THIRTY years ago a diverse group of passionate Novocastrians decided to do something never done before in Australia: create a community-owned environmental education centre and protect breeding colonies of egrets and other waterbirds from damaging proposals and unsustainable land use.
It worked. Thanks to the amazing voluntary efforts of community members with funding from governments, industry and business, the wetlands at Shortland have largely been restored.
The wetlands are still owned by the community, and many of the same people who started the Shortland Wetlands Centre are still involved today.
Wildlife has returned to what was once a dump and sporting ovals built on reclaimed wetlands. Threatened species have been re-introduced, such as the iconic Magpie Goose. Two hundred thousand native trees, shrubs and wetland sedges have been planted.
The site is legally recognised as a wetland of international significance, alongside Kooragang Island, as part of the globally important Hunter Estuary.
In 2015, we want to do something amazing again: we want to be carbon-neutral by Christmas. To do this we want to install several dozen solar panels on our Visitor Centre roof to generate a large portion of our electricity needs from the sun, and to buy only electricity generated from renewable energy sources for the remainder.
We are partnering with local community group Clean Energy Association of Newcastle and Surrounds (CLEANaS), which has received a grant from the NSW government to support community groups go solar, to raise $20,000 to install the 12kW array. The panels will be installed by ACS Solar and use highly energy efficient microinverters by Enphase.
Going solar will cut our power bills by $4000 each year and will hopefully show other community groups how to go solar, protect our climate, save money and support clean-tech innovation.
That means we can spend thousands of dollars more to complete our predator-proof fence to stop foxes eating our baby swans and bandicoots, or install new digital displays about wetland conservation, or make the site fully wheel-chair accessible, or provide free entry to local school kids and residents.
We are seeking donations for the project. Sponsorship of $500 gets you one panel on our roof. Bigger donations get bigger discounts, and more panels. And donations as small as $2 are welcome – and tax-deductible.
Sponsors receive rewards, including acknowledgement on a plaque in our reception. If we exceed our target we will install battery storage and more panels.
Thirty years ago, climate change was on the distant horizon, now it’s happening right here, and the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia will do its part to keep our climate safe for people and nature.