Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site

Hunter Estuary wetlands Ramsar site consists of two components: Kooragang Nature Reserve, listed under the Ramsar Convention in 1984 (and now part of Hunter Wetlands National Park), and the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia, which was added to the Ramsar site in 2002. The wetlands are situated on the northern edge of Newcastle.

a map of the Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site in NSW

Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site map

Why was this wetland listed as a Ramsar site?

The Hunter Estuary wetlands were listed under the Ramsar Convention because they meet the following Ramsar nomination criteria:

Criterion 2 - Threatened species or ecological communities

Hunter Estuary wetlands Ramsar site supports nationally and internationally listed threatened species, including the Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea), listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act and known to breed in the Ramsar site, and the estuary stingray (Dasyatis fluviorum), listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Criterion 4 - Supports species at critical stage of their life cycle or provides refuge in adverse conditions

The Hunter Estuary wetlands support 112 species of waterbirds and 45 species of migratory birds listed under international agreements, including the great egret (Ardea alba), cattle egret (Ardea ibis), terns (Sterna spp.), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and white-breasted sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).

The Hunter Estuary wetlands also provide refuge for waterbirds such as ducks and herons during periods of inland drought.

Criterion 6 - Supports 1% or more of the population of waterbird species

Hunter Estuary wetlands Ramsar site regularly supports at least 1% of the population of the eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis), and at least 1% of the population of the red-necked avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae).

More information

The key document for Hunter Estuary wetlands Ramsar site is the Ramsar information sheet. It outlines the criteria met by the site, special features and management practices within the site and its catchment.

The Ramsar Convention requires Contracting Parties to maintain the ecological character of their Ramsar listed wetlands. Australia has developed a framework for describing ecological character in detail. The ecological character description (ECD) for Kooragang follows the national framework and provides a comprehensive description of the site’s values (components, processes and services) as at 1984.

Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia is located on private land, and provides facilities for schools, universities and the general public to appreciate, enjoy and learn about the values of wetlands.

When the Kooragang site was listed as a Ramsar site in 1984, it was part of Kooragang Nature Reserve. In 2006 the nature reserve was incorporated into Hunter Wetlands National Park, managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

A plan of management (PDF) was prepared for Kooragang Nature Reserve in 1998, and identifies several actions for enhancing the site’s values and addressing threats to those values, including the rehabilitation of shorebird habitats and the re-introduction of tidal regimes to increase wetland habitats in the site. A plan of management is currently being prepared for Hunter Wetlands National Park, including opportunities for community consultation. Several management plans have been prepared for Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia, including a long-term revegetation plan to improve degraded habitats, and plans for managing restoration work and providing public access.

The principal threats to the Ramsar site’s values are changes in tidal range due to dredging, drainage works, and the installation and operation of flood mitigation structures; changes in the freshwater/saltwater balance due to drainage works; introduced animals and plants; and industrial development on lands adjoining the Ramsar site. Changes in the tidal range and to the freshwater/saltwater balance have resulted in an expansion of mangroves and a decrease in saltmarsh, an important foraging and roosting habitat for migratory shorebirds. Introduced animals such as dogs, foxes, cats and black rats prey on native birds. The principal introduced plants are bitou bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera), alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) and pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana).

The Ramsar Managers Network provides a forum for Ramsar site managers in NSW

Page last updated: 23 October 2012