Gav’s world

IT was too late for the giant western dragonfly and the blue wren, but one-man army Gavin Waugh is bringing new life back to Bull Creek Park.

When the Chook last visited the small catchment area that runs alongside Karel Avenue in 2016, three-metre high blackberry bushes choked the waterway and bushwalkers were confronted by an impenetrable wall of papyrus.

But Mr Waugh has blasted the blackberries with a single-minded vision and while tackling 1000sqm of papyrus has uncovered a long-lost billabong.

• Gavin Waugh rediscovered this beautiful billabong strangled in weeds in Bull Creek Park and says it could become a great local attraction. Photo by Steve Grant


He proudly points to thick native reeds that have taken just a year to line the small lake and says it could eventually become a great local tourist attraction.

There’s just that last stubborn stand of the papyrus, circled like the doomed ancient Egyptians facing the Roman swords.

Mr Waugh’s also quietly culling invasive Sydney wattles, wary that tree-lovers aren’t always appreciative of his efforts.

But he says the wattles are indicative of Melville council’s failures at the park, saying without effective weed management they’ve stifled the undergrowth that was once home to the blue wren.

“Signage describing the giant western dragonfly (Petalura hesperia) epitomises the City of Melville attitude: ‘We hope it is still there’,” he groans.

“Habitat identification has not been done and management plans have not been devised to protect the dragonfly habitat.

“The dragonfly is now extinct at this location through City of Melville failures.”

Mr Waugh has fought a very public battle against the council after it tried to sack him as a volunteer for creating a stir. He was banned from doing any works at the park for a while, but says they seemed to have reached a detente; he has to fund all his own plantings, but is mostly left alone.

• The giant western dragonfly no longer graces Bull Creek Park. Photo WA Museum


Things are also a little frosty with the local catchment group, which he reckons keeps killing seedlings by planting them in the wrong place.

“I notice they’ve been working more and more in my area, though,” he notes wryly.

Earlier this week he funded four bat boxes which were installed by East Fremantle bat guru Joe Tonga to help tackle mosquitoes, and says they were studiously ignored by the catchment group who were working just 150 metres away.

“Such is the politics in Bull Creek.”

Mr Waugh says work for the dole ‘volunteers’ are also the bane of his existence, as they keep standing on native plants in order to reach the weeds, and have created dozens of unnecessary tracks through the bush, while a willy wagtail’s nest has also been disturbed.

But for all the challenges, the place is looking a million bucks, and recently a couple of protected rainbow bee eaters have been spotted.

Mr Waugh says because of the improved quality of the bush, he’s also seen the return of black cockatoos, a goshawk, the rare bittern as well as half a dozen other species.

Sadly, as the creek winds around the corner between Rossmoyne Senior High School and All Saints College the good news ends and there’s barely a native plant or a bit of water to be seen.

Mr Waugh says part of the problem is that there’s no co-ordination between the 10 volunteer groups that are active in the lower Bull Creek wetlands and catchment, saying it points to a “divide and conquer” attitude in the council’s environmental management.


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