Namadgi National Park bushfire-recovery gets a boost with new grant

From left, Correa Driscoll of Southern ACT Catchment Group, and CEO of Landcare ACT Karissa Preuss will focus on helping Namadgi recover. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Community efforts to restore the bushfire-ravaged Namadgi National Park are set to ramp up later this month, as much of the area remains closed to the public.

The Orroral Valley fire burnt out nearly 80 per cent of Namadgi over the 2019-20 bushfire season, after being set off by a MRH-90 Taipan helicopter attempting to clear a landing ground.

This week, Landcare ACT received a $20,000 grant to help rehabilitate wildlife habitats in Namadgi. The new grant comes from the partnership of wildlife rescue organisation WIRES and Landcare Australia, who awarded nearly $1.2 million to 64 groups across Australia for post-bushfire recovery efforts.

The Canberra grant will facilitate community members through the Southern ACT Catchment group to assist in erosion and weed control, as well as the revegetation of fire-affected areas.

“I think there are some really good people working on the restoration, so I think [Namadgi] has a good chance considering there’s a strong community and government partnership,” Landcare ACT CEO Karissa Preuss said.

“It’s a short term response that will provide some assistance to our broader bushfire recovery program at Landcare ACT that we’re working on.”

Landcare Australia CEO Dr Shane Norrish said the quality of the applications were “so great” that WIRES provided funding to more applicants than originally planned.

Ms Preuss said over 900 community members had already registered to help volunteer in the effort. She said although the COVID-19 pandemic had effectively halted on-ground bushfire regeneration efforts, it had given the organisation more time to plan the recovery.

“I think the challenge has been not actually being able to get into the park, and that’s a result of the bushfires and the pandemic,” she said.

“Now the COVID restrictions are being eased, we’re now at a point to actually get in and start work, obviously respecting social distancing.”

Landcare ACT has also lodged long-term funding grant applications for bushfire-regeneration work aimed at protecting the vulnerable Canberra Grasslands and Alpine Bog and Fens ecological communities.

Namadgi has struggled to receive federal funding for its restoration, as it was deemed “not eligible” under the Commonwealth’s current Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has previously called for an overhaul of the Commonwealth scheme, describing it as “cumbersome and challenging to implement in these particular circumstances”.

The ACT government is also seeking federal compensation in relation to the army helicopter which started the Orroral Valley blaze. Ms Pruess did not wish to comment on the topic of Commonwealth funding.

Appeared in The Canberra Times 14 July 2020

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