Background on the Karaaf Wetlands


The wetlands have a complex history. They are impacted by natural processes as well as human-induced changes, and they experience seasonal changes. 

The Karaaf wetlands lie within Wadawurrung Country and they continue to be a significant place for the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners. The Karaaf is a subsection of the broader Breamlea Flora and Fauna Reserve saltmarsh system which is connected to the Thompson Creek estuary and then the ocean at Point Impossible.

Old plans, surveys and photographs show there was tidal inundation of the wetlands when the mouth of Thompson Creek was open to the ocean, and that freshwater flows from the broader Thompson catchment, starting near Gherang, resulted in extensive flooding when the mouth of the creek was periodically closed. This pattern continues today and the estuary is classified as an ICOLL estuary (an Intermittently Closed and Open Lake or Lagoon).

The Karaaf was sold off as private land in 1865 and up until 1971 was used for agricultural purposes, primarily grazing. The Karaaf and what was later to become The Sands development, was purchased by the City of South Barwon in 1971 for the purposes of establishing a small landfill.

The City of Greater Geelong placed a conservation covenant on the 130 hectare Karaaf wetlands allotment in 1995 and the land was sold to a private owner in 1997.

The Sands residential development and golf course started construction in the early 2000s and as part of this process, the title to the Karaaf wetlands was surrendered to the Crown and the land has been managed by Parks Victoria for close to twenty years.

The wetlands and associated vegetation provide important habitat for many fauna species, particularly birds, including the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot which has had one individual recorded in the wetlands in September 1973.

Council’s primary role in relation to the Karaaf is as a drainage authority, meaning Council has responsibility for managing drainage assets and ensuring stormwater quality and quantity from the residential areas meets the health needs of any aquatic ecosystem where it is discharged.

Direct management of the Karaaf will continue to be undertaken by Parks Victoria.