Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Gwydir Wetlands: Gingham and Lower Gwydir (Big Leather) Watercourses


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

14 June 1999

The Gingham Watercourse and its flood plain forms an important part of the Gwydir Wetlands, Photo: Neal Foster

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5


New South Wales


Area of nominated wetlands: 823 hectares
Total area of wetland system: 102,120 hectares.

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • L - Permanent inland deltas
  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • P - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes floodplain lakes
  • Tp - Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • W - Shrub-dominated wetlands; shrub swamps, shrub-dominated freshwater marshes, shrub carr, alder thicket on inorganic soils
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Gwydir Wetlands Ramsar site is a parcel of four discrete wetland areas in the Gwydir River system in central-north New South Wales near the town of Moree. It is part of a wider area of wetlands which originally covered over 200,000 ha but has been reduced to just over 100,000 ha in the upper parts of the Murray-Darling Basin.

The extensive terminal wetlands are located on the floodplains as a series of natural and constructed channels and swamps, serving to some degree as flood mitigation and contaminant filtering for downstream areas.

The Gwydir Wetlands Ramsar site is characterised by one of the largest stands of Water Couch remaining in New South Wales, although these areas are under threat from invasive weeds. There are also large areas of Coolibah woodland.

The wetlands, particularly the Old Dromana site, provide breeding and feeding grounds for colonial water bird species and habitat for many threatened species. Over 235 species of birds have been observed in the wetlands, including the Australasian Bittern and Painted Snipe. Of these, 165 species have been recorded as breeding and 13 migratory species listed under international agreements have been recorded.

The area is also home to native mammals, including the Eastern Water Rat, Swamp Wallaby, and Narrow-nosed Planigale, and is an important fish breeding area.

The wetlands traditionally provided a range of edible plants and animals and drought refuge for the Kamilaroi people. There remain many archaeological sites of cultural significance.

The wider Gwydir Wetlands have had a varied agricultural history, catering to wool production, beef cattle and, more recently, cereal and cotton. The four parts of the Ramsar site, which are all on private land, are used for beef cattle and sheep grazing.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Gwydir Wetlands Ramsar site meets five of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: Despite river regulation, the Ramsar site is a good example of an inland terminal delta. The wetlands play an important role in the biological and ecological functioning of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Criterion 2: The Ramsar site supports an appreciable assemblage of species, in particular the Australasian Bittern and the Painted Snipe. Many other species, including the Black-necked Stork (Jabiru) and Jacana, are supported at the edge of their range.

Criterion 3: The Gwydir wetlands are an example of declining terminal delta wetlands that are important for maintaining genetic and ecological diversity.

Criterion 4: The Gwydir wetlands support important life-stages of many species. It is an important breeding area for waterbirds as well as resting and staging points for migratory bird species.

Criterion 5: When flooded, the wetland sustains large numbers of breeding colonial water birds, which feed in the wider wetland area. In 1998, 500,000 water birds were recorded in the Ramsar wetland.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.