nourished by a winding waterway on the Great Cumbung
Reed swamps nourished by a winding waterway on the Great Cumbung © Peter Stephen

Stories in Australia

Saving the Great Cumbung

Protecting the largest remaining reed swamp in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Often referred to as the ‘food bowl of Australia’, the Murray-Darling Basin supports a staggering variety of irrigated agriculture within its vast boundaries. The growing of food and fiber in the Basin is essential to the prosperity of the country. And, this region of more than 300 square miles is also rich in natural and indigenous cultural values. The water that’s needed for agriculture is also needed for the river and its wildlife, and for the wellbeing of its Traditional Owners: Aboriginal people have lived on and near its winding waterways for tens of thousands of years. So can all these values simultaneously be protected and enhanced?

At The Nature Conservancy (TNC) we believe they can. Indeed they must be for their mutual survival. To prove it, we’re demonstrating how in places like the Great Cumbung.

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.

TNC Australia, Country Director

The Great Cumbung

On the banks of the Murrumbidgee Valley at the confluence of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers, not far from Balranald in western New South Wales, lie two adjoining cattle stations—Juanbung and Boyong—spanning 83,000 acres. As well as supporting a livestock business, the properties also encompass almost 40,000 acres of high conservation reed and river red gum wetlands—one of the largest remaining of their kind in the whole Murray-Darling Basin.  

Gayini Nimmie-Caira and the Great Cumbung
Map location Gayini Nimmie-Caira and the Great Cumbung © TNC

Up For Grabs

When we learned that these properties were to go on the market, we wanted to act to ensure that the Great Cumbung would be protected from any possible conversion to irrigated cropping like so much of the surrounding landscape. So in a joint venture initiative with the Australian-owned and operated Tiverton Agriculture, we purchased both cattle stations, along with their water rights. The deal is the most valuable private conservation-focussed purchase in Australia’s history and will protect almost the entire extent of the Great Cumbung Swamp.

Saving the Great Cumbung Learn more about what's at stake.

The Fight is NOT Over

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Supporting the Great Cumbung

To help us acquire the Great Cumbung, we enlisted the support of some of Australia’s most respected investors and philanthropists including The Ian Potter Foundation, the Besen family and the Baillieu Myer family’s Yulgilbar Foundation. Funding was also provided by the U.S.-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.

However, the fight to protect the Great Cumbung is not over. We need to raise more funds to undertake further protection of this and other important Murray-Darling wetlands.