Last year I travelled from my home in Melbourne to the north-western corner of NSW, where Bush Heritage’s Naree Station Reserve is nestled two hours’ drive north of Bourke, on Budjiti country.
We were lucky in that our trip coincided with a major flooding event. Big rains in Queensland had threaded their way south, their waters eventually mingling with local rainfall to fill the wetlands and waterholes of Yantabulla Swamp.
Bush Heritage manages about 17 percent – 32,127 hectares – of Yantabulla Swamp through Naree and the neighbouring reserve, which we're in a partnership to care for. I knew these figures before my trip, but it was only when I flew above the swamp and saw it from an aerial view that I was able to grasp the true expansive mosaic of this place, which is one of the most significant water bird breeding sites in Australia.
That trip was in mid-June. As I write this message, the last water from those floods is drying up – there’s been no significant rain on Yantabulla or in the catchment area since April. It’s a potent reminder that water cannot be taken for granted in this landscape, or anywhere for that matter.
Freshwater is the lifeblood of this country. Waterways such as the Cuttaburra Creek, which feeds one side of Yantabulla, and the Murrumbidgee River which flows through our Scottsdale Reserve and on to Canberra, have sustained humans, plants and animals for millennia. And they will continue to do so if we look after them.
This summer is forecast to be hotter and drier than most for almost all of Australia. Through it, we’ll be supporting our reserve managers, ecologists, field officers and partners to deal with the challenges that inevitably arise in such harsh conditions in order to keep them and the landscapes we protect safe. I also want to acknowledge the farmers and people of rural Australia who are doing it tough in this drought – our thoughts and thanks are with you.
Currently, Australia is suffering one of the worst bushfire seasons in decades, with large parts of the country being impacted. Our hearts go out to the people and wildlife bearing the brunt of these catastrophic fires. Five Bush Heritage reserves and one partner property have been affected to varying degrees, and three reserves have active fires still burning around them. A more detailed update on the impact to our reserves can be found here, and we will provide further updates when it is safe to access and assess the areas.
Finally, I would like to say a huge thanks to those on the front lines who have been fighting these fires and providing support to impacted communities. Our thoughts are with you, as well as the people of rural Australia who are still doing it tough in the drought.
Heather Campbell, Chief Executive Officer.