Australian rural landholders, NGOs, and governments working together to implement the Convention

Australian rural landholders, NGOs, and governments working together to implement the Convention

2 February 1999

Convention on wetlands celebrates partnership with Australian rural landholders

2 February 1999 - Gland, Switzerland.  The international secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands (known commonly as the Ramsar Convention) today congratulated Australia on a precedent-setting move in wetlands conservation and sustainable use.

Working in partnership, four farming families, two conservation groups, the New South Wales State Government, and the Commonwealth Government of Australia have developed an historic Memorandum of Understanding that will maintain conservation management of the unique Gwydir wetlands, 500 gwydir3.jpg (22797 bytes)kilometres northwest of Sydney in Australia’s semi-arid regions. Under the MoU the parties have also agreed to take the significant step of agreeing to designate parts of the farming properties as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Part of the Gwydir wetlands proposed as a Ramsar site, near Moree, NSW. Belah trees on ‘higher’ ground fringing more frequently flooded wetlands. Half a million waterbirds were nesting in the district. [Photo: Jamie Pittock, WWF-Australia]

Deputy Secretary General of the Convention, Dr Bill Phillips, commented: "This is an outstanding achievement, demonstrating how the Ramsar Convention is now a leading international instrument in promoting the wise, or ecologically sustainable, use of our wetlands. I congratulate all involved and especially the landholders for their vision in wanting to ensure the continuing health and productivity of this special wetland environment for the future generations of their own families, all Australians, and the global community. We congratulate the Southeron, Murphy and Blackburn families for conserving the wetlands as part of their pastoral businesses."

gwydir4.jpg (33274 bytes)"The Ramsar Convention urges all its signatories to emulate the example of these Australian rural landholders, conservation groups and governments in negotiating 'wise use' to conserve wetlands that are outside conservation reserves. We are very excited with this announcement, which coincides with World Wetlands Day 1999. It is very appropriate to have such a grassroots initiative come to fruition on this day, especially because the theme of World Wetlands Day this year is People and Wetlands. "

Discussions concerning the proposed Ramsar site between agencies and landholders: Ben Churchill (Environment Australia); Bill Phillips (Ramsar Bureau); Stephen Hunter (Environment Australia); and Jim Southeron (landholder). [Photo: J. Pittock, WWF-Australia]

The Gwydir wetland, one of the largest inland wetlands in New South Wales and home to half a million nesting and breeding waterbirds, was threatened by water extraction for irrigation use, invasives plants, and clearing for agriculture. The agreement, facilitated by conservation groups WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia) and the National Parks Association, addresses these issues through the stewardship of the pastoral land owners.

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Discussions concerning the proposed Ramsar site between government agencies, conservation groups, and landholders, 8 December 1998. In the field (left to right): Phillipa Walsh (WWF); Jamie Southeron (landholder); Brian Everingham (National Parks Association - NPA); Cath Webb (WWF/NPA); Terry Korn (National Parks and Wildlife Service - NPWS); Rob McCosker (wetlands ecologist); Howard Blackburn (landholder); and Alison Curtin (NPWS). [Credit: J. Pittock/WWF]

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Local residents showing out-of-town agency staff aerial photos of the Gwydir wetlands during discussions of the proposed Ramsar site nomination. Left to right: Neal Foster (Department of Land Water Conservation); NSW Fisheries representative; Kevin Roberts (National Parks and Wildlife Service); Bill Phillips (Ramsar Bureau); Stephen Hunter (Environment Australia); Bruce Sticpewich (landholder). Crouching: Rob McCosker (wetlands ecologist).

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Landholders, government agency staff and conservationists discussing the proposed Ramsar listing for the Gwydir wetlands. Left to right: Jen Southeron (landholder); Stephen Hunter (Environment Australia); Terry Korn (National Parks and Wildlife Service); and Bruce Sticpewich (landholder). [Credit: J. Pittock/WWF]

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Threats to the Gwydir wetlands include the increasing area planted to irrigated cotton (foreground), and an area of Gwydir wetlands (outside the proposed site). [Photo credit: J. Pittock/WWF]

For comment: Dr Bill Phillips, Deputy Secretary General, Bureau of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (), telephone +41 22 999 0171.