Prior to this week’s headlines regarding the record-breaking sale of The Great Cumbung Swamp, the most significant news that you would hear regarding the area was when environmental flows sparked a bird breeding event.
The last event was during 2015, when rain and an additional 45,000 megalitres of released environmental water in the Lachlan River, sparked and assisted the breeding event.
In significant flooding events, The Great Cumbung Swamp is (roughly speaking) where the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee intertwine in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) system, and home to over 130 bird species and more than 200 plant species.
So, what are the details of the deal I hear you ask! The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Australia and Tiverton Agriculture have purchased 33,000 hectares in the form of the Juanbung and Boyong cattle stations near Oxley. In combination with Yanga National Park and Gayini-Nimmie Caira (purchased by the NSW Government in 2012 and managed by TNC and the Nari Nari Tribal Council) will protect more than 200,000 hectares.
A whopping $55 million was spent on two stations that were owned by Melbourne businessman, Tim Roberts-Thomson. The properties have a 55 kilometre frontage to the Murrumbidgee River and are backgrounding properties for up to anywhere up to 10,000 beef cattle that are destined for nearby feedlots every year. This is also one of the largest privately owned river red gum forests and the Juanbung Mill.
This is a reminder that on the Lachlan River system, we are part of a much larger, significant, unique system. We have many wetland systems, apart from The Great Cumbung along the Lachlan River.
By maintaining, I don’t mean that they should receive water every year. We know that this is not how these systems obtain optimal functionality and not how the system would have functioned prior to our European weirs and dams, etc etc. Over many years, representatives from key stakeholder groups across the Lachlan system, have spent significant amounts of time and yes, money, working towards finding the best solutions possible, with the best information at the time, to ensure that industry and environment can be sustainable.
Interestingly, in the past week I had a discussion with someone about my love of the word ‘swamp’. This topic comes up quite frequently because locally, we have an area that still has swamp in the title, which some people seem to find quite offensive, suggesting that ‘wetland’ in the title is far more palatable. It conjures up all kinds of fabulous images for me….some which may include a donkey and hunky, green guy named Shrek…providing a fun connection for kids, who we want to understand and love our environment.
The purchase brings attention to these significant areas, which is a fantastic thing! Getting us talking about water, habitat, interconnectedness of systems, and most importantly, how sustainable agriculture can be integrated with habitat protection. Many landholders try to achieve this on their patch, but this endeavour will have the eyes of the world, keen to see how they are achieving their goals. It will be interesting to see what is flagged as a measure of success for this undertaking.
Debt finance was provided by ANZ and funding was also provided by US-based Wyss Foundation and the Wyss Campaign for Nature. John B Fairfax, The Ian Potter Foundation, the Besen family and the Baillieu Myer family’s Yulgilbar Foundation support the TNC work in the MDB.
Until next week, happy Landcaring!