Recovering from the Black Saturday Bushfires

In February 2009, the Black Saturday Bushfires devastated large areas north of Melbourne. Burning a total of 255, 417 hectares of land and claiming 173 lives.  Following the fires, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GBCMA) and local Landcare groups worked closely to support the recovery of the community and the natural environment. The local knowledge and networks provided critical understanding about individual land holders and their capacity to engage and participate in external programs.

Immediately after the fire, members of the Upper Goulburn Landcare Network and the Goulburn Broken CMA met to discuss how to best approach fire recovery activities. With the Department of Primary Industries, they were the first to engage with the community to begin the job of assessing the impact and reinstating critical assets. Landholders were asked what support was needed and this understanding of the assistance required was used to apply for funds and the subsequent recovery activities. GBCMA was able to access funding support and these were distributed via Landcare groups.  Funds were used to buy materials, such as tools and equipment for fencing, erosion control and weed management and Landcare groups were able to coordinate volunteers to carry out recovery works.

A series of field days were delivered regarding the important issues for landholders at strategic locations across the burned area. Importantly, these events also included the participation of health counsellors and professionals, and similarly health care professionals operating in the region were able to inform the CMA and Landcare networks of the individuals who were ready to access support. This approach maximised the opportunities for community participation and supported the rapid uptake of works on private land.

More than $6 million was committed to recovery operations and on ground activities in the aftermath of the fires included contacting every affected landholder. Approximately 500 volunteers assisted more than 50 landholders to address immediate issues such as fence recovery, tree planting, woody weed control, erosion control and nesting box installation. The immediate clean-up of affected areas quickly transitioned to a focus on urgent rehabilitation works and controlling the impacts of weeds (over 400 hectares) and feral animals, along with protecting fire sensitive vegetation and critical habitat (over 800 hectares). Fifteen threatened species were protected through activities to translocate or create critical elements of habitat.

The direct support of the existing networks and groups in the region is recognised as being critical for the capacity of the community to respond and the speed of recovery efforts.  People within the affected communities recognised the value of the networks and highlighted that ongoing help or follow up offers of assistance gave them hope and the sense that they were not alone. The environmental recovery was intricately linked with the human recovery and the investment in the community and social networks was fundamental to enabling the community to deal with this catastrophic fire.

 

This case study relied on information from:

  • Australian Government, Australian Emergency Management Institute, Attorney General’s Department
  • Australian emergency management handbook: Community Recovery – Community Recovery Handbook 2 – Building a disaster resilient Australia, 3rd ed,2011
  • Community Skills, Knowledge And Engagement Bushfire Recovery Program. A report for Goulburn Broken CMA by Roberts Evaluations April 2011

Saving the endangered Warru wallaby

Warru, or black-footed rock-wallaby (Petrogale lateralis Macdonell Ranges race), is one of South Australia’s most endangered mammals. Once common across the rocky ranges of central Australia, there has been a dramatic reduction in their distribution and abundance. The Warru recovery team of Indigenous Rangers, local communities, government agencies and scientists are working to change this species’ fate. Importantly, the project is leading to employment for some of Australia’s most remote people. The project employed 33 casual rangers in 2015-16, and 9 indigenous rangers on a permanent part-time basis.  This is compared to only 2 non-indigenous staff working on the project.

There are only two wild populations of Warru known in South Australia. These are in the Eastern Musgrave Ranges and the Tomkinson Ranges of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the far north-west of the state.

In 1999, APY Land Management rangers started work on project activities to protect the Warru.  Then in 2007, due to increasing concern that the Warru were facing extinction, the Warru Recovery Team formed. This team combines the knowledge and skills of the traditional owners with Western science and ground breaking species recovery activities.  The team includes traditional owners of the APY Lands, the communities of Kalka, Pipalyatjara, Pukatja and Kenmore Park on the APY Lands, state and federal Governments, APY Land Management, the University of Adelaide, Adelaide Zoo and private ecologists.

To provide the Warru with safety and increased habitat, significant feral animal control and fire management regimes have been implemented via the 10 rangers assigned to the management of the in-situ population.

In addition to the management of the in-situ population, 22 Warru joeys were translocated to Monarto Zoo and cross-fostered with captive yellow-footed rock wallabies. This activity was undertaken with the full support of traditional owners to boost the success of breeding populations and provide animals to reintroduce into the wild.

In June 2010, to support the planned reintroduction of captive Warru, a 100 hectare predator-proof Warru enclosure was constructed following comprehensive site selection process. Anangu community members installed 4.4km predator exclosure or ‘warru pintji’ fencing. This safe-haven helps the captivity-bred Warru safely acclimatise and adapt to local conditions. Since 2011, more than 15 Warru raised in captivity at Monarto Zoo have been released into the warru pintji, and free breeding is now taking place.

Over the past decade, the Warru Recovery Team and employees from the APY Lands have successfully undertaken trapping surveys. The 11th trapping survey in the Musgrave and Tomkinson Ranges, showed that the Warru population was in recovery. In 2016 a total of 63 individual Warru were trapped across the six monitoring sites with a success rate of 35%. Sustained increases in the populations have occurred since trapping. Feral cat and fox control is continuing and may be reducing some pressure from cat predation. Although Warru remains were found in four cats shot in 2015, only two cats were trapped at Alalka in that year, which is an improvement to the 13 from the previous year (2014).

The work to recover the endangered Warru is providing employment for 42 Indigenous people in very remote Australia. The collaboration is using the best of Indigenous knowledge and techniques integrated with modern science. The numbers are showing improvement and the success is good for the Warru and good for the community.

Healthier reef through alliance

Improved dairy industry productivity

Fert$mart has produced farm gate profit improvements for Tasmanian dairy farmers by providing accurate soil nutrient maps and advice on changes to fertiliser regimes. This program has been developed over the past five years with 100 per cent of local farmers involved and making changes to their fertiliser applications. Industry wide adoption would see a $10.3 million saved per year.

To support the 440 dairy farms in Tasmania, Dairy Tas and Cradle Coast NRM collaboratively developed a program to improve soil nutrient management in dairy pastures. In 2015, Tasmania produced around 891 million litres of milk, accounting for approximately 9 per cent of national milk output. Over the last five years, milk production in Tasmania has grown over 32 per cent with the estimated value of farm milk production now $442 million (2015) .

In 2010 a trial project was developed that worked with six dairy farmers in the cradle coast region. This project involved full farm soil testing and nutrient mapping with presentations of the results in each farm locality. The soil information was colour mapped to clearly identify the varying nutrient levels across the farm. Based on this this information plus all fertiliser inputs and outputs, a budget of recommended nutrient addition was prepared for each farm. This included a potential fertiliser savings calculation, compared to previous additions of nutrients. This fertiliser saving translated into an estimated $280,000 across the six farms over the two years of the trial. A substantial farm gate improvement to these farms’ bottom line, maintaining production and decreasing run-off to waterways.

The success of this collaborative trial has led to the much broader Fert$mart program being introduced across Tasmania in October 2014. This program is led by Dairy Tas in collaboration with the Australian Government, Tasmanian Government, NRM North, Cradle Coast NRM and NRM South. Under this program, landholders pay for soil testing and the project partners provide access to agricultural advisers to prepare fertiliser and farm management plans.

The Fert$mart program is fully subscribed with 100 farms registered and over 1,271 paddocks sampled by the end of June 2016. Only 3 per cent of dairy paddocks were found to be in optimum ranges for all soil fertility indicators, indicating a substantial opportunity for increased productivity and cost saving via better fertiliser management.

“FertSmart has been very invaluable to our farming business. Measuring and monitoring our soils and fertiliser usage, mapping out a proposed fertiliser plan to correct any nutrient issues and planning the timing of applications has reduced our overall fertiliser usage and wastage which not only saves us dollars but also helps in protecting the environment and animal health”.

Nigel Brock, Dairy Farmer, Montana, Tasmania

The long-term vision for Fert$mart is that the farmer support provided by regional NRM bodies would be the momentum for changed practice and then the commercial incentive would maintain the on-farm activities. This approach is working. This investment has developed the capacity of the farmers and the support industries to fill a crucial gap in the industry. Follow up surveys have indicated that 100 per cent of farmers that have participated in the project have made changes because of Fert$mart. Additionally, some farms are now into their second season of activity and have transitioned to a fully commercial arrangement to continue this approach.

Extrapolating the savings of those first six pioneering producers across the Tasmanian dairy industry there is the potential to save farmers almost $10.3 million / year. The Australian Government investment in natural resource management directly contributes to the first goal of Dairy Tas to support “Profitable and competitive dairy farms” through “improved farm margins” and has led to a direct increase in the profitability and productivity of the dairy industry in Tasmania.  This benefit is on top of the contribution to reduced nutrient run-off and improved pastures providing valuable protection for the regions soils and water ways/resources.