Feature Article Research Notes:
The aim of this feature article is to write a story detailing the impact growing metropolitan areas have on the surrounding natural environment. The Werribee River and the metropolitan suburbs that surround it, in this case Werribee (south-west of Melbourne), will serve as my case study and I’ll contact various local organisations and survey many local residents around this issue.
The idea for the article first came to me as I was cycling around the Werribee River and I noticed the sickly blue-green algae floating on top of the surface of the river, and upon further inspection found signs erected warning passer-by’s the dangerousness of the algae. I wanted to know what the cause was for this blue-green algae, and if there was anything being done currently, or any group working towards fixing the problem. I was also interested in survey the public and determining the value and use of the river. While this article will follow my investigation into this specific case, hopefully it will also answer questions surrounding the future of our natural environment and evoke greater significance among the local public.
My first stop was a visit to an elderly couple that were old family friends, and had been living in the area for 40 years, Alasdair and Judith McCallum. They live in a small house in Werribee South, close to the Werribee Beach, where the Werribee River flows into Port Phillip Bay and the Werribee Park, which is the old estate of the wealthy Chirnside family, as well as near several local farms. Alasdair McCallum was particularly helpful with his knowledge as a retired Civil Engineer for the Council of Altona. The couple had been involved in a Friend of Werribee South community group years prior, but which had since been dissolved. They pointed me in the direction of John Forrester, who was once a key member of that Friends Of group and also the director of the Werribee River Association, and Judith made mention of some more info on the Werribee at a Cafe Cache in Werribee Park.
I have come across John Forrester before during my initial internet research of the Werribee River. When I had started my interview with the McCallums I had reached out to him through his email and social media pages on both Facebook and Twitter, and by the time the interview had concluded I had a reply and quickly scheduled an interview. I’ve found the WRIVA website to be a wonderful resource of information about the river, and has has located on it a couple of particularly useful pages, including the 2014 Victorian Election Points for Candidates. John Forrester himself is a registered Riverkeeper, an international title given to people responsible for defending the rights of the river; which are that all rivers should be “swimmable, drinkable, and fishable”.
We met at the Jamieson Way Campus of Carranballac P-9 College, where he works part-time, and we discussed the Werribee River and the problems it faces. During the interview he gave me a couple of really great quotes and information for my feature article; such as how the section of the Werribee River between the Werribee Diversion Weir and the sea is the “most degraded section of a river in Victoria”. As the conversation between me and John Forrester continued, I was provided with an answer concerning the cause of the growth of the blue-green algae in the Werribee River and some helpful information about the algae itself. In short, the algae growth is a result of poor river flow due to the little amount of river water released from the Werribee Diversion Weir. He explained some of the legalities and problems surrounding how much water is allowed to be let out, and also mentioned that he has had a conversation(s) with state members of parliament who have so far been more “receptive” than the previous state government. He expanded the problem the Werribee River faces beyond just the misuse of its limited supply, to rising crisis of litter and pollution.
Both interviewees made mention of the Western Treatment Plant, and John Forrester suggested that the treated water from that plant has the ability to water a variety of root vegetables and be substituted for the water currently being taken from the River. My next stop will be to book a tour at the plant and interview some of the staff. I also want to conduct a survey of local residents and their attitudes towards this issue, and also pay a visit to the Café Cache in Werribee Park. I’m also trying to do some investigate the Werribee Diversion Weir further and where the water is diverted to. The Werribee River is also home to Platypus, something that may be of particular interest to readers. Lastly, I’m yet to contact the two local newspapers of the area, who may provide some insight into why this issue hasn’t been prevalent in recent local media.
I’ve also heard a fair bit about the Werribee Harbour (Marina) that’s being built at the mouth of the Werribee River, but have yet to determine its significance to this particular issue…
WRIVA President John Forrester
Alasdair and Judith McCallum
Phone: 9742 1514
Address: 13 Norman Grove
(It should be noted that I’ve used the interview of the McCallums more as a secondary “back-up” interview and haven’t confirmed with my tutor whether I can use them in the feature article)
WRIVA Website (Werribee River Association)
Melbourne Water Website (Western Treatment Plant)
Wombat State Forest Website (the forest that the Werribee river starts in)