Winter rain and environmental flows are behind a renewed lease of life in the Gayini Nimmie Caira wetlands in south-west New South Wales.
- The wetland dubbed “‘Kakadu of the South” is filling with water after winter rain and environmental water in-flows
- The Nari Nari people have been handed back the wetlands and are hopeful populations of golden perch and the southern bell frogs will benefit from the increase in water
- An endangered snake was found near the wetland for the first time in more than 60 years
Found on a 250,000 hectare conservation area on the lower reaches of the Murrumbidgee River, the restoration of the wetlands is part of a major project under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Nari Nari man Rene Woods describes the wetlands as a magical place full of fish, frogs, birds and tens of thousands of years of Indigenous history.
“The wetlands are slowly, slowly filling,” Mr Woods said.
Twelve months ago when excavation work was at full peak and little rain had fallen, Mr Woods said the wetland resembled a dustbowl but it was now green and covered with native vegetation.
He said most of the environmental water, released by both the Commonwealth and State Government, would head towards Paika Lake and Tala Creek at the western end of the wetland, where there was a population of Golden Perch.
“So once that fills we will backfill the other key conservation areas on Nimmie, which will also hopefully give us a southern bell frog boon later this year, as well as having our spoonbill, egrets, ibis and other species out there toward the start of summer,” Mr Woods said.
The Gayini Nimmie Caira wetlands were handed back to the Nari Nari people earlier this year.
They work in partnership with The Nature Conservancy to manage the wetlands.
Mr Woods said the gesture, combined with the watering, was providing a fresh start for the land.
“There is that feeling of returning, healthy country coming back and, with the mob now in management of it day to day, you can see the changes in the landscape and the whole country is much healthier,” he said.
“It’s a great outcome not just for our mob, but also mobs right across the Murray-Darling Basin, to have this type of activity and land management to show them best practice.
Endangered snakes found after decades missing
Meanwhile, environmental water is believe to be behind the revival of a population of endangered grey snakes in the same area.
Charles Sturt University researcher Damian Michael said he found a single grey snake two years ago while undertaking a frog survey near the Great Cumbung Swamp, to the north of the wetlands.
Since then, five separate populations of the highly venomous, nocturnal snake have been identified, including one in a location the species has never been recorded at before.
“Having this isolated record, 600 kilometres away from core populations in northern NSW, it’s really exciting,” Dr Michael said.
“This is a species that probably could’ve gone that way, but there’s been a lot of wetland restoration, a lot of environmental water being put into this Lower Bidgee system.
“And that’s having great responses to native vegetation. The frogs have responded and this species is a frog eater.