Australia — Funding is being sought to rehabilitate an area of wetland and rainforest after bulldozers pushed paths through sections of pristine bushland near Crescent Head.
The bushfire management committee, made up of National Parks and Wildlife Service, Kempsey Shire Council, the Nature Conservation Council and the Rural Fire Service, agreed to seek funding from the Rural Fire Service to help fund a rehabilitation program.
Sections of a rainforest, palm grove and wetland were bulldozed for fire access trails and breaks on New Year’s Eve to allow fire fighters to prevent a fire sweeping through the reserve.
The fire trails were finished by New Year’s Day.
Nambucca Rural Fire Service (RFS) area manager Phil Evans said the fire crews did what they had to do to stop the fire.
Mr Evans said a mistake was made because fire crews were not made aware of the pristine area, which is on Crown land under Kempsey Council’s management.
NPWS representative on the bushfire management committee, Bryce Laut, said the National Parks fully supported the need to seek funding and fix the area.
“The area has bounced back remarkably, as the wetlands have water over them again and plants are sprouting, however funding is needed to assist with a regeneration plan,” Mr Laut said.
“NPWS, as part of the committee, has visited the site several times, and we agree that sending in more machinery to start replanting and the like will do more damage than good.
“I believe negotiations are underway as far as a possibility that the NPWS may be given control of the area, but they are only in the early stages, and we do not know where these negotiations will lead.”
Local Kevin Pugh brought the issue to The Macleay Argus.
Mr Pugh said some kind of management plan needed to be in place and strictly adhered to give the damaged areas adequate res- ources to regenerate.
Mr Pugh has organised a petition calling for Goolawah Reserve to be taken from the council and managed by the NPWS.
Mr Evans said the RFS now has a standard operating procedure to prevent this situation happening again.
Maps need to be supplied and the area manager needs to give per- mission for any machinery to enter a fire zone.
“I have put a letter to the Rural Fire Service requesting funds to assist in rehabilitating the area,” he said.
“We are shutting off the wetlands and sensitive rainforest and plan to pull mulch and fallen vegetation over the sand trails to help the natural regeneration process, however these decisions will be made with continued consultation with the bushfire management committee.”
Mr Evans said the fire was caused by a lightning strike on December 28.
“We used helicopter water bucketing, however severe fire conditions forecast for the next four days forced us to employ more aggressive tactics,” Mr Evans said.
“We received a call around midnight on New Year’s Eve that the fire was approaching a house, so we put fire crews on to the ground to go in and fight it.
“The conditions were woeful for firefighting, so we called in the bulldozers to create breaks to stop the fire spreading north, south and east after a state of emergency was declared for the area because of the severe weather.
“It is unfortunate the wetlands and rainforest sections were bulldozed, however most of the dozing was done in the dark.
“We were not advised the area was under council’s management as a nature reserve.
“The dozers followed the active fire edge, but stopped and pulled out once they realised they were in a wetland.
“I believe the only mistake made was the path cut into the wetlands, however fire crews and the dozer drivers did what was necessary to prevent the aggressive spread of the blaze into a severe wildfire.”
The previously secret rainforest is along Point Plomer Road and is again closed to public access.