Thinking past the smoke haze

Extensive media coverage, accompanied by plenty of smoke haze: DELWP’s autumn management burning program is now underway. Although this program is regularly described as an ecological exercise, no one is really under any illusion: it’s an effort to protect communities from bushfire, and ecological considerations are often haphazard afterthoughts.

In this context, it’s worth checking a little item in the latest issue of the always interesting North Central Chat, newsletter of the NC Catchment Management Authority:

‘Northern Bendigo Landcare Group (NBLG) and Huntly Fire Brigade have collaborated on an innovative project, developing a demonstration garden with fire resistant and fire retardant native plants to complement the new Huntly Fire Station. The plants in the demonstration garden are rated as fire resistant or fire retardant by the Australian Plants Society (Victoria).

Blackwood [Acacia melanoxylon] on the Loddon River, Glenluce: Blackwood, along with Black Wattle and Silver Wattle, is recommended as a fire retardant local plant. Cultivation of such plants is one way of connecting to the local environment while keeping an eye on safety.

 ‘The demonstration garden was developed as a community initiative, with Northern Bendigo Landcare Group assisting with the selection of plant species and establishment of the garden.

‘Firefighter Trevor Strauch coordinated the project for the Brigade and said ‘‘all plants in the demonstration garden are indigenous to the Bendigo area, and it provides people with an opportunity to view and compare fire ready plants’’. Fire resistant plants are those that will not burn in the face of continued flame, while fire retardant plants are those that will not burn in the first pass of flame, but which may burn once they dry out. Signs with photos clearly identify the plants, their common and botanical names, their growth habit and growing requirements, and their fire rating. NBLG secretary Nicole Howie said ‘‘we are always trying to think outside the square and generate creative ways to raise awareness of indigenous vegetation and encourage connections between people and their local environment.’

It’s worth emphasising that last aim: to encourage connections between people and their local environment. To  combine that aim with a sensible concern for safety, is definitely a worthwhile exercise.

The APS list of fire retardant and fire resistant plants can be found here.

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