The Juanbung and Boyong cattle stations in western NSW along with the properties’ water rights, have been purchased by Nature Conservancy Australia, in a joint venture with Tiverton Agriculture, for $55 million.
The deal is the most valuable private conservation-focused purchase in Australia’s history and will protect almost the entire extent of the Great Cumbung Swamp from conversion to irrigated cropping.
Located at the confluence of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers, the Great Cumbung is one of the largest and most important wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin. It is home to 131 bird species and more than 200 plant species.
TNC country director Rich Gilmore said “today, more than ever, we need science-based, pragmatic solutions that deliver benefits for people and nature”.
“If we are to save the Basin’s rivers and the communities that depend on them, conservationists, irrigators and Governments must come together and act with courage, urgency and optimism,” Mr Gilmore said.
In addition to wetland conservation and water recovery, the Great Cumbung will continue to support economic development and jobs in the Riverina. Tiverton will manage the property for the dual objectives of conservation and sustainable agriculture, he said.
Tiverton director Nigel Sharp said they looked forward to managing the outstanding property and exploring future sustainable land use options such as carbon, biodiversity offsets and stewardship, and ecotourism.
The Great Cumbung will be managed in conjunction with the 87,000-hectare Gayini Nimmie-Caira property, which was purchased for conservation by the NSW Government in 2012 and is now managed by TNC and Nari Nari Tribal Council.
Tribal Council Chair Ian Woods said Nari Nari people were supportive of the purchase.
“We look forward to working with TNC and Tiverton at the Great Cumbung and Gayini Nimmie-Caira.”
Some of Australia’s investors and philanthropists are supporting TNC’s work in the Murray-Darling, including John B. Fairfax AO, The Ian Potter Foundation, the Besen family, and the Baillieu Myer family’s Yulgilbar Foundation. Funding was also provided by the US-based Wyss Foundation and the Wyss Campaign for Nature. Debt finance was provided by ANZ in line with the bank’s aim to support business practices that improve environmental sustainability.
TNC is seeking more financial support to undertake further protection of the Great Cumbung and other important wetlands.