Tag Archives: Melbourne Water

Council pushes back against Christmas Hills land sale

THE NILLUMBIK Council meeting in April considered a request by Melbourne Water to make amendments to the Nillumbik Planning Scheme to facilitate the sale of land in Christmas Hills.
As the Diary reported during the community consultation phase in 2018, Melbourne Water has determined the proposed Watsons Creek Water Catchment is not necessary and so is seeking to subdivide and sell off the land that has been set aside for that project.
In its Land Use Survey, Melbourne Water divided the land into 43 parcels, which they seek to dispose of following rezoning, of which 22 lots would be below the minimum subdivision size in the Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ).
Melbourne Water has indicated it is also seeking to provide controls on lots under the minimum lot size and with significant vegetation/bushfire constraints to prevent future development.
Council is looking to ensure the undersized blocks are unable to be built on in the future.
However, Cr Karen Egan noted that some people who purchased land in the last land sale were caught by a similar provision, when they purchased the land expecting to build their dream home in paradise, but then discovered they were unable to obtain a building permit.
She advocated for a community education program around the sale to ensure no one gets caught like that again.
Councillors met with Melbourne Water representatives in March for a briefing about the requested changes to the planning scheme.
The briefing raised several points including traditional owners’ rights, bushfire management, inappropriately sized blocks, and the future of the Mechanics Institute and tennis courts.
In a letter to Council on March 31, Melbourne Water said the Mechanics Hall and the tennis courts are currently within Public Use Zone 1 (PUZ1).

“This zone cannot be retained on the land due to the surplus nature of the land with respect to Melbourne Water’s ownership.
An alternate zone is required.”

The letter said the community has indicated a desire to retain both the Mechanics Institute Hall and the tennis courts as publicly available assets.

“Melbourne Water has proposed to facilitate this through the Masterplan and rezoning which supports Council purchase and ownership of this land through application of the PUZ6 (Local Government).
However, if Council are unable to purchase the land an alternate zoning (not a public land zone) will be required that still facilitates use by the community.”

Melbourne Water then suggested the Mechanics’ Institute Hall should come within Rural Conservation zoning as the property is privately owned.
At the April Council meeting, representatives from Christmas Hills Landcare, CFA and other groups used public question time to request Council meet with them about the land sale and the impacts on the existing community.
Mayor Peter Perkins advised the groups that Council would indeed facilitate a future meeting with the Christmas Hills community representatives.
Deliberations were then made at the April Ordinary Council Meeting regarding Council’s role within the divestment.
Sugarloaf Ward Councillor, Ben Ramcharan moved a motion rejecting the proposed amendments to the planning scheme.
“We know the land is going to be sold, it has to be sold, that is a fact and what we need to do is work with the Community, Melbourne Water, and the Land Planning Service to limit the impact of this on the local environment and local community,” Cr Ramcharan said.
The tennis courts were built using bushfire relief funding and are very well valued by the Christmas Hills community, and are managed by a committee of management and run as a not-for-profit.
“It is about the community meeting together in a community space,” said Cr Ramcharan.
A spokesperson for the Christmas Hills community, David Evans said the tennis courts are already managed by the Mechanic’s Hall committee, and their hope is the courts could be incorporated into a title that includes the hall.
“The courts could not be gifted to the committee as it is a private entity, so we hope that the Council could be some sort of intermediary in that respect.
The Council officer’s report noted Melbourne Water’s proposal would cause a huge impost on council in facilitating often complex planning applications, be a financial burden on council with an increased population requiring additional infrastructure, such as roads, and highlighted the additional work that CFA will need to undertake in mitigation works.
Council unanimously voted on a three-point motion.

That Council:

  • Does not support the proposed amendment to the Nillumbik Planning Scheme by Melbourne Water to facilitate the divestment of its land at Christmas Hills in its current form for the reasons identified in this report.
  • Authorises the Mayor to write to the Minister for Planning and local MPs requesting that the Christmas Hills Tennis Courts be retained by Melbourne Water or gifted to Council in order to protect it as a valuable community asset.
  • Directs officers to work with councillors and the Christmas Hills community to prepare a submission to the future Government Land Planning Service Advisory Committee process in consideration of the proposed amendment.

The motion will, in effect, remove Council from overseeing the planning scheme amendment and will see them only as a submitter to the Government Land Planning Service Advisory Committee (GLPSAC).
However, Council has agreed to advocate on behalf of the Christmas Hills Community during any future consultation.
Doug Evans told the Diary the community was happy that the Council chose not to support Melbourne Water’s proposal.
“We hope we can find a position both Council and the community can support and speak together with one voice when GLPSAC have their submission phase.”

Not just for Christmas

Pictured: Veroncia Holland, Doug Evans and Sally Brennan

RESIDENTS of Christmas Hills have had their concerns heard regarding the consultation process around the Melbourne Water land disposal with Lisa Neville, Minister for Water calling on Melbourne Water to extend their consultation period.

As reported in the June Diary, the community are concerned that Melbourne Water is taking a short-term view of the divestment of 1,000Ha of land being sold off, now that the decision has been made not to construct the Watsons Creek Storage Reservoir (WCSR).

Melbourne Water met with residents in May seeking community input into how the land should be configured and which zoning would be most appropriate for the land.

Local residents and representatives of the Christmas Hills Landcare Group, Veronica Holland and Doug Evans spoke with the Diary and said that the consultation since the May public forums and their subsequent Melbourne Water Options Development Report — Christmas Hills Land Use Study (ODR) has been non-existent.

“Just deathly silence,” said Ms Holland.

However, she said that Nillumbik Council has been put in a “wonderful report that just outlines all the planning regulations that don’t seem to be mentioned in Melbourne Water’s report”.

“It starts off by saying that the land can only be sold once, so you have to be sure that the use of the land before you sell it is what you want it to be into the future,” Ms Holland said.

The Council’s Draft Assessment report highlights what it says are a number of deficiencies that are evident in the ODR. When the document was tabled at the Nillumbik Futures Committee meeting, the Council heard how the “ODR outlined the key considerations that have informed the development of the, largely residential-led, land use options proposed for the ‘study area’”.

“Council’s draft Assessment Report highlights concern with the lack of evidence to demonstrate how Melbourne Water has considered and is seeking to implement key State Green Wedge policies and objectives.

“Further, there are a number of statutory planning concerns about implementing the residential outcomes shown in the ODR” the meeting’s minutes note.

Nillumbik Councillor Jane Ashton spoke to the Diary at the time of the July meeting and said that Melbourne Water need to “look higher-level, they have to look to what the State Government is saying about Green Wedges moving into the future.

“We think what they have done is pretty simplistic, if they define ‘best use’ basically meaning how many residential blocks can you get in there, we think ‘best use’ is not that, it is preserving Ponylands and Wanneroo and Rob Roy.

“I love Christmas Hills, it is an absolute microcosm of what the Green Wedge can be — you’ve got all these amenities, you have got walking trails and tracks, you’ve got a sailing club — how many people have got a sailing club like that with views like that?”

Mr Evans said that Melbourne Water’s approach “appears to be a shorter term outlook than what the community wants, which is longer term — how do we protect the values of this place for the long term?”

“How do we protect the potential for agriculture and contributing to Melbourne’s food bowl for the long term?

“How do we protect what community values here in the long term?

“Whereas Melbourne Water ’s approach, from our increasingly cynical point of view, has been a shorter term, ‘what is in it for us quick, which is how do we get more houses in there and make more money’,” he said.

He and Ms Holland say the current community have a feeling of stewardship over this place, “it’s not something to be exploited, it is something to be appreciated and protected forever”.

“Chop it up and put a house on it and you have lost that potential forever, keep it as big as possible and use it in ways that don’t preclude agriculture in the future is much better,” he said.

Sally Brennan is the Labor candidate for Eildon, which includes Christmas Hills, in the forthcoming State election.

Ms Brennan has met with local residents and raised the community’s concerns directly with the Minister for Water and she is calling on Melbourne Water to engage further with the community to understand these views.

Ms Brennan is calling on Melbourne Water to take a long term view within the context of what is best for Christmas Hills, what’s best for the environment and what is best for the long term future of the land.

Liberal Member for Eildon, Cindy McLeish told the Diary that the Andrews government is “hell bent on selling land in order to pay for big infrastructure projects in the city”.

“Those land sales, and the potentially inappropriate development that follows, pose a big risk to the amenity of our local area”.

She said that she had called on the Minister to ensure that Melbourne Water conducts transparent and robust community consultation to ensure local resident’s views are incorporated into the development of a Master Plan for the Christmas Hills land.

“I was concerned that only two options were put to the residents when in fact the consultants had developed three options,” she said.

Minister Neville has told the Diary that this is a “once in a generation opportunity to protect and enhance the environmental and community assets of Christmas Hills by identifying options for the disposal of land in the area currently owned by Melbourne Water”.

“As part of this process, we want to ensure the community’s voice is heard on the Master Plan for the area, so I’ve asked Melbourne Water to extend the independent assessment following concerns raised by community members,” she said.

A spokesperson from Melbourne Water told the Diary they are continuing to review the range of feedback that has been received related to the draft Master Plan for land in the Christmas Hills area.

“We recognise that, while we have undertaken significant community engagement and consultation, some concerns remain.

“We also acknowledge there are further opportunities for Melbourne Water to engage with stakeholders and the community and we’re committed to doing this.”

The spokesperson said “as a first step, we are working closely with Nillumbik Shire Council in response to their detailed submission to our draft Master Plan and considering the importance of this process, we want to allow appropriate time for these discussions”.

Melbourne Water has said it will provide the community with another update later in the year and is “currently looking at further opportunities for stakeholders and the community to engage with Melbourne Water” before the draft Master Plan is finalised.

Mr Evans says that more consultation in itself is not the complete answer.

“It is not just more consultation per se, I think we would only be interested in more consultation if there was a genuine shift in focus to the long term view.

“We need to see the current position, has it changed from what has been presented to us previously, if it hasn’t changed there is not a lot of value in meeting again to say yes there is no change,” he said.

“We want the end result to reflect the principles of the Green Wedge, it should be in the largest lots possible under the Green Wedge provisions because now that it is public ownership, one ownership, they can address the problems of small lots within the Green Wedge by consolidating them, and if you do that you have basically created, or preserved, what is this unique place close to Melbourne,” said Ms Holland.

Ms Brennan said: “it is very much the context of the consultation…which is what is best for the future, what is best for the community, what is best for Christmas Hills, what is best for Melbourne”.

“This is a unique opportunity to look at a piece of land that we as Victorians, and certainly as residents of Christmas Hills, seek a stewardship role over to protect for the future — not a short term solution, one that gets rid of the problem for Melbourne Water.

“For a whole range of reasons, there has been a disconnect between the process that Melbourne Water has undertaken and those long term aspirations of the community — so what we need to do is bring it back together — it needs to include a much more broad-ranging, longterm solution, that includes the expectations of this community, which are about protecting the Green Wedge, protecting the integrity of that land.

“This is a rare opportunity to do something important and valuable and in fact to make it better than it was,” Ms Brennan said.

McMansion fears in Christmas Hills

MELBOURNE Water has announced it plans to sell-off 1000 hectares of land in Christmas Hills following a decision not to proceed with the Watson’s Creek Storage Reservoir.

Melbourne Water has engaged consultants, Spiire Australia to prepare a study for the land previously identified for the reservoir.

The project team called for submissions late last year and has now embarked on a period of community consultation.

During a series of information sessions held last month, Associate Planner at Spiire, Erica Fox, told attendees a decision had been made by Melbourne Water that the reservoir was no longer practical to build, therefore legislation dictated that the land must be divested from the authority’s land holdings.

The project team were frank in their advice to the meeting that some form of change is inevitable.

“There will be change in the study area, because you are going from publicly owned land that has essentially been locked up for 40 years to land that is privately owned,” Ms Fox told residents.

“To sell that land we need to ensure that it is in the appropriate zone which means it can no longer be in a Public Use Zone, something that only applies to public land and it needs to be put into what we call an underlying zone,” she said.

The divestment also frees up the privately held land that was under a Public Acquisition Overlay.

At the meeting, a number of options were presented to the community to gather feedback on the most appropriate zone to be applied to the area, and how to restructure the existing 112 lots that are currently owned by Melbourne Water.

Residents were told that 280Ha will be transferred to the Warrandyte Kinglake Nature Conservation Reserve, however the remaining 720Ha will be sold off on the open market.

“The land use study provides direction on appropriate planning controls and subdivision patterns, reflect the area’s constraints and opportunities; they will be implemented by a planning scheme amendment,” said Ms Fox.

Residents of Christmas Hills have voiced their concerns, firstly about the consultation process, but also that the sell-off will impact the character of the small rural community.

Spokesperson for the Christmas Hills Community Group, Veronica Holland, told the Diary what Melbourne Water were offering was either a “bad choice or a worse choice”.

“There has been no attempt to look at what Christmas Hills is and what it can offer the future planning of Melbourne.

“Melbourne Water has seen it as an opportunity to carve it up into smaller blocks and make money out of it.

“So we don’t agree with what they are doing, but these sessions have been designed not to include any discussion about anything other than Melbourne Water’s preferred option,” she said.

Media Manager for Melbourne Water, David Walsh told the Diary the way that it is planned to be broken up will potentially end up with between 18 and 30 new dwellings.

“It is a big area, but with the constraints, there will not be a massive amount of development taking place,” he said.

Local resident Sandy Jeffs disagrees, for the community of only 300 people another 20–30 houses is around a 20 per cent increase in the number of people living in the area.

“It is a big influx of people,” said Ms Jeffs, “people will build McMansions and try and cut the trees down and bring their horses and have their hobby farms.

“The whole character of Christmas Hills could change — it is a mix of rural and bushland, people nestled away in behind — you don’t see all the houses, and for us it is going to be a change of character,” she said.

A statement issued by Nillumbik Council to the Diary noted that any zoning decisions will be made by the State Government, it would not be a Council decision.

However, should permission to rezone be given, then further permission for any future housing would still need to be sought from Nillumbik Shire Council.

“We will continue to advocate for sensible planning outcomes consistent with land use in the area, with Council having a management role over the Rob Roy facility which should remain as Crown land,” the statement said.

“We are currently considering the various draft options by Melbourne Water as well as views of our community that have been expressed throughout the process to date.

“We will make our views known to the water authority and the community after thorough consideration,” it continued.

Last year the State Government brought in changes to the bushfire regulations which Ms Fox said have changed the requirements for land that is to be rezoned or subdivided.

“It needs to meet more stringent requirements for bushfire protection, previously we could meet BAL19 … because of the change to the legislation in late November, we now have to meet BAL12.5 which means a much larger area of defendable space is required.

“The result of this is that we have gone back and re-looked at the bushfire constraints for this area to work out the areas that no longer meet those requirements.

“So it has resulted in additional lots that won’t be able to be developed from a bushfire perspective,” said Ms Fox.

She told the meeting that many of these undevelopable lots will be marketed as “undevelopable lots” which could be suitable as offset properties, where the land will be set aside to offset land clearing in other areas.

The meeting included a round table discussion where residents could discuss the plans at a block-by-block level, establishing a preference for different zoning in each precinct, and how the various lots should be consolidated to allow the best outcomes both for the existing community and for the future development of the area in line with Green Wedge provisions.

Many options were a choice between RCZ3 or RCZ4 — either 8Ha or
40Ha blocks.

Veronica Holland believes this consultation and the subsequent internet survey treats the residents of Christmas Hills “like sheep”.

“There is no opportunity for deviating from agreement with Melbourne Water’s preferred option; no chance to object to rezoning of land to RCZ3 and the subsequent development of a small hobby farm, no chance to look at Christmas Hills as a whole,” Ms Holland said.

“At no point in the process has the vision or opportunity been looked at.

“Melbourne Water has manipulated the consultation process and almost cherry picked the planning scheme to support what they want to do, which is to maximise their financial gain.”

David Walsh says that Melbourne Water has to fit in with the Nillumbik planning scheme, “we cannot do something different through here because it was our land, it all has to comply with the planning scheme,” he said.

“People love what they have got at the moment, and what we are trying to do is make sure anything we do stays in line with the current feel of the area.”

Veronica Holland said it has been the long drawn-out decision on the dam that has forged the character of Christmas Hills in the first place.

“Ironically it is because Melbourne Water put on the Public Acquisition Overlay meant that it escaped the eagle-eye of speculative developers and people who wanted to build their McMansions… introducing hobby farms will bring people with urban expectations into the area… they will destroy the landscape and, because many of those blocks have nice views, you can see that they will attract people who want to build their McMansion to take advantage of the nice views and don’t realise that the view out destroys the view in,” she said.

“For so long it was up in the air and they hadn’t made a decision, said Sandy Jeffs, “so for us, we have been there 40 years, it has been 40 years of bliss because they hadn’t made a decision.

“It is Christmas every day here in Christmas Hills, we worry that as the roads are upgraded there are more houses more traffic more people it just brings in another level of complexity that we don’t want”.

Not all residents are pessimistic about the future of Christmas Hills, Narelle Campbell, from community group Rural Link told the Diary that she believed it would be “much better than another dam, which is what the land was bought for”.

She said the Melbourne Water proposal “appears to be balanced and reasonable and makes a genuine effort to consider the social, economic and environmental challenges”.

“We are pleased that a mix of landholding sizes and types is recommended, that rural residential lots are planned to be of suitable size for development, that the State Park allocation is progressing, and public spaces like Rob Roy, the Community Hall and tennis court are left in situ for the community.

“We will continue to work with Melbourne Water to promote the sustainability of the rural Nillumbik Green Wedge.”

Veronica Holland hopes a compromise can be reached.

“I am trusting in the Green Wedge Provisions, the planning provisions … I think it is possible that Melbourne Water can get quite a few very saleable lots without destroying the integrity of Christmas Hills as it is now.

“We want to preserve the integrity of the area — we want to preserve the idea of the scattered settlement and we don’t want to ruin the landscape value of the area, but we do want people to see it is such an asset in terms of its biodiversity and its high environmental values.”

There will be a long process before the final decisions have been made, as Erica Fox explained:

“Because Melbourne Water is a government authority, any land it seeks to sell needs to go through the Government Land Planning Service and that land service acts as an independent planning panel to assess and review the proposed Planning Scheme Amendment and the master plan we are proposing.

“It will then provide its own period of public consultation.”

She told the meeting the planning service will have a six-week submission period followed by a series of panel hearings that are anticipated to occur later this year.

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Manningham Council to review and develop budget on stormwater drains

THE TOPOGRAPHY of Manningham and the noticeably wetter weather we are experiencing means flooding is becoming a real and regular issue for residents. In a move to combat this, Manningham Council passed a supplementary motion to improve, prioritise and ultimately increase maintenance, development and budget of Manningham’s drainage network at their council meeting on September 26.

Earlier in the proceedings, Council passed a motion to continue to proceed the Land Subject to Inundation Overlay (LSIO) and Special Building Overlay Schedule 1 (SBO1) to Panel but abandon SBO2 and SBO3. LSIO and SBO overlays are already part of Manningham’s planning process but Amendment C109 is designed to “introduce and/or review the application….in relation to 10,300 properties in Manningham” which have been identified by Melbourne Water and Council as at risk of flooding if a 1–in-100-year storm occurs.

The three new SBO schedules are designed to identify who the responsible authority is and if the flooding is likely to be above or below 100mm.

The motion put forward is to continue to take LSIO and SBO1 to Panel, these overlays will be applied to properties which are built on a natural floodplain or who are at risk of flooding due to “Melbourne Water assets”.

SBO2 and SBO3, which have been abandoned for the moment were to be applied to properties which are subject to flooding due to Manningham Council assets and where stormwater is likely to flood above 100mm (SBO2) or up to 100mm (SBO3).

As a result of this alternate motion being passed, Cr Mcleish put forward a supplementary motion which will use the information collected and the current budget allowance of $10.8M to “prepare a plan to increase that investment for the next budget”.

At the meeting, Cr McLeish said: “Our community hasn’t been aware of the moves we have been making because they are lost in the detail of a budget and lost in the details of our planning processes for that budget; that’s what happens when you are running a business that is $120M and you are making subtle changes to improve fundamental investment.”

Ideally, a council decision which allowed for SBO2 and SBO3 to continue to Panel would equip the council and landowners with the information needed to better protect their properties and future developments from flooding, but the supplement motion to use the information the C109 consultation process has gathered to make our drainage system more efficient is, at least, a step towards a drier solution for our community on the Manningham side of the river.

Old Warrandyte dairy faces uncertain future

THE OLD WARRANDYTE Dairy, an important reminder of the history of Warrandyte as a township, is under review by Melbourne Water to determine the building’s future.

Even though modern Warrandyte is a suburb of metropolitan Melbourne, until the late 20th century the village was an independent township.

Built in 1948, the building served as a cool room for storing milk delivered from Box Hill.

Melbourne Water currently own the site, and therefore the building, and in late August erected a fence around the entrance to the old building and are now seeking community feedback while they decide the future of this severely dilapidated building.

Andrew Mellor, Team Leader for Melbourne Water’s north east regional services spoke to the Diary about the condition of the building and Melbourne Water’s desire to come up with a solution which serves both the integrity of the site and respects the importance of the building in Warrandyte’s history.

“An engineering assessment of the building will be undertaken in coming weeks, which will help guide discussion around the future of the building.

“We want the community to guide the decision making on a use for the site which is most appropriate for time,” he said.

The Diary also spoke with Margaret Kelly, President of the Warrandyte Historical Society who explained the significance of the building within the township and the reasons why the community should engage with Melbourne Water in deciding the future of the building.

Ms Kelly explained the butchers building, old post office, bakery hotel, dairy and churches are all part of the infrastructure that defines a township.

“There are not many places around that are suburbs of Melbourne that still have all those buildings; that is why I think it is really important to preserve the story of Warrandyte as an independent township,” she said.

Under the Warrandyte Township Heritage Precinct, the old dairy is listed as a building of contributory significance which adds an extra dimension to this story as the building’s original purpose adds to the gestalt of the Warrandyte township.

Ms Kelly believes the loss of this building could not just degrade the history of the township but start a cascade of changes to other buildings within the heritage precinct — but the way forward is not to simply preserve it for the sake of preservation.

“[The] concern is when one building goes that weakens the overlay, so what is to stop someone else who owns another building saying ‘why can’t I knock my one down and move that as well’, so I think you don’t want the dominos to start falling — if it is in a position where it can be saved, I think it should be and in a practical manner as well, not just to preserve it for the sake of it,” she said.

Melbourne Water have told the Diary they will be holding a number of community meetings in the near future.

As we go to print, dates for these meetings have not been set, but follow the Diary Facebook page for information and feedback from these meetings.

Spot the platypus

Autumn is a great time to set up a blanket by the Yarra at dawn or dusk with a thermos of tea and gaze out at the water and now we have found the best excuse ever to do just that — Melbourne Water is calling on citizen scientists to help spot the elusive platypus.

With the sustained drought over the first ten years of this century, platypus were struggling, however researchers are hopeful that the monotreme’s population is on the rise again.

Jean-Michel Benier from Melbourne Water told the Diary that the Yarra tends to be a refuge to platypus in times of environmental stress — such as drought, flood or bushfire.

“When conditions are good we see more platypus in tributaries, such as the Diamond Creek, Mullum Mullum, and even one recently sighted in Darebin Creek for the first time in 10 years,” he said.

Research partner and wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths from Cesar Australia said that the Yarra is immensely important for platypus populations.

“Mullum Mullum creek is actually one of the creeks that didn’t show a decline during the drought, even though it is quite a small creek because it is still connected to the Yarra and there is a relatively healthy population in the Yarra — we think the animals keep coming in and out.

“That deeper water of the Yarra provided a bit of a buffer against the drought, so when a lot of these creeks dried up the animals moved into the Yarra and as the water comes back, they move back into those little creeks — so you know the Yarra river is incredibly important for these animals”, said Mr Griggiths.

The research team are pleased that platypus numbers — since the end of the drought — are beginning to increase due to increased water availability and the continuing work of cleaning up the environment.

“There is more water around which means better conditions generally and there has also been a number of habitat improvement works happening, Melbourne Water, and other community groups, do things like weed removal and revegetation, remove litter out of creeks, stabilise banks — create better habitat for them to live in,” said Mr Griffiths.

Melbourne Water have partnered with Cesar to study the health of platypus populations and they need your help.

They have released a website and a smartphone app to collect data on wild populations in the Yarra River and across the rest of the country.

“We would love for people to contribute their observations of platypus to our PlatypusSPOT program,” said Mr Bernier.

The PlatypusSPOT website and smartphone app allows users to upload photos and descriptions of platypus seen in the wild.

“These observations help us to monitor the location and abundance of platypus across Melbourne,” he said.

 How to spot a platypus.

Josh Griffiths says spotting platypus in the river can be very difficult.

“Even for myself, who has seen hundreds of them, they can be difficult to see, because they live in the water and they have a very low profile in the water — they don’t stick up like a duck,” he said.

Platypus are most often active at night, so platypus are best spotted at dawn and dusk.

“Look out for some ripples in the water to suggest there is something there, then there is the fur and the low profile to distinguish it from a duck — the thing they get confused with quite a bit is our native water rat (rakali) and they can look very similar in the water — so look for the distinctive bill of the platypus or the nice rounded tail, Mr Griffith said.

Jean-Michel Benier suggests the main ingredients for spotting platypus: “Patience and luck!”.

“It is best to sit in one place for about 20 minutes and observe any bubbles and ripples on the surface of the water — Platypus will generally dive for around 30 seconds then float at the surface to consume their food for around 10 seconds,” he said.

The PlatypusSPOT app contains more tips and photographs that can also help distinguish between a platypus and rakali.

 How to help the platypus

“Platypus need deep water, so the less water that we use the more that can go back into the environment, even though the drought is finished it is really important that people are still really water conscious,” said Mr Griffiths

At an individual level there are several ways to help the platypus.

“Platypus often get tangled in litter, fishing lines, or anything that forms an enclosed loop like a rubber band.

“Keep an eye on dogs around the waterway — at this time of the year when there are juvenile platypus starting to come out of the burrows, they are a bit naïve, they get taken by dogs and foxes,” he said.

Of major concern are opera house nets, which are used to catch yabbies and crayfish:

“Unfortunately they are illegal in public waters but they are still used very regularly, I think a lot of people aren’t aware that they pose a risk to platypus and water rats and to turtles that go in those nets and drown very quickly.

“The nets get thrown into the water and they are fully submerged and a platypus can only hold its breath for a couple of minutes, they go in there chasing the yabbies that go in there, so [the traps] basically become a baited trap for platypus – they are still very widely available and I think a lot of people just aren’t aware of the dangers they pose,” he said.

 Using technology to track platypus.

As well as using traditional methods, or citizen science projects like PlatypusSPOT, researchers are using increasingly hi-tech, non-invasive, methods to monitor platypus populations.

“We are now also using a new technique called environmental DNA (eDNA), which allows us to take a sample of water from a location and search for DNA markers that are unique to platypus — using this method, we can tell if platypus have been in the water at a given location,” said Mr Benier.

“We can go out and take a water sample and actually look for genetic traces in the water and identify platypus as well as other species in the water – it’s a lot more efficient than going out doing trapping all night and they are quite sensitive and cost effective, so that is providing another avenue where we can monitor the populations”, added Mr Griffiths.

The PlatypusSpot App is available from the Apples Store or Google Play