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PODCAST: the new frontier for finance

One of the largest remaining reed and river red gum wetlands in the whole Murray-Darling Basin lies on two adjoining cattle stations: Juanbung and Boyong.

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In a joint venture, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Tiverton Agriculture purchased both cattle stations, along with their water rights.

" There are increasingly huge pools of capital out there [belonging to people who] really care about what happens with their money and where it goes.” – Shayne Elliott

The deal is the most valuable private conservation-focused purchase in Australia’s history and will protect almost the entire extent of the Great Cumbung Swamp.

Rich Gilmore, Country Director at TNC Australia, notes the funds raised for this unique transaction were a mixture of investor and debt finance.

“No one has ever attempted a transaction like this one,” says Gilmore. “This sort of model is pretty new still - that sort of hybrid capital where you have some debt in there and some impact investment.”

Nigel Sharp, Director at Tiverton Rothwell Agriculture Fund, reflects “This is a great way to demonstrate a successful collaboration. A lot of conservation and agriculture in the past has been seen working in opposite directions and that’s not the way we think and it’s not the way a property like this is going to thrive.”

Working together

Shayne Elliott, CEO of ANZ, notes investors are turning towards sustainable finance solutions, with a strong desire to understand the environmental and social impact of their investments.

“There are increasingly huge pools of capital out there [belonging to people who] really care about what happens with their money and where it goes,” continues Elliott. “It's not just running the numbers but also saying ‘how do we ensure these projects are really delivering the social, community or environmental goods they're supposed to?’”

While this joint venture is an important one, Elliott believes this is an emerging area.  “It's not about business vs non-government organisations or business vs. conservation or sustainability, it's about asking ‘how do we work together?’” he says.

Emerging trends

Working together is key theme in how the land will be managed moving forward. Sharp says the aim isn’t to lock up the land for conservation only - the new owners will continue to manage sustainable agriculture on the site.

 “A lot of these properties require grazing as well. So building up a biomass and locking up places can work absolutely against the way nature intended,” he explains.

In addition to its environmental value, the Great Cumbung is an important Indigenous landscape, with many cultural sites along the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers.

“We know there are thousands of really important cultural sites in this landscape,” Gilmore says. “We're working closely with the traditional owners to make sure their cultural and social aspirations for the property are met as well as the natural, environmental and financial ones.”

Gilmore hopes to see this trend of agriculture and conservation continues across the country.

“Looking back in 10 years - at least from the Nature Conservancy’s point of view - if it's a thriving natural landscape and the wetlands are still in good health, if there are local jobs being sustained and created and if others are replicating this model in other parts of Australia then I think we've really succeeded,” Gilmore says.

Melissa Cutler is Head of Environmental Sustainability and James Dunnett is Corporate Agriculture Relationship Manager at ANZ

Listen to the podcast above to hear the full conversation.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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