Lake Mac bushland bounces back after 2020 blaze

Published on 13 July 2021

Bushfire Officer Jenna Voigt inspects bushland at Wangi Wangi that has bounced back since bushfires in Jan 2020.jpg

A photographic survey of Lake Macquarie bushland ravaged by fire during the 2020 ‘Black Summer’ has revealed how dramatically Mother Nature has bounced back from catastrophe.

Fire tore through more than 400ha of bush on New Year’s Eve 2019 after a blaze broke out near Wangi Wangi, with firefighting crews taking four days to get it under control.

Photos taken shortly after the fire show a blackened, scorched landscape, stripped of vegetation and seemingly devoid of life.

But images captured in the same spots 18 months later demonstrate the capacity for native flora and fauna to regenerate and thrive.

Lake Macquarie City Council Senior Natural Assets Officer Dominic Edmonds said Gymea lillies, grass trees and banksias were among the plant species thriving once again.

“As these plant species regenerate, birds and other animals return to the area and the ecosystem is slowly restored,” he said.

“It can take months or even years to fully recover, but monitoring specific sites over time helps us keep tabs on progress.”

Separately, Council is spearheading a pioneering pilot project that could eventually help change the way bushfire risk is assessed in the community.

Using cutting-edge aerial infra-red, thermal and high-resolution imagery of bushland across Lake Mac, an online platform is under development where residents can check their property’s bushfire risk at the click of a button.

Manager Environmental Systems Karen Partington said that until now, requests to assess bushfire risk required Council officers physically visiting a site and talking to residents one-on-one.

“This online tool will allow people to search a map and see the bushfire risk by themselves before they ring us and request an inspection,” she said.

“We will still be visiting sites to determine bushfire risk, but a tool like this has the potential to greatly improve the community’s knowledge of bushfire risk and increase the ability of residents to plan accordingly.”

The pilot project, funded through the NSW Government’s Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund, has already attracted the interest of other councils throughout NSW and will cover a study area between Belmont and Glendale.

“The plan is for the program to be expanded across the whole LGA during 2022,” Ms Partington said.

The pilot online bushfire hazard assessment tool for Belmont-Glendale is expected to go live later this year.