Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia






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Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia

Funding support

HWCA raises all funds for its operations through visitor fees, events, sponsorship arrangements and grants.

Number of staff

At this time HWCA is almost entriely run by Volunteers. Leadership is provided by a team of experienced Volunteers overseen by the Board of Directors (also volunteer).
Paid Staff/1
Senior Volunteer Management Group 15
General Volunteers 80-100

Number of visitors per year

Over most of the last decade Visitor numbers were consistent in the ranges below:
General entry and events 20,000-24,000
School Students 6000-8000
Visitor numbers for 2019-2021 have all been negatively impacted and so have been lower than normal.

2019: VC out of action due to 1) renovations and 2) vandalism
2020: long periods of closure due to virus
2021: additional periods of closure due to virus
Over this period 2019-2021:
General Entry: 42,260
School Students:15,000

Overall aims of the centre

WETLAND CONSERVATION: Our goal is to manage the wetlands and surrounding habitats to maintain the health and values of the wetlands and to provide a range of habitats to support biodiversity on the property. While we manage our property independently, we are co-managers of the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
WETLAND EDUCATION AND AWARENESS: the whole of the property is designed and managed to allow visitors to have a personal experience of the wetlands as a living system, to view wildlife and to allow interactive activities such as dipnetting and canoeing. Our goal is to provide visitors with an authentic wetland experience that complements the information provided by interpretation signs and guides.
Community participation has been a major aspect of Hunter Wetlands since the earliest days of the project. Today volunteers do all of the on-site work under the guidance of a site committee to manage the wetlands for wildlife and people. Our experience with community involvement from our foundation years has demonstrated that people can play a vital role in wetland conservation without any experience and will learn a lot about wetlands along the way.

Description of the centre

Location: Shortland, NSW / Hunter River Estuary.
Size of site: 43 Hectares.
Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia is a small but unique complex of wetland types surrounded by urban development along three boundaries. Previously degraded following a range of land uses over many years, this urban wetland was set aside for restoration with the key objectives of wetland conservation, education and community involvement.
The site has been restored to provide habitat for a diverse range of wetland species, including waterbirds at a critical stage of their lifecycles and threatened species. The Hunter Wetlands Centre offers a range of outdoor recreation facilities with easy access to high-conservation-value wetlands for visitors. Facilities include bush-walking trails, boardwalks, observation decks, elevated bird hide and canoes.

Biodiversity: The most significant wetland plant community at the Hunter Wetlands Centre is the Melaleuca swamp forest, dominated by broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia). The swamp forest is remnant of a plant community that was once very widespread in the Newcastle area. The Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia component is also significant for a range of plant communities that have been successfully re-introduced to the site, including:
• open rainforest developed around remnant rainforest species dominated by turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera), lilly pilly (Acmena smithii), scentless rosewood (Synoum glandulosum), cheese tree (Glochidion ferdinandi) and bleeding heart (Omalanthus populifolius)
• open eucalypt woodland dominated by swamp mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta), red bloodwood (Eucalyptus gummifera) and grey gum (Eucalyptus punctata)
• Melaleuca shrubland dominated by tall honey myrtle (Melaleuca nodosa), swamp paperbark (Melaleuca ericifolia), prickly-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca styphelioides), and swamp millet (Isachne globosa)
• Acacia shrubland dominated by Sydney golden wattle (Acacia longifolia);
• wet heath dominated by Callistemon citrinus, Banksia robur and Christmas bells (Blandfordia grandiflora)
• Casuarina forest dominated by swamp oak (Casuarina glauca).
Wildlife: The HWCA site provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife. The site is managed to provide healthy habitat for both wetland and non-wetland species (over 60 species recorded).

Work Areas

Main CEPA work areas

The HWCA Charter is focused on conservation and management complemented by communication, education participation and awareness about wetlands and their values. The site was designed and restored for this purpose. Our main tools and work areas include:

  • a staffed Visitors Centre that attracts 20,000 visitors annually;
  • interpretation installations across the property to introduce visitors to wetlands and raise awareness about wetlands values
  • safe and easy access across 43 hectares of wetlands with 4km of walking trails and 2km of canoe trails
  • a program of daily activities
  • targeted programs and events throughout the year
  • a purpose-built Education Centre with a well-established curriculum purpose designed for schools
  • a day-to-day demonstration of wetland management through community involvement and participation

Top three successes

Restoration of degraded wetlands into healthy wetlands has most likely been our greatest achievement. The restoration of Shortland Wetlands was the first of four wetland restoration projects in the Hunter Estuary. Community participation has been a critical aspect of our work from the earliest days and continues to underpin our operations.
The Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia programs and achievements have resulted in a greater understanding of wetlands in the Hunter region, increasing community support for other major wetland rehabilitation projects. This provides an excellent demonstration of the role education can play to build understanding of wetland values and functions.
As Hunter Wetlands Centre has been in operation for many years, we have supported the development of many new wetland centres with sharing and demonstrations and have also contributed significantly to networking activities across wetland centres both in Australia and NZ.

Top three challenges

Our greatest challenge is fund-raising.
We own and manage the property as well as operate the Visitors Centre and visitors services 7 days/week. We must raise funds to support all of that activity.
Our management is delivered by an experienced Volunteer team. While this is quite an achievement, it also carries a level of uncertainty.
Other challenges are associated with maintaining productive partnerships that allow HWCA to make a contribution beyond our borders.


Interpretation techniques

Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials;Developing nature trails

Visitor centres

Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre; Building / maintaining structures


Working with disabled people; Engaging hard-to-reach groups; Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers

Education and communication

Early years education; Working with primary schools; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials


Auditing / assessing effectiveness; PR and marketing; Running effective administration; Health and safety; Fund-raising; Project planning.

Annual reports provide good information and our members newsletter ‘The Wetlander’ is a great source of stories and activities reporting about what goes on at the centre. We also have the Wetlands Environmental Education Centre run by the NSW Department of Education on site.

Lots of school groups visit the centre every year and use the site to perform curriculum studies and get involved in special events


James Wilson, General Manager

Dr Peter Nelson, Chairman

Tel: 61 2 4951 6466

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