aside for the community with a picnic area and the walkway commencing near the Old Bangalow Weir with strategically placed information boards.