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Venturers Report

Towra Point is the largest wetland of Sydney. It is located 34*S, 151*10E and is 4km from Kurnell on the Southern side of Botany Bay in Sydney, Australia. Botany bay is located on the central coast of NSW, Australia. It is approximately 20km from Sydney. Botany Bay is an oval-shaped bay which is open to the pacific Ocean through the Kurnell and La Perouse Headlands. The Georges River drains into it from the South-west of the bay.

Importance of Towra Point

  • Last large wetland of Sydney region. · Second largest wetland (saltmarsh) in NSW
  • Saltmarsh, rare habitat
  • Sea grass beds; fishing, ecosystem
  • contains 50% of mangroves near Sydney
  • only saltmarsh habitat near Sydney
  • wader and waterfall ( fourth important in NSW in terms of migratory waders)
  • last remaining habitat for some non-migratory bird species
  • rare magenta Lilli Pilli plant found in woodlands
  • major site for wetland research
  • scientific study of environment (35 years, over 60 research projects)
  • Important as bench marks
  • Ramsar site, convention wetlands of International Importance
  • Contains a variety of vegetation - sea grass (600ha), mangroves (400ha), saltmarsh (160ha), eucalypt and Casurina (40ha)

What is a Wetland?

A wetland is a collective term for ecosystems whose formation is dominated by water, whose processes and characteristics; vegetation and other organisms is controlled by water. Wetlands cover 6% of the Earth's surface and range from vast estuaries to small mountain bogs.


Mangroves are tidal forests that grow between the low and high tide marks in many tropical and sub-tropical areas. Mangroves thrive in areas where lowest average temperature is 20*C and have low seasonal range of temperature. Mangroves are adopted to unstable mud conditions and continual tidal flooding.

These adaptations include:

  • silt roots for anchorage
  • Pneumatophores or breathing roots
  • Leathery, shiny and thickened leaves to protect against sun and salt spray.
  • Seeds that germinate while still attached to parent that allows them to grow rapidly when they fall.

Importance of Mangroves

Mangroves and salt marshes are amongst the worlds most productive ecosystems. 2/3 of all fish caught globally breed in wetlands. They are critical to the world's fishing industry, which harvests 100million tones of fish annually. This includes:
  • fishing industry
  • stabilise shorelines against erosion
  • filter out pollutants
  • trap silt washing from land (protects ecosystems)
  • important for biodiversity
  • provide fuelwood, building material, traditional medicine in many developing countries
Mangrove ecosystems are receeding due to a number of factors:
  • Draining for agricultural, timber production and mosquito control.
  • Dredging for channels, navigation and residential development.
  • Filling in for building purposes.

Threats to Towra Point

  1. Erosion of Landforms:

    Changed wave energy entering Botany Bay through dredging a channel to allow ships to enter combined with the hard structure of Sydney Airport runway and Port Botany have created changed water movements and sand erosion and deposition. Sand deposition has covered sea grass beds. While erosion has attacked Towra Beach and the sand spit. "Elephant Trunk" at the western and of Towra Point has been branched in a number of places.
  1. Introduced Species

    Animals (Foxes, Rabbits, Dumped/Stray Cats and Dogs)
    • disturb roosting birds
    • prey on native species
    • compete for food and resting places

    Plants (Lantana, pampas Grass, Bitou Bush)
    • Rapid growth > Monoculture
    • Stops native plants from growing
    • attacks food supplies of native animals
  1. Loss of Freshwater Lagoon:

    The freshwater lagoon has suffered increased overflow of saltwater into the freshwater lagoon during times of high wave energy. The number of incursions of saltwater breeching has increased as the beach infront of the lagoon becomes eroded. The freshwater lagoon provides habitat for invertebrates and plant species which the birds rely on. It's loss has been affecting food chains.

  2. Recreational Use:
    • Popular with boat owners
    • Boats dragging anchors across sea-grass beds
    • Jet-ski's disturb roosting birds
    • minor impact of rubbish
  1. Other Impacts:
    • horse riding
    • dropping weeds
    • nutrients from sewerage treatment plant (eutrophication)

  2. Potential Threats:

    Caltex oil refinery terminal
    • tankers may spill oil
    • cover breathing roots
    • cover sea-grass and saltmarsh
    • kill birds and fish, etc

    Residential development on sand dunes behind Towra Point
    • greater stormwater to wetland
    • greater human movement into area
    • potential for weeds from gardens
  1. Possible, but unlikely:
    • site of future airport
    • canal residential development

Management of Towra Point

Management occurs at a variety of scales
  1. International: RAMSAR site Convention on wetlands of International importance, known as the Ramsar Convention which was signed in 1971, It now covers over 450 wetland sites worldwide with more being added each year. The RAMSAR convention has signatories from 52 nations. Agreements have been signed with governments of China and Japan to protect migratory bird species.

  2. National:

    Nature Reserve - administrated by NSW National Parks and Wildlife
    • higher protection order than a National Park
    • Legislative obligation of NPWS to protect representative samples of NSW vegetation types

    Aquatic Reserve -administered by NSW Department of Fisheries
    • below high tide mark
    • must balance needs of the birds against the economic needs of the fishing industry
    • use zoning to balance competing demands on the area
    • government is now buying up licenses of fisherman to remove commercial fishing from the bay The main problem of Towra is the lack of financial resources to adequately deal with the threats to the ecosystem.
  1. Local: many local groups are helping with the management, such as:
    • North Cronulla Precinct Committee
    • Cronulla Dune and Wetland Alliance
    • Sutherland Shire Council
    • Friends of Towra Point (built sea-wall) Community groups such at Venturer's

Strategies Can Be Implimented at a Variety of Scales


Groups often emerge to address specific issues such as the protection of a local wetland, housing development, waste disposal and other local environment problems. These groups may play an important rule for influencing local government policy. Local government is responsible for planning approvals for activities within it's boundaries through zoning and development strategies. Development approval may require an Environmental Impact Statement which requires how the development will effect existing culture and natural features of the environment. Environmental cultural measures used during development and costing of alternative development measures. Councils can also promote recycling tree-planting and manage land-fill sites councils may set-up Bush management Committees and Catchment management processes.


The regional concept is hard to determine. A region may be determined on the basis of distribution of environment features (vegetation, climate, topography) or cultural features (population features, industry, etc). Therefore, it can be the Sydney Region, the equatorial region, the region serving the Port Hacking catchment or the Botany Bay region. Botany Bay is boarded by 6 councils, each council has joined forces to develop a joint management stategy and monitoring at Botany Bay within their planning guidelines. Countries containing a common characteristic or close geographical proximity may make up a region. the European Unia have formed 4 common economic regions based on the trade and managing common environmental problems between countries. the South Pacific forum focuses on common environmental threats such as sea-level rise due to global warming, nuclear testing, drift-net fishing.


Governments are able to make laws that regulate the behavior of individuals and corporations - the Australian constitution sets off the level of government responsibility between State and Federal governments. Both of these levels have a Minister of government agencies. In NSW, there is the NSW National Parks and Wildlife services, NSW fisheries and the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In NSW State, the Key body is the Environmental Protection Agency which has the ability to approve and reject large scale developments that are likely to impact on fragile ecosystems. The NSW land and Environment court also has the power to reject development proposals. The Federal Government signs international agreements for ecosystem protection such as World Heritage Act and RAMSAR listing.


International co-operation acknowledges that the Earth's ecosystems are being affected by global problems and need collective International support

Non-Government Organisations

NGO's are becoming increasingly important player's of environment management. They are especially strong at local levels where their actions have affected land use regulation's and providing hands on work (Friends of Towra point). NGO's have to balance radical action to gain media attention against the public backlash such actions may create.
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