How far can a carbon purchase go? That's what companies all over the world come to South Pole to find out, and carbon projects are incredibly varied; from forestry, to energy, to industry, to waste – there are so many different ways to sequester or avoid carbon emissions. With this comes a range of opportunities to make a difference beyond the tangible tonne of carbon.

In 2018, South Pole
launched EcoAustralia: a unique response to a market push to make carbon abatement go further. The EcoAustralia solution combines international carbon credits* with quantified Australian biodiversity credits in a single product; and now, for the first time, also brings a social benefit to indigenous Australian communities.

A two hour drive southeast of Adelaide near the town of Meningie in South Australia,

Mount Sandy will be the newest addition to the EcoAustralia suite of projects. In May 2019, I was fortunate enough to visit the project myself.

Nestled between the famous coastal Coorong National Park and Lake Albert, the property is a critical link for wildlife amidst a landscape overwhelmingly cleared for agriculture. The untouched remnant vegetation is marked by a freshwater wetland ecosystem, home to a large number of bird, mammal and reptile species.

The experience of standing on the Mount Sandy project site is a strange one – the serenity of whistling native birds is occasionally interrupted by cows mooing on the adjacent agricultural lands that seem to taunt the site with their proximity. It gives you a sense of how lucky we are to even have this patch of untouched landscape to protect at all.

Mount Sandy's untouched remnant vegetation

Above: Mount Sandy's untouched remnant vegetation

Mount Sandy comparison

Left: A snapshot of how cleared agricultural land encircles the Mount Sandy site

Right: Early European settlement showing significantly more trees in the landscape

I could write an entire piece on the biodiversity benefits of the site – but that isn't even half of the magic. The significance of this site to the Ngarrindjeri people, an indigenous community based in the nearby lakeside community of Raukkan, became apparent during the visit.

Raukkan has history spanning thousands of years as a meeting place for Ngarrindjeri "lakalinyeri" (clans). It was the location of the Ngarrindjeri parliament, and was set up as an Aboriginal mission in 1860. Today, it is home to over 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Clyde Rigney, land manager for Mount Sandy, with Daryl

Above: Clyde Rigney, land manager for Mount Sandy, with Daryl who has recently returned to Raukkan to reconnect with his indigenous heritage

Clyde and Rose Rigney, elders of the Ngarrindjeri community, greeted us in Raukkan. A visit to the community centre and museum brought to light just how significant these lands are to this community. There were photographs from early European settlement that showed how much the landscape has changed in a short time – illustrating a sad story of land clearing.

Countering that story of land clearing was Wayne at the local nursery. Wayne has started a business propagating native plants destined for Mount Sandy and other local plantings. He was learning on the job, and had constructed an impressive irrigation system to automate the process.

Wayne is just one of a number of indigenous community members who find either direct or indirect employment through the Mount Sandy site. And – at the conclusion of the project – Clyde and Rose will be the recipients of the land, returning this parcel of land to local indigenous family ownership.

Wayne and his nursery of native vegetation destined for Mount Sandy

Above: Wayne and his nursery of native vegetation destined for Mount Sandy and other local plantings

Mount Sandy really is a gem of a project with social and biodiversity impacts, mending a fractured landscape and promoting indigenous land ownership. Soon, you and your organisation can be part of this impact by purchasing EcoAustralia credits. For every tonne of carbon purchased, you'll ensure the permanent protection of 1.5 square metres at the Mount Sandy site – a tangible solution to improving an authentically Australian landscape.

Now that is taking a carbon purchase further!

Interested in learning how you can take the impact of your carbon offsetting strategy further than simple emission reductions? Visit our website, or get in touch with the team today to talk about EcoAustralia.

*The carbon component of EcoAustralia offers a choice of high quality Gold Standard renewable energy projects in Asia which contribute to a range of Sustainable Development Goals in their local communities.