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Hotspots working closely with members of the Tapitallee Community

Thursday, 16th May 2013

Hotspots working closely with members of the Tapitallee Community

The Tapitallee community, near Nowra NSW, was chosen due to the area being of high risk and of high conservation value. In addition, the area has a diverse mix of interested community members - some having not lived on the land before with little fire experience and others being absentee landowners only living on site weekends and holidays often in the bush fire risk season. For these reasons, the Hotspots team held two workshops with 56 community members coming together to learn how to manage fire on their property.

One property, the Lilly Pilly Lane multiple occupancy property, with 5 shareholdings, decided to undertake a coordinated cross boundary planning approach to manage fire risk whilst also trying to restore the natural values of the surrounding bush. The property holds significant ecological values, with the vegetation consisting of South Coast Wet Sclerophyll Forest (grassy), Rainforest, Dry Sclerophyll Forest (shrubby), and is home to threatened species such as the Brush-tailed rock wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) and Broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides), both listed as endangered in NSW. The residents of the property have recognised the significant ecological advantages in managing the property with the help of their adjoining neighbours.

Brush-tailed rock wallabies have been sited on the property. They inhabit rocky escarpments, outcrops and cliffs with a preference for complex structures with fissures, caves and ledges. One of the key threatening processes for this species is fire regimes that reduce the abundance and diversity of ground foliage. The link between fire and population decline in the Brush-tailed rock wallaby is still uncertain. Although fire is listed as key threatening process, careful application of low intensity hazard reduction could benefit the species by reducing the risk of high intensity wildfire.

Also recorded on the site is the Broad-Headed Snake. For most of the year the Broad-headed snake usually shelters in crevices or under rocks. A key threatening processes for this species is the removal of bushrock. Residents of Lilly Pilly lane have sited the snakes almost on their back doorstep. If future mechanical works are planned to create an asset protection, careful planning is required to ensure that habitat for the snake is not disturbed.

Hotspots facilitator Phil Paterson plans on working with these landholders to further develop their property plan, and help the landholders implement the knowledge gained from attending the Hotspots workshops. “A careful balance is required to achieve benefits for fuel reduction, whilst preserving and improving the habitat of these threatened species.”

One of the key messages of the Tapitallee workshop was that neither fire nor fauna follow property boundaries. One strategy that the landholders might adopt will be to look over their fence, and see what suitable habitat lies around their property, and work with their neighbours to ensure that a patchy mosaic of habitat remains.

There is an opportunity for a whole section of the community to be involved in the decision making process. Planning together would lead to cross tenure, cross border outcomes, working with the neighbours on either side. Excluding pockets of vegetated habitat from future treatment areas, and leaving islands of rocky vegetated ground cover will provide habitat for both species, whilst also addressing the risk of fire.”

The need for reducing bushfire risk through hazard reduction and property preparedness was reinforced with the Tapitallee community in January. Only 6 days after Workshop 2 was held, under the extreme fire weather conditions experienced in the Shoalhaven area in January, an emergency warning was broadcasted to the Tapitallee area, warning residents of the fire burning in nearby Barringella.

The Shoalhaven fires provided a timely reminder of the need to plan for fire.”

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