Record Philanthropic Purchase to Protect Murray Darling Wetland
25 January 2019 at 4:49 pm
The Nature Conservancy has raised a record $55 million to buy two cattle stations, which will see one of the most important wetlands in the Murray Darling Basin protected from conversion to rice or cotton farms.
The Great Cumbung Swamp, which is home to over 131 bird species and more than 200 plant species, will now be protected from irrigated farming.
It comes after the cattle stations were bought through a partnership with agricultural investment company, Tiverton. They will be managed alongside Gayini Nimmie Caira, a bordering NSW-government owned property, which TNC oversees in partnership with the Nari Nari Tribal Council.
Rich Gilmore, Australian director of TNC, said collaboration across all sectors was vital if the Murray Darling Basin was to be saved.
“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,” Gilmore said.
In addition to wetland conservation and water recovery, Tiverton is expected to play a role in the economic return of the project by ensuring the properties retain some farming, as well as sustainable land uses and eco-tourism.
Tiverton director, Nigel Sharp said they looked forward “to managing this outstanding property and exploring future sustainable land use options”.
Gilmore told Pro Bono News the partnership between TNC and Tiverton demonstrated how agriculture and nature didn’t have to be in perpetual conflict.
“You don’t need to destroy the environment in order to support agriculture, and you don’t need to destroy agriculture in order to support the environment,” Gilmore said.
He said it was important for the future of conservation that organisations weren’t afraid of having a profit motive.
“That’s the way organisations will be successful. If we’re going to support environmental sustainability the sector needs to be financially sustainable itself, and one of the ways to do that is to deliver both financial and environmental return,” he said.
However, he said it was the combined efforts of big philanthropic donors, including John Fairfax, and The Ian Potter Foundation, and investment capital such as ANZ Agribusiness that ensured both ecological and economic benefits were cultivated from the project.
“We want philanthropy to do the things philanthropy can do, and in this case that was allowing us to protect some of the more important ecological assets of the property while also using the agricultural investment to sustain responsible farming on the property,” he said.
Sarah Davies, CEO of Philanthropy Australia, said this project was a wonderful example of collaboration between philanthropy, community and business.
“Large scale conservation needs investment and courage: both of which are easier to achieve through smart, evidence-based and thoughtful partnership and collaboration,” Davies told Pro Bono News.
“The Nature Conservancy is leading the way in both what it is doing and how it is doing it.”
Davies also encouraged the philanthropy community to put environmental causes at the top of their lists.
“At last year’s Philanthropy Australia conference, Larry Kramer said that all philanthropy should have an environmental focus of some sort. If there is a global hierarchy of need, then environmental sustainability has got to be the priority,” Davies said.