It’s official… we’ve expanded NGT’s Mt Burr Swamp Restoration Reserve!

If you cast your mind way back to 2016, NGT launched our first major public land purchase fundraiser, as we worked together with our partners and supporters to create the Mt Burr Swamp Restoration Reserve in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia.

The original purchase (shown below) was made possible due to NGT’s partnerships with the Native Vegetation Council and OneFortyOne Plantations, securing over 90% of the funds needed for NGT to establish the reserve. The balance was contributed via public donations.

The 2016 land purchase at Mt Burr Swamp.
Mount Burr Swamp – restored when NGT purchased the site in 2016.

As NGT’s first wetland reserve, securing this property was the culmination of a tremendous community effort and the site has continued to provide a focal site for students, community groups and local First Nations people. The property also remains a long-term work in progress for NGT staff and volunteers, as it is slowly transitioning from primary production (grazing and forestry) into a permanent conservation area. That process is being guided by our property management and restoration plan.

As we seek public support again this year for adding land to another of our Restoration Reserves (Walker Swamp), it is fantastic to be able to share the exciting news that the original 300 hectare (750 acre) reserve at Mt Burr Swamp has also been expanded.

This came about because, not long after the the original reserve was purchased, we discovered that the adjacent parcel to the east was also in the process of changing hands (after the conclusion of a blue gum plantation forestry scheme). A lengthy and complex negotiation with the new owner of that area ultimately led to the signing of a contract of sale for an additional 68 hectares (170 acres) in 2018, subject to subdivision.

The expanded reserve is shown below, along with a bit of an idea of the complex land management history we have inherited!

Map showing the additional 68 hectare areas added to the eastern end of the original Mt Burr Swamp Restoration Reserve.

As you will see in the map above, securing this additional area is a really strategic outcome that enables us to:

  • create a more logical reserve boundary that ties in with the eastern boundary of the Marshes Native Forest Reserve (a public protected area) to the south.
  • avoid having a boundary that bisects wetlands that have been impacted by artificial drains.
  • restore natural inundation patterns to wetlands currently impacted by the artificial drains in this expanded area, which are all connected to the same main drainage outlet (noting that the drains in this location run from left (west) to right (east)).

Due to the way things unfolded and in particular timing, NGT ultimately required a bank loan to secure this additional area, but was immediately given a funding boost to begin the process of paying off the debt thanks to a $10,000 contribution in 2019 from the Nature Conservation Society of SA (note that the NCSSA were also a major donor for the original purchase in 2016), via the Madeleine Boyce bequest.

As we were working hard at that time to clear the debt on the original purchase of Walker Swamp, we opted for a longer-term strategy for paying down the remaining debt at Mt Burr Swamp. Needless to say, it took a few years, but thanks to a trickle of land purchase donations and the income being derived from the parts of the property still under production, the loan was eventually paid off in July 2021. This was not long after we launched our fundraiser for Mt Vandyke, and was at a time when we were still busy juggling a lot of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NGT team at Mt Burr Swamp in November 2022. Photo: Mark Bachmann

Although this land addition has obviously been a ‘slow burn’, the characteristics and management history of this extra ground at Mt Burr Swamp (after being destocked for 15 years as a result of its plantation history) means that – after purchase – it immediately leapt forward to the ‘head of the queue’ for wetland restoration works on our reserve. Fortunately, thanks to the recent investment of the Limestone Coast Landscape Board in this site via the Regional Recharge Farms project, next month we will share the finer details of recent large-scale remediation works that have been undertaken in this portion of the Mt Burr Swamp Restoration Reserve. Like the major works completed last year at the Hutt Bay Wetlands, it is exciting news – so watch this space!

In the meantime, the map below broadly shows you the portions of the 368 hectare (920 acre) reserve that are now our designated conservation zones, and set to soon be placed under a permanent on-title agreement. We now have approximately 170 hectares (425 acres) of the reserve which are under active conservation management and being restored.

For a journey that began when the first part of the property was purchased almost 7 years ago, yes, the path to environmental restoration can be a long and winding road… However – I hope you will agree – we are now making some great inroads towards our long-term vision for this incredibly important area!

Portions of the Mt Burr Swamp Restoration Reserve that are now designated conservation and restoration zones. Map by Bryan Haywood.

The project is supported by the Limestone Coast Landscape Board, through funding from the South Australian Government’s Landscape Priorities Fund and the Australian Government’s National Water Grid Connections Funding Pathway.

Mark Bachmann