Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Senator Don Farrell

Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water

The Hon Ian Hunter

Minister for Sustainability, Environment & Conservation

International recognition for South Australia's Piccaninnie Ponds

Joint media release
25 January 2013

The remarkable Piccaninnie Ponds Karst Wetlands in South Australia have been added to the Ramsar list as a wetland of international importance.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the wetlands near Mt Gambier in the state's South East had become the 65th site in Australia to be listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention).

This marks Australia's first addition to the Ramsar List in almost six years, following the addition of the Paroo River Wetlands in New South Wales in 2007.

"South Australia is home to some of the world's most spectacular Ramsar wetlands including the iconic Chowilla floodplain and the Coorong and Lower Lakes," Mr Burke said.

Australia's commitment to conserving Ramsar sites, such as the Coorong and Lower Lakes, has been instrumental to the Australian Government's making of the Murray Darling Basin Plan and to the recovery of water for the environment.

"In adding Piccaninnie Ponds to the Ramsar list, Australia is committing to its conservation and wise use. Ramsar listing provides further protection to the site as Ramsar sites are a matter of National Environmental Significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999."

The unique karst wetland system falls within a national biodiversity hotspot, and supports at least seven nationally threatened species, including the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot and the endangered Australasian bittern.

South Australian Senator Don Farrell said the Piccaninnie Ponds Karst wetlands are simply spectacular both on the surface and underground and it is no surprise that this internationally renowned cave diving destination attracts 20,000 visitors annually.

"The karst springs are fed by groundwater discharge and contain unique aquatic vegetation, with aquatic plants able to live up to 15 metres below the surface due to the unusual clarity of the water," Senator Farrell said.

The 862 hectare Piccaninnie Ponds Karst Wetlands site is an outstanding example of rare fen and karst wetland types and has a range of conservation and cultural values.

These wetlands are a drought refuge for many animals and support native fish species that rely on freshwater to complete their lifecycle, such as the dwarf galaxias, Southern pygmy perch and Yarra pygmy perch.

The South Australian Government nominated the site for listing and extensive supporting documentation has been provided to the Ramsar Convention Secretariat.

South Australian Environment Minister, Ian Hunter, said it was hard to imagine from the surface that there are extensive karst springs below that are more than 110 metres deep.

"According to local Bunganditj (Boandik) elders previous generations lived here permanently, in huts built close to the abundant food source the wetlands provided," Mr Hunter said.

"The site represents one of the few remaining permanent freshwater wetlands in the lower south-east of South Australia."

The Ramsar Convention aims to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve, through wise use and management, those that remain.