Why is the Peel-Harvey Estuary so special?
The Peel-Harvey Estuary is a large system of shallow estuarine and saline, brackish and freshwater lakes. Many tens of thousands of waterbirds, including large numbers of migrant shorebirds from the northern hemisphere, use the estuary and lakes each year. There are also thrombolites to be found, a primitive life form superficially resembling stromatolites.
The estuary covers some 136km2 and is the largest such system in South Western Australia. It is comprised of the Peel Inlet which is connected to the Indian Ocean via the Mandurah Channel, and the Harvey Estuary further south. The Dawesville Cut, located in the City of Mandurah, was opened in 1994 and marks the transition from the Peel Inlet into the Harvey Estuary. It provides for seawater flow from the ocean as well and is located opposite the locality of Point Grey in the Shire of Murray.
From the mound of the Serpentine River in the north, the localities of Furnissdale, North Yunderup and South Yunderup stretch along the Peel Inlet. Further on, new urban developments at Austin Cove and Point Grey are at the forefront of urbanisation. South of Point Grey, the rural localities of Birchmont and Herron Point form the backdrop of the Harvey Estuary. While the Shire of Murray borders a large area of the estuary, the City of Mandurah and the Shire of Waroona are the neighbouring local government areas abutting the estuary.
In 1990, the Peel-Harvey Estuary was listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland and ecosystem of international significance. The protected area was substantially expanded in 2001 to include Lake Mealup and several other nature reserves.
The Peel-Harvey Estuary is under threat from decades of nutrient influx from agriculture, clearing of more than 75% of the native vegetation and urbanisation. The Shire of Murray is endeavouring to achieve a net environmental benefit for any development proposal in order to minimise the impact on the estuary and associated ecosystems by ensuring nutrient management is in place, overstocking is avoided and land use follows best practice.