Accessible tourism I Australian Rural & Regional News

When the Kaniva Wetlands and Fauna Park was re-imagined by the Kaniva community in 2014,

When the Kaniva Wetlands and Fauna Park was re-imagined by the Kaniva community in 2014, part of that plan included creating an aged and disability-friendly experience. It was hoped that this would increase liveability for residents, along with overnight stays for Kaniva.

The park has accessibility-friendly features, including a walking track, family swing, parking and toilets. It is popular with both residents and visitors of all ages and is promoted through the Kaniva digital pages, which features an array of photography contributed by many of its talented residents.

One such resident is Matt Bale, his work has also been featured in many other places, including winning GrainCorp’s 2021 Harvest Photo Competition, and another photo has been recently selected for an Australian Geographic book on outdoor art and its international history through to the current day around Australia.

Matt loves Kaniva and the Wetlands and Fauna Park, and around twelve months ago, had an idea to create a 360 tour of the wetlands and fauna park. The tour has been created with support from Kaniva and District Progress Association. It has been a long time in the making but is now finished and can be accessed from anywhere in the world through the Kaniva website and features audio information at various spots for added interest and for people who may be vision impaired.

Matt says, “Originally I started sharing my work with the residents at the hospital who couldn’t get out, but I also love sharing our beautiful town with my family in Fiji.” Matt uses voice activated software and special glasses controlled by his eyes to create the works. His support worker Toby Hill operates the drone to create the original 360 imagery which Matt edits.

Helen Hobbs created the audio component with the voices of Butch Witmitz, Stephen Hannah, Margaret Coutts, Louise and Steven Hobbs. “The audio tour starts at the power engine and bird aviary and can be played via the action bound app. It’s a great way to share all those bits of information that people may not realise. It’s also great for people like myself who find the text too small or light to read on information boards.”

“It’s so important that we consider accessible needs, not just in the way of wheelchair access, but so that people with pushers, on walkers and gophers can access the same services as other people. Matt’s 360 tour takes this idea one step further and allows for those people who are housebound and in hospital to also experience our town.”

Along with the Wetlands, the newly upgraded Kaniva Caravan Park features an accessibility bathroom and seating. The Visitor Information Centre has an accessible entrance and the touchscreen is also accessible from a wheelchair, along with the nearby public toilets. Accessible outdoor table seating is available at the Commercial Hotel. Little Guys Pizza and Cafe also cater for people with special needs with its spacious areas.

Other Information

The wetlands fill from stormwater run-off, and transform as the winter rains come through and the ponds naturally refill. The wetlands attract incredible birdlife and really come alive early morning or late afternoon. The ponds are connected through a series of bridges and a walking track which loops around and leads you to the back of the Fauna Park which is home to kangaroos and wallabies including a rare white kangaroo.

The Kaniva Fauna Park was originally established by the Kaniva Rotary Club in the 1980s, later on the Lions Club with help from Kaniva Landcare established and maintained the wetland area which was opened in 2003. It required significant maintenance after a number of the bridges fell into disrepair. After numerous delays and changes, work was completed in September 2019. The total project was $1.215 million.

See all the photos in the issue.

Nhill Free Press & Kaniva Times 7 June 2023

This article appeared in the Nhill Free Press & Kaniva Times, 7 June 2023.