Black-shouldered kites wheel and cry overhead as red-kneed dotterels bob for bugs along the swampy shoreline. But it’s when two majestic silvery-grey birds intersect this picture that it really becomes a postcard. “Aha, brolgas,” comes the delighted exclamation from behind binoculars.
Are we adventuring in NT’s Top End you ask? No my friends. Welcome to Victoria’s own Kakadu – right here on Melbourne’s doorstep.
World-best environmental practice has transformed the Western Treatment Plant into a wetlands of international importance.
Werribee’s “big stink”, as I knew it as a child, is no longer on the nose. In fact it’s become destination in its own right, attracting both birds and bird lovers from all over the world.
A third of all the bird species that have been recorded in Australia – including the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot – have been spotted on this 10,500 hectare site.
The Western Treatment Plant treats around 50% of Melbourne’s sewage, but also generates almost 40 billion litres of recycled water a year and produces its own electricity on site through the capture of methane gas.
“As soon as you come in here your perception of what a sewage treatment plant should be changes,” Melbourne Water education programs coordinator, Chris Lunardi, says.
“I think every one who uses the toilet should come to this place and just see what we can do to turn something so long considered just waste into something really valuable on an international level.”
You’ll never, never know if you never never go.
NB: Schools and community groups can tour the Western Treatment Plant. To book a tour or register interest in the next open day visit http://www.melbournewater.com.au and follow the links to the WTP. Access permits are required for birders with details available on the same site.