Mudcrabs co-ordinator Ranjith Evas receives 2023 Jack Mundey Environment and Heritage Award
Ranjith Evas, long term Mudcrabs co-ordinator, was recognised for his outstanding work with The Mudcrabs when Canterbury City Council awarded him the Jack Mundey Environment and Heritage Award 2023 at their Australia Day ceremony.
Unfortunately Ranjith was ill and could not attend the Ceremony. Ann Leahy, President of the CRVA did attend the ceremony and received the award on Ranjith’s behalf. Included in the nomination of Ranjith was this statement:
“For over 10 years, Ranjith has been an outstanding and tireless volunteer for the Mudcrabs, a grassroots environmental group who work on the Cooks River. He is also an executive member of the Cooks River Valley Association and has a key role in the organisation, planning and decision making of the Cooks River Valley Association and its affiliated groups. Ranjith has removed mountains of rubbish from the banks of the Cooks River, and coordinated other volunteers supplying them with bags, gloves, and grabbers. His work in the Mudcrabs includes the co-ordination of social media, emails and communication to the 500-strong mailing list, which is a vital part of the success of the group.”
Congratulations Ranjith and thank you for your many years of Caring for Country along the Cooks River.
A recent AAP article was published on the continuing efforts of The Mudcrabs to restore the health of the Cooks River. The photo is from a recent Mudcrabs working bee in the Southbank site alongside the Cooks River at Earlwood
Transforming Australia’s urban rivers
Jacob Shteyman October 8, 2022
Along the banks of Australia’s most polluted urban river, a different species of mudcrab scurries along the flats.
Named for the plastic pincers they use to pick up rubbish, a 600-strong clan of eco warriors, aka The Mudcrabs, is comprised predominantly of retirees from suburbs surrounding Sydney’s Cooks River.
Peter Munro, 73, helped found the landcare group 20 years ago and has seen a dramatic improvement in the river’s health.
“At different points on the river you could once almost walk across the floating litter,” he told AAP.
The Cooks (as locals call it) has been notorious as a toxic sewer, its 23 kilometres snaking brown and murky past residences and industry from its source in the southwest to its artificial mouth at Botany Bay.
The work of the volunteers in restoring the watercourse to its natural state has brought wildlife back to its banks, once dominated by endangered ironbark forest.
One of their successes is the revitalisation of wetlands at Cup and Saucer Creek – formerly a barren concrete drain that now houses native animals and filters stormwater of harmful chemicals.
Mr Munro, who lives two blocks from the river, runs a survey of different birds spotted returning to the renewed ecosystem. The most exciting finds include tawny frogmouths and honeyeaters.
Urban rivers are “massively important” refuges for animals, University of Queensland conservation ecologist Michelle Ward says.
“(Rivers) often meander through cities connecting urban ecosystems like floodplains and wetlands but also nature reserves and parks, all of which play a vital role in threatened species recovery,” she says.
The federal government’s latest State of the Environment report, published in July, highlighted the importance of waterways to the myriad species living in the middle of large cities.
It found 46 per cent of Australia’s threatened species inhabit towns and cities, with several solely reliant on urban river ecosystems.
The western swamp tortoise, Australia’s most critically endangered reptile, was once found in swampland throughout central Perth but overdevelopment has reduced the tiny terrapins to just two populations.
In a recent report card co-authored by Dr Ward for WWF, Australia was given an F for species conservation.
But not all is lost, she says.
Protecting habitat from destruction and filtering pollution out of stormwater drains are crucial but communities can also make a big difference.
“Spaces for urban conservation don’t have to be large. Even if it’s just one old tree on a riverbank that can be a lifeline for many different species,” Dr Ward says.
Having grown up on the Macquarie River in central western NSW, Wiradjuri woman Jennifer Newman struggled to feel the same beloved connection to the Cooks, constrained, as it is in part, within concrete walls.
“When you grow up in a town on the river bank you learn to swim in the river, you fish in the river, you walk along the river,” she says.
“The river is a constant presence in your landscape, in your sense of country.”
Now an executive of the Cooks River Valley Association, Ms Newman believes conservation groups give residents a sense of custodianship over the river.
“It’s a breeding ground, it’s a home, it’s a protection zone. It’s what waters the trees and shrubs and bushes,” she says.
“As we become more tuned in to the growing population of non-human residents we are more able to understand this watercourse to be a living river rather than a drain.”
The Gameygal, Wangal and Cadigal clans had stewardship of the land prior to colonisation and their culture lives on through practices like the Blak Markets ceremonies held at La Perouse to guide whales as they migrate up the NSW coast.
Ms Newman considers the Bare Island ritual a reminder of humanity’s involvement in the whales’ journey.
Everyone has a responsibility to ensure the water that washes off their properties, down the river, into Botany Bay and out to the whale lines is free of chemicals and waste so they continue to come back, she says.
The Mudcrabs carry on this practice of stewardship by using Indigenous-grown seedlings and harnessing traditional planting techniques to revegetate the riverbanks.
More than just healing natural ecosystems, rivercare groups are improving waterways for their human inhabitants as well.
At Deep Rock pool in Melbourne’s inner city, locals brave the frigid, murky water to take a plunge in the Yarra River. Decades of work have gone into reducing pollution and making it safe to swim, although it is still not recommended in the CBD.
Formed during the city’s COVID-19 lockdown, when locals rediscovered neighbourhood parks and waterways, environmental alliance Regen Melbourne plans to make all of the Yarra fit for a dip by 2030.
Mr Munro still hopes one day people will be able to swim in the Cooks River but knows that might be hard to achieve.
In the meantime, he’s not sitting idly by.
“The river is such a unifying bit of geography,” he says.
“It really gives you the drive to bring it back to health.”
Congratulations to Canterbury Council for its great initiative of placing a ‘state of the art’ litter boom in the Cooks River. As can be seen in the above image, the boom appears to be full after just a few days of operation.
The boom has been position adjacent to Boat Harbour, near the Sugar Mill, just below Cup & Saucer Creek. It will be emptied by Sydney Water using a boat. It will be good to assess the difference the boom makes to the floating litter on the River.
A plaque acknowledging the significant contributions of Chris Bartlett to the rehabilitation and re-vegetation of the banks of Cooks River has been erected by Canterbury Council in Rosedale Reserve. This is the place where Chris began his work on the River and where the fledgling Mudcrabs first started to realize Chris’ dream of re-vegetating the banks of the Cooks River with indigenous plants. The plaque is fitting testimony to the vision of an inspirational man who will leave a permanent legacy on the Cooks River.
There was more action down on the River on 19 May 2014. Ian Kiernan (Clean Up Australia) & Jeff Angel (Total Environment Centre & Boomerang Alliance) joined with the Mudcrabs, The Tossers, The CRVA and other community members to demand an immediate introduction of a National Container Deposit Scheme.
The Mudcrabs began work on their new Wave Rock revegetation site today.
This is a join venture between the Mudcrabs, Marrickville Council & Marrickville Golf Course, to increase the native vegetation in the Golf Course, particularly near the River and to increase biodiversity & natural habitat.
A big thank you to Marrickville Council, who is providing the funding for this project.
The Hon Linda Burney,Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Member for Canterbury in the NSW Parliament, responding to the CRVA’s “Sewage In The Cooks River” petition, recently asked the State Government to explain the lack of action on this issue.
Linda Burney with members of the CRVA Executive
Unfortunately the State Govt. choose to not answer the question and gave us a whole lot of weasel words about how much they value the Cooks River.
See attached document for our reaction & comments provided to Linda Burney to allow her to continue the fight in Parliament. comments for Linda2
Canterbury Girls HS will hold a media event on Friday 7.6.13, in association with World Environment Day and the Sea Life Conservation Foundation.
The Sea Life Conservation Foundation has sponsored Canterbury Girls HS to install a water bottle filling station ($5000). The School’s aim is to eliminate the purchase and use of bottled water on site. The School canteen will cease selling bottled water once the filling station is up and running
The School’s slogan for this campaign is
Aim Higher – Postcode 2193 Plastic Bottle Free,
The School plans to make an installation of used water bottles and make a YouTube movie to promote the campaign to be plastic bottle free. The student leadership groups & P & C fully support this goal
Canterbury Girls HS will invite the other schools in the 2193 postcode area to the launch of the event and encourage them to join in the campaign to reduce the litter caused by plastic bottles.
The Cooks River Valley Association and the Mudcrabs commend Canterbury Girls HS for the action and fully support their campaign to make Postcode 2193 plastic bottle free.