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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Nature reserve prone to suspicious fires

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Luis Feliu

The cause of every major fire that has destroyed wildlife habitat in Cudgen Nature Reserve in the past 10 years has been ‘suspicious’ or deliberately lit, according to the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

Last week, 95 hectares of the northern part of the 464-hectare reserve, as well as part of the Kings Forest development site adjoining it, was burnt out by a fire deemed suspicious by the RFS.

The fire has been contained, but yesterday was still smouldering in the peat-laden middle part of the reserve, according to RFS Tweed spokesman Dave Cook.

RFS firefighters worked alongside rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in a containment strategy and also to rescue any stricken wildlife, such as koalas which abound there.

An NPWS spokesman told Echonetdaily that ground inspections were carried out during the operation but no injured wildlife, including koalas, were found.

Tweed Wildlife Carers also were regularly apprised of the situation, the spokesman said.

Group captain Cook said that last Saturday, ‘another fire was ignited to the east of this fire near Salt and we pulled resources from one to put the other out’.

That fire too was believed to have been deliberately started.

‘There was also another suspicious fire in the dunes at Cabarita last week, at the opposite end of the nature reserve further south, but we managed to control that before it spread into the nature reserve,’ group captain Cook said.

He told Echonetdaily that a suspicious fire also burnt out the southern section of the reserve around two years ago.

‘And around four years before that, another fire started in the southern section which burnt out a fair bit, and that one too was suspicious,’ Supt Cook said.

The nature reserve is surrounded by built or proposed housing developments such as the Kings Forest site, as well as Salt and Casuarina to the east of the Coast Road .

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  1. You would imagine fire, police and even local government authorities have launched investigations in case one of these suspicious or spontaneous combustion events eventually takes homes or even human life. The thick pall of smoke enveloping Casuarina, Kingscliff and further south in itself caused health and pollution issues which is why controlled burning of sugar cane was introduced. Clearly Tweed Shire is paralysed by official apathy.

  2. Arson continues to be the source of most fires on the Tweed Coast and has been for years. I have fought many fires in this area as former NPWS officer, and highlighted this increase risk of fire to Cudgen NR from proposed King’s Forest development. Those type of unfortunate anti-social behaviours increase with development, and developers need to understand that, which is why it is important to have adequate buffers between development and natural areas – both for the safety of built assets and the environment.


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