CFA is proudly working with communities across Victoria to reduce fire risks in innovative ways.
Nowhere is this more evident than the work we are doing through the Safer Together partnership. Funded by the Victorian Government, Safer Together brings together CFA, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Forest Fire Management Victoria, communities and local councils to find innovative solutions to fuel reduction based on each community’s input and backed up with expert, scientific advice.
Wannon Falls Reserve
At Wannon Falls Reserve in the Southern Grampians Shire, everyone has worked incredibly hard on a major habitat enhancement and fire-risk reduction program. As the project’s original facilitator and CFA’s Vegetation Management Officer Andy Govanstone put it, the Wannon Falls Reserve project embodies everything that the Safer Together program stands for.
“It’s an approach that combines stronger community partnerships with the latest science and research to more effectively target reducing bushfire risk across the landscape,” Andy said.
“Initially, there was considerable criticism of the shire from the Wannon community regarding the management of the reserve. Relationships were strained - even between community members.”
To build relationships, a wide range of community activities were carried out including a listening post, public meetings, simtable exercises, brigade workshops, forums and a vegetation management bus trip. Through these activities it became clear there was significant concern with the overabundant Acacia paradoxa (commonly called hedge wattle) spreading through bushland and the fire risk it presented in Wannon Falls Reserve.
Everyone worked together to address the reduction of fire risk in the reserve and developed a bushfire reduction plan. The plan has already seen hedge wattle cleared, and the reserve made safe from a fuel management perspective and for visitors.
Strict permit conditions meant the hedge wattle had to be hand-cut and carried (not dragged) to an area to be mulched. Because the task was so labour intensive the job was done by contractors, as was the mulching component. The hedge wattle was turned into mulch which was then used in community revegetation projects in the surrounding area.
Wannon residents have offered to keep their eyes open for emerging hedge wattle seedlings and remove them by hand to prevent them taking over the site again.
By implementing a Safer Together approach in Wannon, the fire risk is under control for the coming fire season.
Wannon-Nigretta Community Group Secretary Shirley Bramley thanked the partnership for delivering this project to the community.
“On behalf of the Wannon community, I thank you so very much and look forward to the continued improvement of these unique
community assets,” she said.
Likewise, the community of Moyston has benefitted significantly from the Safer Together approach by reducing elevated fuel, mainly hedge wattle, in the Asset Protection Zone to the south and west of the township.
The Moyston Common is managed by a Committee of Management and abuts both private land and areas maintained by Parks Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria.
Moyston Public Parks Secretary and President of Moyston Progress Association Max McLean explained.
“Rampart growth of elevated fuel in this area for many years has been a source of concern for township residents and all groups within the town because of the risk it will allow bushfire either directly into the township or sweep through on a wind change. We came close to both these scenarios during 2006 and 2015 major fires.”
The area is regularly burned by Moyston Fire Brigade members and the encroaching hedge wattle has impacted the burn
program and increased the risk to the community.
The brigade, Forest Fire Management Victoria and CFA’s Vegetation Management team produced a plan to treat the affected areas using a skid steer forestry disc mulcher. The mulching program took five days and covered an area of approximately 11 hectares. The result was a significant reduction in the bushfire risk to the town, plus an enhancement to the local area.
The Moyston Landcare Group was appreciative of CFA’s efforts to carry out hedge wattle control work. President Madelene
Townsend said including the areas south and west of Moyston in the township fire prevention zone, allowed CFA to not only carry out vital fire preparation work, but also enhance biodiversity and reduce the rabbit population.
“Acacia paradoxa unfortunately can take over, choking other native species and creating a perfect rabbit harbour,” Madelene said. “Over a period of time, a range of native flora will again return, especially native grasses. The Landcare Group can plan to assist this process by planting native grasses to enhance the area and also create a walking track for locals and visitors to enjoy the outdoors and learn a bit of its mining history.”