Staff from CFA’s Vegetation Management and Planned Burning Programs and Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) East Central Risk Landscape team ventured interstate recently to see how complex inter-agency planned burns are carried out on Sydney’s National Heritage listed North Head near Manly.
The field trip was part of the NSW Nature Conservation Council’s biennial Bushfire Conference; Fire, Fauna and Ferals which showcased how fire is being put back into the landscape for both hazard reduction and ecological restoration.
The walking tour of North Head included on site talks by NSW National Parks Rangers on planning for fire management, site preparation and the resources that went into successfully completing recent planned burns on Sydney’s doorstep. Also outlined were the follow up and ongoing feral animal control and the links between fire, ferals and native fauna.
Penny Richards CFA’s East Central Bushfire Risk Landscape Coordinator said “It was great to see first-hand how all the land mangers on North Head work in together to plan and coordinate planned burning and follow up pest animal and plant control”.
Rob Strauch Bushfire Officer with Fire & Rescue NSW described the detail that went into planned burning where protection of significant assets such as historic sandstone walls, former army barracks, underground tunnels, sewage treatment plants, quarantine station buildings and cemeteries all had to be taken into account when planning the burn.
“Whilst fire is necessary to ensure the persistence of healthy ecological communities, re introducing fire in areas close to the urban interface is a challenging issue” said Rob. CFA’s Acting Vegetation Management Coordinator Phil Hawkey was impressed with the exceptional attention to detail that went into planning, preparing, engaging and conducting these important and complex planned burns.
Participants also saw how community groups are involved in setting up and monitoring experimental plots comparing the use of fire vs selective thinning and fencing for rabbit exclusion. Participants saw significant differences in the plots and how planned burning produced larger and more bio diverse responses than thinning.
As a result of the successful use of fire to restore endangered ecological communities the Australian Wildlife Conservancy are reintroducing locally extinct native mammals such as Eastern Pygmy Possum which play an important role as pollinators for Banksias and other species. Luke Smith DELWP Planned Burning Biodiversity Officer said, “the field day was a great example of interoperability between agency, community and other non-government organisations working together to achieve both fuel reduction and ecological outcomes”.
The group agreed that the ‘all agencies’ approach, attention to detail, community involvement and post burn follow up producing multiple outcomes were key learnings they will bring back to their planned burning programs in Victoria.