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Recovery from fires

The 2019-20 bushfire season was the worst fire season recorded in NSW history. More than 5.5 million hectares of the state was burnt and 38% of the national park estate, more than 2.7 million hectares, was impacted. 

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Of the 245 national parks wholly or partially within the fire ground, 23% show full canopy damage and a further 36% show partial damage.

Why was the 2019-20 bushfire season so devastating?

The independent NSW Bushfire Inquiry found the severity and extent of the 2019-20 bushfire season was caused by extreme weather (drought, high average temperature, low humidity), influenced by climate change. The Inquiry reported that NSW experienced both its hottest and driest year on record in 2019.

The Inquiry also established that fuel loads were, in general and on average, no higher than for other seasons since 1990.

What is the impact on wildlife?

The fires have had a severe impact on wildlife. Many animals have been affected by the fires, including threatened species.

Many animal species found in NSW national parks have been identifed by the Commonwealth Government's Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel as requiring urgent management intervention following the fires. These include the regent honeyeater, gang-gang cockatoo, koala, mountain pygmy-possum, Manning River helmeted turtle, and southern corroboree frog.

What was our response to the 2019-20 bushfires?

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) invested over 43,000 staff days to fighting 519 fires during the last bushfire season. Our specialist teams of remote area firefighters were instrumental in preventing many fires from becoming larger, as well as saving the only known grove of Wollemi pines, and the rare nightcap oak.

Supplementary food and water was delivered by NPWS and the Saving our Species program in fire affected areas across the State to rescue several threatened native species, including the brush-tailed rock-wallaby and mountain pygmy-possum.

Immediate actions undertaken to protect wildlife and support the natural recovery process are outlined in the NSW Government’s Wildlife and Conservation Bushfire Recovery Immediate Response, released in January 2020.

What are the current priorities for wildlife recovery on national parks?

Feral animal control

We're currently undertaking the largest feral animal control program in NPWS history, including large aerial baiting and shooting operations. This targets pigs, deer, goats, foxes and cats to protect threatened species and refuge areas.

This program is being supported by a comprehensive monitoring program to measure the success of these interventions. This enhanced post-fire program will continue into 2021.

Intensive weed control

We will deploy an intensive and strategic weed control program to protect sensitive habitats and threatened species from invasive weeds like bitou bush and lantana, in burnt and unburnt areas.

Protecting important wildlife habitat

More than ever, protecting native wildlife habitat from bushfires is essential to improve the trajectory of many threatened species.

The NSW Government has committed an extra $22.9 million to increase hazard reduction activity, with a focus on reducing risk in and around homes, farms and community assets. An additional helicopter and 125 firefighters will boost our capacity to protect people, property and the environment from bushfires, including work to protect important unburnt refuge areas.

We're also carrying out targeted field surveys and monitoring to locate remaining populations and track the success of our interventions.

Support to wildlife rehabilitators

The NSW Government committed $1 million in emergency funding in November 2019 in response to the bushfires. This funding is in addition to the $4.05 million committed for wildlife rehabilitation under the NSW Government Koala Strategy, and the $1.47 million Wildlife Heroes Program that supports the state's dedicated army of volunteer wildlife rehabilitators.

We’re working with wildlife rehabilitation groups across the state to help them meet the growing demands of rescuing more than 100,000 animals every year, and ensure they're well-prepared for future bushfires.