Gayini Conservation Area
Toogimbie IPA was part of the National Cultural Flows Project in 2018. Image: Nari Nari Tribal Council
Environmental flows snake across the wetlands of Gayini in 2020.
Image: Jamie Woods
The Toogimbie Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) covers 4,600 hectares and includes former pasture lands and contrasting eucalypt-lined creeks, waterways and a floodplain. It was dedicated as an IPA in 2004.
The traditional life of the Nari Nari people revolved around Toogimbie's wetlands, which are home to totem animals and traditional medicines. The Hay area was once part of a major Indigenous trade route which supported a vast social and cultural network, however much of the cultural history of local Indigenous people was lost following colonisation.
Toogimbie’s Murrumbidgee River wetlands belong to the region’s first Lignum floodplains to be set aside for conservation purposes, to support endangered or vulnerable plant and animal species.
Situated north of the famous Hay Plain, the Toogimbie landscape includes flat former pasture lands contrasting with eucalypt-lined creeks and waterways, and a nearby floodplain.
IPA activities are protecting the scarred trees, campsites and burial mounds found on Toogimbie, as well as helping reconnect the people to their land.
Toogimbie IPA represents both a visual and spiritual link between the health of the land, its water systems and its people.
The local ecosystem and wildlife habitats have been affected by former farming practices, and by timber cutting along waterways. As a result, the Toogimbie wetlands are environmentally degraded and fragile, and are the main focus of land management activities. Managed intervention by the Tribal Council supports the recovery of the land, and is helping to ensure a sustainable future for both the Nari Nari and their environment.
Gayini is part of the Lowbidgee floodplain – the largest remaining area of wetlands in the Murrumbidgee Valley, within the southern Murray-Darling Basin. It’s an area of national and international conservation significance.
The Gayini project is driven by First Nation’s group Nari Nari Tribal Council, in partnership with TNC, MDWWG and UNSW. The consortium partnership is beneficial to all participants, in that it brings together expertise that ultimately benefits People, Culture and Country.
Native Australian birds are particularly abundant here ranging in size from the tiny Spotted Pardalote to big, impressive Emus in large numbers.
Of highest significance, the wetlands provide feeding and breeding habitat for many different species of freshwater birds which can amass in large nesting colonies when conditions are right – species like the Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Little Pied Cormorant and Australian Pelican.
Nationally listed threatened species are also protected at Gayini including one of Australia’s largest frogs – the Southern Bell Frog – and two endangered bird species – the Australasian Bittern and Australian Painted-snipe. In November 2019, the critically endangered Plains-wanderer was seen and photographed – a first for Gayini. This unique species relies on native grasslands that are well managed with not too much grazing but not too little.
While around half of the property was previously used for cropping and grazing over the last 150 years, the majority of it remains covered with significant native vegetation in good or recovering condition.
Gayini’s management plan permanently protects these habitats for the wealth of species that rely on them for their survival.
The entire Gayini area is a rich cultural landscape that has supported Aboriginal people for 50,000 years. The property is home to a wealth of Indigenous cultural features from sacred canoe scar trees to ancient burial mounds and camp sites.
For thousands of years the First Australians in this area made interventions to boost the productivity of their Country – enhancing fish and bird stocks, and vegetation growth. Once more in possession of their land, Nari Nari people are caring for it using a combination of traditional and modern techniques to improve its productivity and enhance its values.