On the outskirts of Newcastle the Hunter Wetlands Centre is living proof of nature's extraordinary capacity to rebound from the brink of oblivion.
The five ponds spread across the 45 hectare reserve were little more than cracked and dried-up puddles only five months ago.
Many of the resident birds that hadn't perished had shot through in search of greener homes.
The main pond was 500 millimetres deep. Today, thanks to good rainfall across the Lower Hunter in the past few months it has returned to a depth of four metres.
"You wouldn't recognise it today," wetlands manager Ken Bayliss says pointing to a pair of black swans that are busy building a nest.
"We counted 28 spoonbills and about 50 magpie geese the other day. It's amazing how nature works."
At its worst Hunter Water trucked in three million litres of water to keep the wetlands alive.
"The ecology of wetlands is that they dry up from time to time and then fill up again, but it was so disheartening watching waterbirds suffer because there wasn't enough water," Mr Bayliss said.
The wetlands centre averages about 40,000 visitors a year but, like other not-for-profit organisations, it has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is hoping to turn the corner when it reopens its doors to visitors on Monday.
"It's going to be a soft opening between Monday and Friday for now," Mr Bayliss said.
"Hopefully we will be back to normal before long."
The Hunter Wetlands Centre is adjacent to the broader Hunter Wetlands National Park that extends from Hexham in the west to Stockton and Fern Bay in the east
The park's wetland's are listed under the international Ramsar convention on Wetlands due to their exceptional environmental and conservation values.
It also contains the second largest area of mangroves in the state and extensive areas of coastal saltmarsh.
A plan of management released in March noted that, despite the park's international significance, there was little awareness and appreciation of the wetland system in the general community.
It also highlights climate change as a risk to biodiversity and the size of future populations within the park.
"Species most at risk are those unable to migrate or adapt, particularly those with small population sizes or with slow growth rates," the plan says.
But immediate challenges included maintaining the park within a highly modified and evolving estuarine environment.
"Key challenges for park management are the significant predicted growth in the Hunter Region's population, the growing popularity of outdoor recreational activities and the neighbouring port, which is the largest coal exporting port in the world." the report said.
"It is recognised that reinstating the original wetland environment is not achievable throughout the park.
"Instead, the primary management objectives are to protect the internationally important wetlands and to provide for sustainable visitor use and enjoyment."
The management plan also aims to increase shorebird, fish and estuarine habitats and rehabilitate estuarine and freshwater wetlands through water management and mangrove removal.
Another project is the remediation of acid sulphate soils that have inundated large areas of the wetland.
Manage the Ramsar-listed wetland to reduce the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation by restoring and protecting habitat and diversity, and through implementing appropriate pest and weed control programs.
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