Corellas are winning, humans are losing on Murray Bridge's riverfront

The lawn tennis association's courts have all been destroyed in the past fortnight, and Graham Buttle doesn't know where to turn.

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Graham Buttle is at his wits’ end.

The president of the Murray Bridge Lawn Tennis Association has watched every one of the association’s 20 courts be destroyed by corellas in the past fortnight.

The pesky birds dig holes in the courts’ carefully manicured surface, creating dangerous trip hazards and making even the tamest tennis shot completely unplayable.

The association has even had to enclose all the wires and security lights on the outside of its clubrooms to protect them from being vandalised by curious beaks.

A bird scarer – a gas gun – was previously used to keep the birds from loitering too long on the grass courts at Sturt Reserve, on Murray Bridge’s riverfront.

But complaints about a similar device being used near Long Island Reserve led authorities to crack down on them anywhere within 500 metres of a residential area.

Thousands of corellas had descended on the courts as soon as the scarer was turned off on April 8, Mr Buttle said.

When Murray Bridge News visited on Friday, a couple of council workers were walking around clapping pieces of wood together to try and scare the corellas away, but Mr Buttle said the birds kept coming back.

“We backfill (the holes) with sand and they dig them out again,” he said.

“They love it because there’s fresh sand for them.

“It’s very, very frustrating.”

He hoped to appeal to the state Department of Environment and Water for help, as he had little faith that the Murray Bridge council would act – “I get the impression they’ve pretty much thrown their hands in the air (and given up)”.

However, he hoped the council would come through with the funds and manpower needed to repair the courts.

If the association could not provide a safe playing surface, its Starclub accreditation – and, in the longer term, its ability to keep operating – would be at risk.

“I don’t see how they’re allowing this ongoing destruction,” he said.

Working party disbanded as council runs out of ideas

Corellas have been a significant problem at Sturt Reserve for at least eight years.

Instead of taking action on its own, the Murray Bridge council waited for a University of South Australia review of measures which had been tried right across the state.

When that proved inconclusive, it started a working party which met regularly to brainstorm possible solutions, from hiring a shooter to cull “scout” birds to luring the corellas to sacrificial sites outside the city limits.

But the working party was wound up in December, the council revealed last week.

Staff told councillors “no solution had emerged from its existence”.

Councils elsewhere had tried using loud noises, bright lights, sprinklers, drones, birds of prey, shooting, even capturing and gassing corellas, but none had ever eliminated corellas as a problem.

“The greatest success came from doing many things at the same time; however, the birds returned within a few weeks of actions stopping or only moved a few kilometres away at best,” councillors were told.

Mayor Brenton Lewis put it bluntly: “the birds are winning and we’re not”.

The council will aim to carry out a limited corella cull at Wellington in the coming weeks, provided the local progress association, SA Police and landowners support it.

But in the longer term, it will change its strategy, pressuring the state government and new agency Landscape SA to come up with a plan for managing the problem.

Declaring corellas a pest – the same as foxes, goats or rabbits – could be one option.

South Australia needs a solution, councillor says

The former chair of the corella working party, Councillor Karen Eckermann, suggested residents direct their anger towards the state government for letting an obvious problem go on for so long.

“I really don’t understand why people aren’t bashing down (state MP) Adrian Pederick’s door, demanding action,” she said at the council meeting.

“(The state government) are getting off scot-free while we’re being abused.”

However, Mr Lewis pointed out that the council had a responsibility for managing the land under its control, including Sturt Reserve and the hundred-year-old trees that were being shredded by the corellas.

In any case, Cr Fred Toogood said, action was urgently needed.

“(Sturt Reserve) is our premier piece of land that people want to come and visit,” he said.

“I’ll probably vote against spending another $3 million on the riverfront if this is going to continually happen.

“The gum trees haven’t regrown last year’s leaves, let alone what’s going to happen this year.”

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that council workers have been trying to scare the corellas away.