We thought it mught be a good idea to start the news roundup this week with a few fireworks from the Eiffel Tower or Tour Eiffel in Paris. It is after all Bastille Day.
Backpackers stranded by coronavirus help BlazeAid rebuild bushfire-ravaged farms and communities
The ABC reported that Morgone Vendeputte and her boyfriend’s Australian travel dream ended in budget accommodation at the gateway to northern Queensland.
The French couple had just spent six months in Sydney saving for the holiday of a lifetime when the COVID-19 outbreaks began. “We just lost all the money we saved because we had to stay in an Airbnb,” Ms Vendeputte said.
Fortunately, a volunteer group that helps disaster-stricken communities turned out to be an unexpected lifeline for the couple — as well as hundreds of other travellers who had nowhere to go. During the coronavirus pandemic, BlazeAid has offered food and board in return for fencing work that helps bushfire-affected farmers re-establish their livelihoods.
Ms Vendeputte drove from Cairns to Braidwood in southern New South Wales to take up the offer, along with dozens of others — such as Louis Wilson, a backpacker from Newcastle in Britain.
“We’re just chilling, getting our dinners and helping the farmers, which is a good feeling,” Mr Wilson said. “It really hits you hard when you get out there, and they bring morning tea every day and just thank us constantly, so it’s quite humbling.”
Working-holiday visa changes benefit fire recovery
A temporary change to Australia’s working-holiday visa rules allows volunteering to be counted towards the 88 days of work that backpackers need to extend their visas. It has been a saviour for travellers like Kristy Richard, who was driving north looking for farm work when the pandemic prompted many employers to pause their operations.
“We’ve got I think one day left on our visa and we’re up, so we caught it just in time,” the English backpacker said.
Read the full story here.
Endangered brush-tailed rock wallabies bounce back from bushfire and drought
The Great Lakes Advocate reports that the endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby was deeply affected by the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires.
Thousands of hectares of Australian land was left blackened, flattened and lifeless. Entire ecosystems were engulfed and more than one billion animals were incinerated. The true extent of these raging fires may never be fully known. An estimated 80 per cent of brush-tailed rock wallaby habitat burned. The species, which was already at risk, suffered insurmountable damage to population numbers.
Emergency food drops have been a lifeline for displaced, starving wildlife, and recent drops have shown encouraging signs. The landscape is now lush and green and once dusty pools now hold water. Aussie Ark staff were delighted to have spotted a female brush-tailed rock wallaby with a young joey on their most recent food drop, a true sign of hope.
“What a sight it was. A mum and her young is the best sign of the species quite literally bouncing back,” Aussie Ark president, Tim Faulkner said.
Aussie Ark has been and remains committed to the recovery of wildlife in the wake of such devastating times.
“We were working with this species many years before the recent bushfires. Why? Because there numbers were and are rapidly decreasing,” Tim said.
“The bushfires have sped up their decline, and it is frightening.”
Aussie Ark also worked with National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the NSW Saving our Species program to help deliver short term supplementary food to rock wallabies suffering from severe drought on nearby Curracabundi National Park.
Winter blaze risk for fire-ravaged NSW
AAP reported that already ravaged by bushfire, the NSW South Coast has an elevated risk of fire this winter in areas not burnt during last summer’s devastating blazes, a new report predicts.
The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre on Friday released its bushfire outlook for July to September. The report forecasts elevated fire potential during this period for areas left untouched by the 2019/20 fires in the region, which is still recovering from the impacts of those blazes.
While large parts of NSW west of the Great Diving Range have experienced welcome rain since March, the report warns that long-term rainfall deficiencies remain across the state. Dry sub-soil conditions on the northern ranges, far north coast and South Coast are of particular concern and these areas are being monitored closely.
“Due to ongoing dry conditions and a reduced chance of above-median rainfall, above-normal fire potential is expected for the South Coast for this time of year in areas unburnt after last season’s fires,” the report said. “However, should a significant rain event, which has been forecast for mid-July, affect the South Coast, this is likely to decrease the fire potential for the outlook period.”
Normal fire risk is expected for the northern ranges and far north coast despite dry conditions because of an increased chance of above-average rainfall in these areas. It comes after the Bureau of Meteorology activated the “watch” level for La Nina, meaning there is about a 50 per cent chance of the weather phenomenon forming in the coming months, which is twice the normal likelihood.
The report notes that as a result, the current rainfall outlook seems favourable for much of NSW. “Whilst the bushfire outlook on the balance of the forecast is normal for most of NSW for the winter period, there is a need to monitor for unusual weather events (particularly windy conditions) that occasionally present during this period,” the report said.
The risk of grass fires is also being monitored as warmer-than-average temperatures, combined with recent and forecast rain, could create ideal growing conditions for grassland areas.This has the potential to increase grassland fuel loads as it dries during summer, according to the report.
Fire management in NSW has since April focused on hazard reduction, which will continue where the weather allows in the coming months. The NSW Rural Fire Service noted that while there was still a long way to go before the peak of the fire season, blazes could still occur. “It may be winter but there’s still an increased risk of fires in some parts,” the RFS posted on Twitter on Friday. The outlook shows “increased risk on (the) Far South Coast,” the agency said.
WIRES uses bushfire donations to support University koala research
THe University of Sydney reported that WIRES are giving donations from the general public, in response to this year’s bushfires, to the University’s Koala Health Hub to support their koala research and care.
WIRES has announced a three-year grant to the Koala Health Hub (KHH) a University of Sydney initiative to support koala care, management and research. The grant will sustain the KHH and allow it to respond to increasing need for koala care and management following recent bushfires and droughts.
“WIRES fully support the critical work being undertaken by Koala Health Hub,” said WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor. “Thanks to the incredible financial support we received in response to Australia’s bushfires we are now in the position to fund this significant research initiative.”
“The plight of Australian native animals and in particular the koala is in the spotlight and we need to take action now and do whatever it takes to halt the decline of their numbers in the wild,” she said.
The donation of $1,012,399 is the largest one-off living gift (ie, not a bequest) made to the University’s School of Veterinary Science, where the Koala Health Hub sits. Donations to WIRES were made by both local and international donors including from the US, UK, Asia and Europe.
KHH benefits koala welfare and conservation by providing laboratory support and evidence-based information to those at the coalface of care and management of koalas, whether in the clinic or in the wild.
WIRES’ (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc)) funding will be used to help KHH provide diagnostic support, expertise and coordination and communication to rehabilitation, university and government sectors. This includes funding a postdoctoral researcher and three PhD students, who will contribute to Australia’s pool of wildlife expertise and provide ‘boots on the ground’ to answer key questions to assist koala management.
Out of the summer bushfires comes a red wine for good
THe Gourmet Traveller reports that Over a thousand hectares of vineyards were destroyed in last year’s Adelaide Hills fires. Now, the wine-making community has come together to create a red wine that supports local producers.
Last summer’s bushfires seem like a lifetime ago, but winemaker Michael Downer remembers December 20, 2019 clear as an alarm bell. The Adelaide Hills wine-producing region was at the mercy of an uncontrolled fire that broke out at Cudlee Creek, and Downer was closely following reports of its destructive path. It bore down upon Lenswood and Woodside, small towns in the south-east quadrant of the Hills, and was looming towards Downer’s Murdoch Hills winery in Oakbank, before a sudden easterly spared his business from the worst of the disaster.
Still, he headed to the property of his winemaker friend Simon Tolley, and spent four hours battling the flames there. “When you’re in the thick of it, it’s so intense and severe. It’s hard to describe,” says Downer. The Simon Tolley accommodation lodge was saved, but about 80 per cent of its vineyard was destroyed. Across the region, some 1100 hectares – 30 per cent of the region’s wine crops – were lost to the fire.But seven months on, the Hills’ winemaking community has rallied together to produce a wine for good. The result is 10,800 bottles of the Hills Appeal wine, a syrah-pinot meunier blend, and sales of the wine will be donated to the Adelaide Hills Wine Region Fire Appeal which supports producers and grape-growers hit hardest by the disaster.
Bushfire region in NSW could be hit again.
An overview of Australia’s bushfire risk shows that one of the regions hardest hit during January’s horror blazes is in danger of burning again.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the fire-ravaged New South Wales south coast could burn again this year if rain doesn’t fall in coming months, fire chiefs have warned.
The latest quarterly bushfire outlook report rated most of Australia as having normal fire potential between July and September, but areas of the NSW south coast that didn’t burn last season had above normal fire potential for that period unless an east coast low provided a drenching.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers told News Corp that despite the devastation in December and January, an area north of Eden, out to the ranges and up to the west of Bega that did not burn earlier this year remained vulnerable.
Heavily vegetated areas around Bermagui and Moruya were also at risk, he said. “There are still quite a lot of areas that didn’t burn, and that area is still really dry. We’ll be watching really closely,” he said.
While the weather forecast was for cooler conditions, the concern was for windy days, which were always “problematic for firefighting,” Mr Rogers said.
Rain had prevented the RFS from doing more prescribed burning recently, but they anticipate conditions being favourable for hazard reduction burns later in the season this year, he said.
Associate Professor Owen Price from the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires said the “chances of a disaster are very small”.
“Most of the country has had a good rain season,” he said. “This time last year (the outlook) was completely doom and gloom.” “It’s fairly reasonable to assume that we’ve got a good two years of protection. After that it’s questionable.”
Assoc Prof Price said it was uncommon for regions to burn in consecutive fire seasons, but not unprecedented.
Parts of the Blue Mountains burned in Christmas 2001 and immediately adjacent areas burned in 2002, he said.
The bushfire outlook report rated parts of the Kimberley in Western Australia as having above normal fire conditions, while blazes were also possible in Victoria’s East Gippsland region if drought conditions persisted there. These fires would be of a scale of a thousand hectares, the report stated.
Queensland and the Northern Territory were expected to have average fire potential, although there was a risk of grass fires in the Sunshine State due to grass growth and destocking.
The report stated South Australia had low potential for fire activity over the winter period.