THE miners of the fledgling mining town of Wonthaggi needed leisure time activity, so in 1911 the Commonwealth Government set aside 500 acres (208 hectares) for a rifle range.
Situated on the south-western edge of the town, the Wonthaggi Rifle Club operated from 1911-77. The area was gradually cleared, fenced and grazed. In the 1970s it supported 40 head of cattle, a central red metal track to the butts, three dams and a couple of eucalypts. Many old-time locals will recollect the red flag denoting a shooting day, the route to the Back Beach, collecting lead bullets from the butts to make sinkers, or mushrooming there.
In 2005, with the grazing lease rescinded and a grant from the Commonwealth Games Tree Planting Project to offset carbon produced by preparation for the Olympic Games, the revegetation of the site began. The area was to be a demonstration of direct seeding (Burford, Ripper and Mouldboard methods) on 23 hectares, using 40 kilograms of indigenous seed, as well as 2000 shrubs and trees planted on September 26, 2001: [go and have a look – from a bare paddock to this growth in 11 years].
With an Australian Government Community Water Grant in 2006, the second stage began, with wetlands sculptured by consultants Tony Brindley and Tony Dalla Rosa. The created a large shallow wetland, frog pond and a deeper pool – to purify water en route to the Powlett, to mitigate flooding and to provide habitat for flora and fauna. (An ex `Thaggi boy, Tony Della Rosa could remember as a boy making a tin canoe at the tip and rowing over these flooded paddocks to the Powlett.)
Next came the planting of the wetlands with an Australian Government Envirofund Grant in 2007. This allowed a team to research/propagate/plant out the wetlands, the provision of education material (pamphlet, information board) and amenities (a bird hide, paths, fencing, carpark, tracks). This project won the Victorian Coastal Awards for excellence in the water quality section in 2007.
Parks Victoria has since built steps to access the butts – this affords an excellent view of the Rifle Range and the surrounding area.
Many groups participated in the projects: Cape Paterson Coastal Plains Landcare, Friends of Wonthaggi Heathland and Coastal Reserve, Wonthaggi Seedbank, South Gippsland Conservation Society, Pensioners’ Association, Greencorps, Conservation Volunteers Abroad and the general public on planting days.
What a great asset for our town. The reserve abuts the Wonthaggi Heathland, so you can walk from Reed Crescent to Harmers Haven via bush tracks. Walk in the footsteps of our early miners – appreciate what’s on our doorstep.