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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage


5 June 1999

The Federal Government has celebrated World Environment Day by listing four new wetlands of international significance and gaining support for a migratory waterbird agreement for the Asia Pacific region.

Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill says the new listings mean there are now 53 Australian wetlands recognised and protected under the international RAMSAR Convention.

"Australia is recognised around the world as a leader in wetland conservation. With Biodiversity the theme of World Environment Day this year, it's appropriate that we celebrate the event by recognising these wetlands that are among the world's most spectacular and remarkable examples of nature's biodiversity," Senator Hill said.

The new sites are the Gwydir Wetlands (NSW), the Great Sandy Strait (Qld), Myall Lakes (NSW) and the Narran Lake Nature Reserve (NSW) (details attached).

"The Gwydir Wetlands near Moree in north-west NSW represents the first Ramsar site on privately owned land in Australia. This landmark listing opens the door for further non-government efforts in wetland conservation."

"Among other major Ramsar commitments Australia has fulfilled, we have made great progress on the development of a multilateral Migratory Waterbird Agreement for the Asia Pacific region with the support of countries such as Japan, China, Russia and the Philippines."

Senator Hill also announced today the first coordinated wetlands training program in the Asia Pacific region, to be based at the Northern Territory University.

"The wetland managers' training program for the Asia Pacific region will begin next month and concentrate on tropical wetlands management. It will ensure that Australia will continue to advance its expertise in the protection, conservation and understanding of tropical wetlands.

"This initiative is essential to protect Australia's migratory birds, many of which travel through the Asia-Pacific region. It will ensure these birds have well managed wetlands in which to thrive."

The conservation of wetlands is also a major focus of the Government's new environment bill, which aims to arrest declines in Australia's biodiversity.

"The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill sets out a legal framework for the listing, management and conservation of Ramsar wetlands. This is the first time that specific Commonwealth legal protection has ever been extended to Australia's Ramsar listed Wetlands."

The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) is commonly known as the Ramsar Convention. It is one of the earliest global nature conservation treaties, and promotes international cooperation on the conservation of wetlands.

Information on Australia's four new Ramsar sites is attached.

Rod Bruem (02) 6277 7640 or 0411 128 582
Alison Russell-French (02) 6274 2223



Gwydir Wetlands (NSW)
The Gwydir Wetlands is the 50th Australian Ramsar site listed under the Convention on Wetlands. It is also the first voluntarily agreed private Ramsar site in Australia. It is one of the few terminal delta systems found within inland NSW and contains one of the largest stands of water couch and marsh club-rush remaining in NSW. It provides breeding and feeding grounds for over 500,000 colonial water birds including magpie geese and brolga. Covering an area of 823ha west of Moree, the Gwydir Wetlands also provide habitat for a number of endangered species, and support a viable grazing industry.

Great Sandy Strait (QLD)
Great Sandy Strait is a sand passage estuary located between the mainland and the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. The Strait is the least modified of three such passages in Queensland and consists of intertidal sand and mud flats, extended seagrass beds, mangroves and saltmarshes. Covering an area of over 93,000 ha, it's an important feeding ground for migratory shorebirds. The Strait is also important for a wide range of other species, including seabirds, fish, crustaceans, dugong, sea turtles and dolphins.

Myall Lakes (NSW)
The Myall Lakes Ramsar site has a total area of 44, 612 ha and is situated 75 km north of Newcastle within the Myall Lakes National Park. It represents one of the few coastal brackish lake systems in NSW that has not been significantly modified by human activity. The Myall Lakes provide habitat for a diverse number of native flora and fauna species, including large numbers of waterbirds such as ducks, swans, egrets and terns. Endangered species such as the masked owl, powerful owl, jabiru and little tern are also found within the site. The Myall Lakes have very high social value and provide a broad range of recreational, educational and scientific opportunities.

Narran Lake Nature Reserve (NSW)
Narran Lake Nature Reserve is 5,531 ha. in size, covering part of a large terminal wetland of the Narran River It is a relatively undisturbed terminal lake system located at the end of the Condamine River system (which flows from Queensland into New South Wales). The area is internationally significant for waterbird breeding and as habitat for species including heron, egret, ibis and grebe. A number of species listed under the Japan-Australia and China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreements (JAMBA and CAMBA) are found at Narran Lake. The Nature Reserve also contains a variety of flora communities that are considered threatened in NSW.

Commonwealth of Australia