IT WAS by chance that photographer David Rennie stumbled on to the “massive degradation” of Mandurah’s wetlands but it hasn’t stopped him from campaigning for its protection.
Within a period of a few years, a site which Rennie took photos at turned from a functioning wetland to a thick, mud-like substance.
“In this area a few years before I had walked across this hard stuff while taking photos,” Rennie said.
“When I went to walk across it again I suddenly found myself waist-deep in mud.
“I thought I’d end up dying there that day; I couldn’t get out of it.
“I had to swim out and it took me three-and-a-half hours.
“I didn’t understand what this black ooze was, then I started looking back at photos.”
Rennie found where there were no longer any birds, thriving trees, fish or crabs.
When he took the matter to the Catchment Council, he found even though the wetlands were a Ramsar-protected site it didn’t mean much.
Australia signed the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1970s and was a treaty which aimed at halting the worldwide loss of wetlands and conserving those which remained.
“Australia thought Ramsar was so important that it was the first to sign up to it,” Rennie said.
“It’s now 2014 and the Federal Government has still not put Ramsar into law so we still have no protection over the waterways.
“Ramsar means nothing.”
Rennie will be hosting An Evening with David Rennie and Friends to shine light on the issue.
He said he hoped by showing how important the waterways were, people would start trying to make a difference through local volunteer groups.
“The public needs to stand-up; enough is enough,” Rennie said.
“We need to work with nature.
“Forget about what it is doing to the birds, think about what it means for us.
“When the rivers overflow, the waterways soak all of that up and slows it down.
“It’s also a filtration system … and even more critical today, it’s a carbon holder.
“If a wetland is taken away it puts carbon monoxide into the atmosphere; more carbon is put into the atmosphere per year from that than cars.”
The evening will include performances from the Binjarreb Middars dance group and the Madjitil Moorna choir, as well as a recital from nature poetess Annamaria Weldon, an address by 2013 Peel Volunteer of the Year Pip Newman and Rennie’s artistic visual tribute to the Peel Harvey region which forms the introduction to his new book, Art in Nature.
The event will be at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre on December 10.
For more information on An Evening with David Rennie and Friends go to manpac.com.au