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Byron Shire
October 4, 2022

Local wetlands and the Black Summer fires

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Bungawalbin wetlands. Photo Iain Stych

Today is World Wetland Day and the work needed to restore, repair and protect one of the most significant wetlands in the Northern Rivers following the Black Summer fires is underway. 

Bungawalbin is a little south of Coraki and west of Evans Head and Woodburn and during the Balck Summer Fires in 2019/20 ‘Over ninety-five per cent of the Bungawalbin area was burnt,’ says Maree Thomson, Envite Environment Senior Environment Coordinator. The area includes the Bungawalbin National Park and the Bungawalbin State Conservation Area. 

Black Summer fires at Bora Ridge that runs through the Bungawalbin National Park, November 14, 2019. Photo Ewan Willis.

‘Wetlands can cope with fire to a certain degree, but not if it’s really hot, dry and devastating. Unfortunately, 2019 was that year. This left many of our threatened species on the brink of disappearing. 

‘This area is part of a large wetland system which contains lowland subtropical rainforest, coastal swamp forests, coastal floodplain wetlands and dry sclerophyll forest and is one of the most significant areas of fauna biodiversity in north-east NSW. 

‘Unfortunately, the fires were preceded by drought and followed by floods resulting in ideal conditions for growth weeds such as Lantana and Cats Claw Creeper which out-compete regenerating native plants if not controlled,’ said Ms Thompson. 

Envite Environment bush regenerator Stewart McCulloch controls Corky Passion Vine in the Bungawalbin bushfire recovery area. Photo Iain Stych

Restoring together

Bandjalang Traditional Owners, Bungawalbin Landcare, private landholders and Envite Environment have been working together with funding from the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants as the Bungawalbin Landscape Bushfire Recovery Project. They have successfully managed to support threatened species recovery through restoration works and invasive species control after the devastating 2019 bushfires that burnt large swaths of the wetlands and rainforest. Endangered and threatened birds, fish, frogs, and plants have made a significant comeback on a threatened wetland. 

World Wetland Day

With World Wetland Day on February 3 focusing on taking action to restore, repair and protect wetlands, Maree says community support and collaboration is vital in wetland habitats enhancing their important role now and into the future. 

‘Bungawalbin Landcare and landholders in the area have worked hard to assist wildlife and habitat to recovery from bushfires and the Minyumai Indigenous bush regeneration team is working to restore Country of strong cultural significance.

‘Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. They reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants, improve water quality and provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere ‘By undertaking weed control activities and engaging with local volunteers and landholders we can help to ensure that the wetlands and the species that rely on its health have the best chance of full recovery.’

People interested in bushfire recovery can contact Maree Thompson at Envite Environment on 0428 116 895 if they would like to take part in upcoming community workshops or find out more about the bushfire recovery work underway in the Bungawalbin area.

♦ A development application for a bush camp at Bungawalbin, that was previously rejected, is currently under consideration by the Richmond Valley Council. Concerns have been raised about the potential impact of the campground that ‘is smack-bang in the middle of an area of Wetlands of National Significance’. 

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  1. I looked up at the sky, looked down to the ground and began to think just what day was it. Oh’ that’s right it was today.
    I knew the day started with a “T” and so I put the billy on the fire near the lagoon where I was camped and boiled the water in the billy for a mug of tea. I nearly said that I boiled the billy but they are made of metal and they don’t boil too well on an open fire. I took a sip of my mug of tea, let it flow over my tongue, swallowed as an egret flew down and settled on the water. From that natural beautiful bird that flew into my perspective I looked out upon the wetlands. I was here in this spot today because I came here for World Wetlands Day, today. The wetlands, the lands that are wet with crystal clear water was a mirror of the trunks of paper-bark trees, one of the miriod of species of melaleuca in an area of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. This place, yes this place needs protecting.. Be damned that this place is going to be dammed. The frogs were chirping and far off though the trees from a distance, a distinct wild dog was wailing. This was God’s country and here and there were still the hint of stumps of trees that were burned in the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019-20. Nineteen and 20, I was a lot older than that.

  2. That’s what happens when you don’t do enough burn offs. California banned burning off and look what’s happened there.
    Irony is when you try to do something and it makes the exact opposite happen.
    That’s the history of the “Eco” movement.


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