Elaine Tregear describes Moonee Ponds Creek in northwestern Melbourne as “a giant gutter” these days, but when she grew up, it was a different story.
- Moonee Ponds Creek was lined with concrete in the 1960s to prevent flooding
- A decades-long campaign by locals to restore the creek has paid off
- About $ 7 million will be used to restore 500 meters of the so-called ‘giant gutter’
“We had yabbies, we had the rabbits around the place, it was a natural playground, and it was safe,” she said.
She lived right on the shore at Oak Park, remembering her father dragging boulders down to the creek so they could cross it to collect mushrooms on the other side.
“Further down, in front of where I stand now, there was a good swimming hole, not really deep, it was not over your head,” she said.
Every year, she said, the creek would flood the hob and get right up to her back door.
That was what prompted authorities to pour concrete along the length of the creek, from Oak Park and Strathmore, through the suburbs of Brunswick and Flemington, to where the creek meets the bay — more than eight miles[8 km]of concrete.
‘Magical’ return of wildlife is expected
It has taken decades of community lobbying, but now the Victorian government has agreed to a $ 7 million plan that will see the first 500 meters of concrete dug up right where Elaine used to live and Moonee Ponds Creek restored.
The plan involves the removal of nearly 700 tons of concrete, planting of original plants, installation of six rocky paths, places to sit and separate bike and hiking trails.
Work will begin in early 2022.
Anna Lanigan moved to the area in the 1980s and has since struggled to restore the creek.
“I never thought I would live to see it,” she said.
She said people could see what the benefits would be of looking straight upstream, beyond the concrete, past what she called “the big gap”.
“Just beyond that bit of concrete, I find Australian reed warblers, we get adventures, we’ve had sacred kingfishers,” she said.
She said the plan to restore this part of the creek would accommodate local people as well as wildlife.
“When we restore the habitats of our little birds, it will be our sign of success,” she said.
Her friend and neighbor, Nina Franceschi, has also been lobbying to have the concrete removed for nearly 30 years, saying she almost gave up.
Creek part of ‘chain of ponds’
Locals hope this is the start of a longer view of Moonee Ponds Creek through the so-called Chain of Ponds partnership, which connects local councils, water authorities and user groups along the catchment area.
Chain of Ponds co-leader Rachel Lopes said part of the brief for this section was to make it replicable so everyone could get the most out of the creek.
“I think people turn to it and value it as a river, a river and a beautiful place to be,” she said.
“People love to come down by their river, so it’s really important to spend money now in these urban areas, and hopefully it will continue.”
Danny Pearson, MP for Essendon, said the state government would consider funding to restore the rest of the creek.
He described the restoration of the first section as a benefit to society,
“Not only will we transform a section of Moonee Ponds Creek from a concrete canal to a visually appealing inland urban waterway, we are improving its biodiversity and water quality,” he said.