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Looking across the expanse of sheep paddocks, it's hard to imagine the landscape dotted with wetlands. But that's how it was before it was turned into farms.

The locals who developed the Kerang district back in the mid-1900s can tell you exactly where the wetlands started and finished. It's all in the slight dips in the land, the grasses and sedges. These same people are now changing the landscape again, to bring the wetlands back.

One by one the wetlands are returning, thanks to environmental watering and the tireless efforts of landholders like Jill and Ken Hooper.

Man planting in swamp 

Thirty-two hectares of wetlands on their property were flooded with environmental water for the first time in 2015.

The wetlands, collectively called Wirra-Lo wetland complex, are some of the last wetland remnants that once meandered across the floodplain of the Loddon and Murray rivers, naturally flooding when water flowed through the landscape. Levee banks on the Loddon River are one reason the wetlands don't naturally flood anymore.

The Wirra-Lo wetland complex is regionally significant. It's home to a variety of waterbirds and was also once home to the vulnerable growling grass frog. With better watering regimes and consequently increased habitat, it's hoped they'll come back.

Ken says it's taken three years to organise environmental water to be delivered to the wetland. He and Jill have achieved this in collaboration with the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA), the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

Two men looking at map 

"It's been an absolute joy and privilege to work with the North Central CMA and the VEWH to get to this stage.

"Over 100 bird species have been recorded on Wirra-Lo, with 83 recorded from September 2015 to March 2016 as part of the environmental watering monitoring program. The wetland has goannas and lizards and at least 45 native water-dependent plant species including a variety of nardoo, water milfoil and pond weed species. It's an incredibly valuable drought refuge in dry years.

Other parts of the Hooper's property could eventually become part of the Wirra-Lo wetland complex. The aim is to rotate the watering regimes so some are drying, as they would have naturally, and others have water in them. This means there will always be water somewhere for animals (such as the growling grass frog). The drying is just as important as the wetting because it allows plants to seed and provides food for mud-loving wader birds.

Duck Creek South 

Established wetlands in the region have incredibly diverse wildlife – turtles, frogs, brolga and even the shy and endangered Australasian bittern.

Ken says, "We would like to convert more land to wetlands but we physically can't get water everywhere. This wetland will be fantastic brolga habitat. The objective is to get the plant lifecycles going again because it's been so dry here."

At the time of writing a pair of brolgas were sighted on a part of the wetlands called Brolga Swamp. Build it and they will come.