Identified by Melbourne Water and the EPA as one of Victoria’s dirtiest creeks, Watson Creek flows from its headwaters in Baxter and South Frankston, through Somerville and into Yaringa Marine National Park in Western Port.
Yaringa Marine National Park is home to internationally significant mangrove communities, some of Victoria’s most extensive saltmarsh habitats and highly significant seagrass and mudflat communities. It is also part of Ramsar-listed wetlands, which provide important food and habitat for migratory birds.
Over the past few years, the Watson Creek catchment has been the subject of a number of efforts to improve aspects of the catchment environment.
However, little coordination or communication has taken place between agencies (or with the community) to develop priorities for projects or to consider projects that may cross jurisdictional/functional boundaries. The Watson Creek catchment has therefore been identified as an urgent area to trial the development of an integrated catchment management committee.
With initial funding from Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula Shire, a project officer was recruited part-time for six months in February 2007. This initial stage sought understand what the issues are relating to the creek’s poor water quality.
The process uncovered a range of complex issues, ranging from mistrust of government agencies and the frustration of landholders constantly being told what to do, to lack of understanding about the creek and its environmental implications.
What emerged was recognition of the need to build bridges between community and agencies again, and the Biosphere Foundation developed the Watson Creek agreement to help achieve this.
The agreement was launched in June 2007 in order to emphasise a "no blame and equal responsibility" approach to this project. The agreement was signed by Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, City of Casey and Frankston City Council, local schools, community groups, Landcare, the Vegetable Growers Association, Inghams Chickens, Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria. It has built a solid foundation of trust and strong partnerships with market gardeners and landholders within the catchment.
The Watson Creek ICM Project has proven to be an excellent model for successfully integrating and addressing the spectrum of issues associated with repairing polluted waterways. Melbourne Water has adopted the project as a Better Bays and Waterways case study, and the project has won a 2012 Victorian Coastal Award for Excellence.
The Western Port Biosphere is now working with other community groups and local government with a view to implementing the Watson Creek project model elsewhere.
Anna Roach & Michelle Wright, Watson Creek ICM Project Officers
Tel: 03 5979 2167
The highly polluted Watson Creek flows into Yaringa Marine National Park (above) within the Western Port Ramsar site.
© Mornington Peninsula & Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation Ltd 2012