A vast, fertile landscape in the heart of the Murray-Darling Basin in New South Wales, the Great Cumbung Swamp is home to a massive irrigated agriculture and livestock business.
But its 33,765 hectares are also rich in indigenous cultural values and more than 16,000 hectares of high conservation reed swamps river red gum wetlands – some of the largest remaining in the Basin.
That immense environmental value had been under threat.
But earlier this year, global conservation organisation The Nature Conservancy (TNC) entered into a joint venture with Tiverton Agriculture to ensure the protection of the area from more conversion to irrigated cropping. TNC purchased the property and its water rights.
ANZ provided debt finance for the acquisition with added support provided by philanthropists and impact investors. Among those investors were the US-based Wyss Foundation and the Wyss Campaign for Nature, the Baillieu Myer family’s Yulgilbar Foundation, the Besen family and the Ian Potter Foundation.
According to ANZ chief executive, Shayne Elliott, the Great Cumbung was a perfect fit for ANZ in terms of its purpose: “It’s an example of business and the community working together for a common good. It’s using what we’re good at for social - and commercial - good.”
The environment was also a key focus for ANZ.
“It’s a very special place both culturally for members of the community and from a nature conservation point of view in terms of wildlife and plants,” Shayne says. “Clearly it’s far away from many of our regular lives so it’s not the sort of place that many of us will have a physical experience of, but the whole point of this is to protect and conserve the environment for future generations.”
The Great Cumbung project was unprecedented, the most valuable private conservation-focused purchase in Australia’s history, and will protect almost the entire extent of the Great Cumbung Swamp.
TNC’s Director in Australia, Rich Gilmore believes today, more than ever, science-based, pragmatic solutions are required to 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,” he says.