Nesting box provides a home for a baby rosella.

IF YOU GLANCE down to your right while driving out along North Maleny Road you’ll see major works taking place on the Community Precinct. Don’t be alarmed: this is UnityWater undertaking the construction of a series of wetlands that will be used as natural filters for the outflow from the upgraded water treatment plant.

During the next twelve months they will be planting more than thirteen hectares of rainforest on the surrounding slopes.

What we’re seeing is the transformation of a section of old dairy farm into a remarkable piece of natural forest, a parkland which, when complete, will include all-accessible walking trails linked to the proposed Gardners Falls trail. It’s an extraordinary gift to our community and our region.
Green Hills have been working with UnityWater to arrange community plantings that will connect this new area of rainforest with the treeplants we’re doing along the edge of the Obi Obi.

We couldn’t help but notice, however, that, for all the wonder of the nearly complete constructed wetlands, they weren’t going to provide any habitat for larger birdlife for at least ten, maybe even twenty, years. As a result we’ve used a significant portion of our gift fund to purchase a couple of wildlife poles and get bird boxes and perches fixed to them that will become safe homes for raptors, owls, parrots and bats, until the trees are big enough to provide homes.

Two poles will be fitted with nesting boxes for birds to use while the rainforest takes shape around the wetland.

While it’s true to say that the work UnityWater is doing is a gift to our community it’s also important to note that the people of Maleny also worked very hard to make this happen. Only five years ago Caloundra City Council proposed a plan for this specific site which had four fairways of an eighteen hole golf course exactly where the wetlands now are, and subdivided house sites where the forest will be planted. It was only the concerted efforts of this community that persuaded them to change their minds and, eventually, to assign this part of the Precinct to parkland.

The Maleny community has had several battles on its hands over the last decade or so, and there is often a sense that we rarely ever prevail; that government, or business, gets what it wants at our expense. What is happening in the Northern Wetlands gives the lie to that belief. Sometimes it’s important to stop and to celebrate our wins. The construction of these parklands and the planting of the northern bank of the Obi Obi are two of the most significant ‘wins’ we’ve ever had.

Over the next twenty years these two projects will transform our region both environmentally and socially. Environmentally through providing real and sustainable habitat for our wildlife, by improving water quality in the creek, and reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Socially, because, when the trails are open they will not simply be a remarkable amenity for our community but will also present a major attraction for visitors to the region, taking the pressure off Mary Cairncross Park and increasing employment in the town.

It’s time to recognise what it is we’ve achieved and to make sure we thank those who listened to our suggestions. To let those in UnityWater who make decisions like this (it was a close thing between building a wetland and pumping the outflow to Landsborough) know that communities appreciate what they’ve done by being good corporate citizens.

To encourage and thank those in Council who listen, and who are trying to do the right thing by our environment.

Maleny Author - Steven Lang

Steven Lang