REX SALLUR was one of the recipients of a life membership and is one of the many long-term volunteers who’ve contributed to The Wetlands Centre.
His involvement started in the early 1980s, sparked by a band of about 100 uni students, conservationists and residents who linked arms in front of bulldozers to try and prevent Cockburn and Melville councils extending Farrington Road through the Beeliar wetlands.
Although he had a love of nature from his childhood, where he and mates sailed between Lake Monger’s bullrushes in canoes made out of corrugated iron scavenged from the local tip and asphalt torn from the edges of roads in summer, he mightn’t have stood out as a greenie.
“I actually had my own concrete truck, and I was actually delivering concrete at the time, into that corridor where they built the first bit of St Paul’s,” Mr Sallur said.
“I’m spitting this concrete out and thinking ‘what am I doing’.”
He joined a Wetlands Conservation Society that had just been formed by Phil Jennings, at the time a professor of physics and energy at Murdoch University and key organiser of the Farrington Road protests, and now regarded as one of WA’s most esteemed conservation authorities.
At that time Prof Jennings had just got the Wetlands Centre up and running, but there were virtually no facilities and no staff.
“Phil rang me one day and said we need a stand-in facilitator,” Mr Sallur said.
“I know a bit about the environment, but not academically, so I took it over for six months and I got through with the held of the teachers who knew a bit about it.”
The centre eventually employed Denise Crosbie as its wetlands officer and Mr Sallur says her knowledge and commitment made it the success it has become.
“She was so good at the different fields; financial things, planning, weed control; and she was a working, down there laying retic with us everywhere.”
Mr Sallur became landcare officer where his practical knowledge shone, and said he loved coming down from his Coolbellup home.
“You walk in spring though a misty and sort of damp night, and that brings out the eucalyptus smell and I thought ‘this is just beautiful’.
He’d maintain the machinery and would coordinate groups to follow up Mr Crosbie’s work preparing new areas for planting.
“You know what, in those 25 years the amount of wetland plants – wading in and putting reeds in, it would have run into the tens of thousands,” Mr Sallur said
He’s particularly proud of their efforts which have created the green gateway to The Wetlands Centre.
“This side of Hope Road where it hits Bibra Drive down at the roundabout, that was pretty sparse except four about 30 big trees. So with three plantings in ’96, ’97, ’98 we put just over 2000 plants ion, and they’re now eight or so metres tall and I drive by and think ‘ooh, look at that’.
“At that time, a lot of people thought ‘native trees and shrubs; put ‘em in, give ‘em a water and that’s it’.
“But I was up here at 6am in the morning in summer, watering from the tank in the ute, but I had to make about three trips up there, from the bore.
“I thought ’bugger this’, so one day I got a four inch trenching shovel and dug a trench from the bore, 400 metres up to Bibra Drive, under roots and over roots.
“I call it the Bibra Lake O’Connor Pipeline – the one you can’t see.”
by STEVE GRANT