Restoration of Banrock Station Ramsar wetlands, South Australia: over 20 years of successful involvement by a private agribusiness.
Banrock Station, in South Australia, was acquired by Hardys Wines (now Accolade Wines Australia Ltd.) in 1993. The 1,800 ha property lies on the shore of the Murray River, which with the Darling River creates one of the largest catchment basins in the world. Banrock Station's new owner developed 250 ha of wines on land previously cleared for fodder, pasture and crops. At the same time, an active restoration of wetlands and woodlands started through: (i) immediate removal of stockgrazing pressure; (ii) a feral- and weed-species control programme, including the construction of a 14 km feral-proof fence; (iii) reestablishment of a natural hydrological regime with a succession of dry and wet phases; (iv) the reintroduction of native threatened species; and (v) an annual revegetation programme. In 2000, the Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre opened for the public to enjoy wines and alfresco dining while looking out over the river floodplain. An 8 km self-guided walking trail network with boardwalks and bird-hides leads visitors to the heart of the wetland. For its unique biodiversity, its efforts in public awareness and natural-habitat conservation, the site was declared in 2002 as one of Australia's 65 "wetlands of international importance" under the Ramsar Convention. Because of its visible record in ontheground conservation (i.e., first birddiversity hotspot in South Australia and one of the top 100 in Australia), continuous partnership with state and federal authorities, its establishment as a prime tourist destination (with an average of 60,000 visitors a year), and its involvement in the engagement of local communities (up to two university/school class visits per month), the site has traversed successfully several changes in the company's ownership and management structures and Australia's worst recorded drought. After over 20 years of habitat-restoration efforts, Banrock Station is recognized worldwide as a successful model and demonstration site for the involvement of a private business in wetland conservation and sustainable use.