History & Background
The August 2014 opening of the $1.9m Y Water Discovery Centre was the culmination of 16 years of planning, engagement, lobbying and fund raising by dedicated community volunteers of the Yea Wetlands Committee and Yea Wetlands Trust.
Yea’s wetlands are situated on 32ha of flood prone crown land between two branches of the unregulated Yea River and lie either side of the Goulburn Valley Highway. The Murrindindi Shire Council manages these crown land parcels on behalf of State Government. In 1996 the Upper Goulburn Waterways Authority, now Goulburn Broken CMA, commenced a program of removing willows that were choking the Yea River and its anabranches before replacing them with native species of local provenance. It was during those works that the potential value and diversity of the area's wetland ecosystems presented to the adjoining township and community.
After subsequent discussions with the grazing licence holder the Authority successfully applied for a grant to construct a walking trail and build several timber pedestrian bridges forming a looped walk through the area with some basic observation points.
Although only lightly grazed during the late summer/autumn months, the impact of cattle grazing was readily evidenced by contrasting with the vegetation cover in Cummins Reserve. This led to formation of a Friends of the Yea Wetlands Group in 1997.
The environmental learning potential of the Wetlands became more evident and a Feasibility Study for the Yea Environmental Education Centre commenced in 2000. It concluded that while a single purpose Centre would be unsustainable, consideration should be given to combining it with a Visitor Information Centre that may help make it sustainable.
In 2002 Murrindindi Shire Council established the Yea Wetlands Committee of Management (s.86 Local Govt Act) to assist with the management and advice about the wetlands. This new Committee, operating under the auspice of Council, secured a State Government grant to provide safe access for pedestrians entering the wetlands from the town over a 30m span Cable Suspension Bridge. Ancillary works included removal of introduced species and clean up of the Police Paddock on which the Centre sits today. The neighbouring property owner generously agreed to relinquish a crown land license enabling a track between the Centre and Bridge to be constructed.
Members of the Rotary Club of Yea assisted and helped fund the bridge project, build access ramps to the bridge, clean up the Police Paddock and build a picnic/information shelter.
Since those early days the Committee’s members have worked closely with a growing Friends group, the Trustees, Murrindindi Shire Council and the community to raise local funds and secure several grants to build the Wetlands and its assets into the eco-tourism attraction it is today. The Committee Members themselves have done an enormous job including the development of three bird hides, some 300m of raised board walks, interpretive and track signage, thousands of supplementary plantings and removal of woody and noxious weeds that had infested the wetlands.
Recognised for its enormous efforts, the Committee was awarded the United Nations of Australia Association’s ‘Best Community Group’ Award during its 2006 national World Environment Day Awards. An appropriate acknowledgement and reward for the volunteer efforts of the community, Committee, Trustees and Council.
The Committee has always liaised and worked closely with descendants of the local indigenous community and Elders of the Taungurung Clan to record, display and acknowledge their history, culture and arts. The Franklin Track was named after a local Aboriginal family. ‘Womindjeka Day’ celebrations have been held in the wetlands to highlight the environmental assets and celebrate the areas indigenous culture/heritage with several fun filled corroborees and storytelling nights around a camp fire.
With strong community support ….. the story continues!