Fig 1 (left image): 1995: Degraded paddock prior to Phoenix Flats (Photo KWRP)
Fig 2 (right image): 2001:  Forming Phoenix Flats (Photo KWRP)

Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project has created 10ha of coastal saltmarsh, Phoenix Flats, from a degraded, disused paddock.  The site is adjacent to a tidal creek on Ash Island 15km west of Newcastle in the Hunter River estuary.

Prior condition and restoration need. In the 1800s, this area was cleared of floodplain forest and drained for agriculture. Subsequently, salt tolerant exotic herbaceous vegetation became dominant (Fig 1) due to the low elevation, proximity to saltmarsh and increased tidal flows in the adjacent tidal creek.  Given these local conditions and sea level rise, the site was assessed to be more suitable for establishment of intertidal habitats rather than forest restoration.

Works. Saltmarsh was formed by contouring the former paddock and connecting it to tidal flows from a tidal creek (Fig 2). A monitoring program was established to track development of the created saltmarsh relative to control and reference sites.

2003 Photo of Phoenix Flats
Fig 3: 2003:  Saltmarsh establishment at Phoenix Flats (PhotoWRP) 

Outcomes.Phoenix Flats is now a highly functional mosaic of open, water, saltmarsh and mudflat with peripheral rainwater fed swales now supporting a range of wildlife. This particularly includes migratory shorebirds such as flocks of Pacific Golden Plover and Eastern Curlew (Figs 3 -5). It is part of a range of activities taking place in the Hunter estuary aimed at helping to redress the considerable loss (over 1700ha) of saltmarsh in the estuary since 1954 as well as planning for climate change retreat corridors.

Photo of White-fronted Chat by Allen Friis

Fig 4: White-fronted Chat (Photo Allen Friis)

Fig 5: Eastern Curlew (Photo Alan Friis)

Acknowledgement. The project was carried out under the auspices of the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority. On-going monitoring continues under auspices of NSW Local Land Services – Hunter.

Contact:Peggy Svoboda, Senior Land Services Officer – Estuaries, Hunter Estuary Program, NSW Local Land Services – Hunter, Locked Bag 2010, Paterson NSW 2421 Tel: +4964 9308.



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