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Joint Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
New South Wales Minister for the Environment
Mr Robert Debus

18 November 2002

Extension to Internationally Recognised NSW Wetland

The internationally recognised wetland, Kooragang Nature Reserve, near Newcastle was today extended to include Shortland Wetlands, under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the world's peak wetland conservation treaty.

The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and the New South Wales Minister for the Environment, Bob Debus, today congratulated the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and The Wetlands Centre Australia (Shortland) for their hard work in securing the extension and announced that the two wetlands would now be merged under a new name - the Hunter Estuary Wetlands.

"The site extension, which will be officially announced at the 8th Ramsar Conference of Contracting Parties this week in Valencia, Spain, acknowledges the international significance of these wetlands," Dr Kemp said.

"The original site, Kooragang Nature Reserve, was designated in 1984 and is recognised as one of the most important bird study areas in New South Wales. It provides habitat for 250 bird species, including several migratory birds such as the Great Egret, Glossy Ibis, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Eastern Curlew.

"With community involvement, education and conservation in mind, the extension to include Shortland Wetlands has been undertaken. Shortland Wetlands have been restored to provide habitat for a diverse range of wetland species, including migratory shorebirds at critical stages of their lifecycles.

"Many endangered species listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, such as the Black-necked Stork, Red Goshawk, Bush Stone Curlew and Little Tern are supported by the Hunter Estuary Wetlands. Important mangrove forests, saline and freshwater pastures, and rainforest communities are also present within the boundaries of the Ramsar site," Dr Kemp said.

Mr Debus said that the two areas, which make up the Hunter Estuary Wetlands are connected by a wildlife corridor, through Ash Island, the Hunter River and Ironbark Creek.

"This site extension is an acknowledgement of the ecological significance of the Hunter Estuary Wetlands that now protect 2,971 hectares of important wetland," Mr Debus said.

"Wetlands are vital parts of a healthy river system, helping to reduce sediment and nutrient loads as well as providing a breeding ground for birds, fish, frogs, tortoises and other fauna.

"The addition of the 45 hectare Shortland Wetlands will contribute significantly to the value of the existing Kooragang Ramsar site," Mr Debus said.

The Convention on Wetlands was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971. It is the oldest international conservation agreement to promote the concept of sustainable use. The Convention has 133 Contracting Parties, with 1,200 wetland sites, totalling 103.3 million hectares worldwide. The theme of the eighth conference is 'Wetlands: Water, Life and Culture'.

The Australian Government has also announced designation of six other wetlands to the List of Wetlands of International Importance, increasing the total number of Australian Ramsar sites from 57 to 63.

The new site designations include four sites managed by the Commonwealth Government - Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve, Coral Sea Reserves, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve and The Dales (Christmas Island), as well as one site on Crown land in New South Wales - Fivebough and Tuckerbil Swamps and one site on private land in South Australia - Banrock Station Wetland Complex.

For high resolution images and for more information on wetlands please visit and for more information on the Ramsar Convention please visit

Media contacts:
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) 02 6277640 or 0408 648 400
Kate Meagher (Mr Debus's office) 02 9995 6500

Related Information

Commonwealth of Australia