Recovering from bushfires of the scale and intensity we saw in southern Tasmania in 2013 was always going to be a long, hard slog for farmers who lost fencing, stock, pasture, sheds, machinery and crops, particularly for people in regions that have suffered fire more than once over two years.
In 2012, the Meadowbank fire burnt out an estimated 2,000 hectares, at times lighting up a firefront more than a kilometre wide and three kilometres deep. Then in January 2013, the Lake Repulse fire burnt 11,608 hectares in the Derwent Valley, while more than 25,000 hectares was lost in the Forcett fire on the Tasman Peninsula.
Just four months after Tom Clark bought his Derwent Valley farm with his wife Sarah it was hit by the Meadowbank fire, a year after that the Lake Repulse fire tore through the area.
He’s now one of 24 farmers and local Landcare groups making the most of funds from NRM South’s Bushfire Recovery Program to get back up on their feet, turning adversity to their advantage.
In Tom’s case he’s working with NRM South to protect a patch of threatened Inland Silver Peppermint Eucalyptus tenuiramis at the bottom of his paddocks.
“It’s nice to be able to fence off an area and protect it, if you don’t you’ll slowly lose the remaining patches of bush you have on your property,” he says.
Inland Silver Peppermint is listed as a threatened community in Tasmania, and Tom’s using the rebuilding process as a chance to fence it off and make the most of post-fire regrowth.
NRM South’s Ken Moore has been responsible for getting the bushfire recovery program up and running. He says it was vitally important to get the funding money out to farmers quickly, and to make the application process clear, simple and transparent.
“Farms take a long time to recover from bushfire and need considerable re-investment from farmers themselves and their local communities,” he says.
“Our farm recovery program has become part of that process by helping to get Tasmanian farms back into production and boosting farmers’ morale at a time when they are under considerable pressure to restore income.”
So far grants have gone to farmers in Dunalley, Franklin, Connelly’s Marsh, Carlton, Glenora, Glen Lusk, Ellendale, Westerway and Molesworth, all severely affected by the 2013 bushfires.
It has been used to help fund the restoration of burnt-out farmland and bushland, rebuild internal fencing, manage stock and replant shelter belts. It’s also being used to help control weeds that have taken advantage of the bare ground opened up by the fires, tackle ongoing soil erosion, replant creeklines and prepare better for future bushfires.
In addition to working directly with farmers, NRM South has provided grants to local community groups such as the Derwent Catchment NRM Committee, Tasman Landcare, the Dunalley Tasman Neighbourhood House and Weed Aid to support and coordinate action to help farmers.