Bushfire resilience in the Great Southern

Thursday, 2 December, 2021

Bushfire Resilience in the Great Southern
The Valley of the Giants Walk amongst the majestic tingle trees, Great Southern Region, WA

We caught up with Stephen Moore, our bushfire management consultant in WA, to get the latest instalment on our important bushfire mitigation project  ‘Building Resilience in the Great Southern’which commenced in 2019. 

The Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Denmark, Albany and Plantagenet are at particularly high-risk of experiencing extreme bushfires. Not only is it a highly populated area, but this regions’ geography also makes it hard to plan for evacuation.  

Using SPARK, state-of-the-art modelling software by CSIRO (which Eco Logical Australia helped develop), our bushfire experts input different scenarios to see what fire management solutions would give the area its best fighting chance in preventing the devastating destruction of a bushfire. 

A fire perimeter map from SPARK

“By modelling different inputs (weather conditions, types of vegetation, etc) we can begin to see how a fire may move through an area. Then we can look at what solutions will mitigate these risks. explains Stephen.  

The modelling informs the development of a critical list of actions the council and the community can take to avoid loss of property, prosperity, natural habitats and life. 

“It’s about taking the plan and the report off the screen and educating the community to make it a reality. The modelling helped us show the future risk of a bushfire and get community buy-in to change behaviour now instead of waiting for disaster to strike. Stephen explains.

One of eight community consultations held throughout the region

At a series community consultation sessions (in collaboration with Bio Diverse SolutionsStephen and his team were able to show the local community of the Great Southern Region what might happen in the event of a severe bushfire. 

The SPARK modelling has proved an important tool to demonstrate to property owners and local planners what different mitigation efforts, such as fire breaks, managing vegetation and multiple evacuation options, will provide the most significant difference to preserve livelihoods, habitat and lives. 

 The Eco Logical Australia team is proud to be able to work directly with communities like in the Great Southern Region, to apply a science-based approach for behavioural changes and to support landowners in being proactive towards preserving their unique region.  

Often one of the greatest challenges in bushfire mitigation is that different councils have different restriction techniques for preventing bushfires. As fire does not discriminate between LGA borders, it is critical that councils work together as a region, as they have done in this example, to look at the bigger picture and share responsibilities. 

At Eco Logical Australia, we are aware of the ever-increasing risks of bushfires from climate change, resulting in augmented costs for councils to manage the risk, especially in iconic areas which experience an influx of tourism in the warmer months. Using this modelling, our experts are able to highlight the areas exposed extreme bushfire risk, rank each precinct and work with councils and residents to prioritise works to reduce overall risk. 

 “By sharing scientifically rigorous results, we were able to show the community two different scenarios, with mitigation and without. Community input is so important” Stephen highlights "and by involving them, the community was more willing to change before a disaster.” 

Starting out as a proactive project, this very detailed study has achieved great results. Increased levels of innovation for the management of bushfire and a grass roots approach working directly with the community to change behaviour has improved the resilience of individual propertiesultimately protecting this stunning region and saving lives. 

Projects like this one provide a clear plan for the future to share responsibility, reduce the risk and make limited resources go further. One of the key lessons learned by our team of approachable experts: collective responsibility builds a resilient community. 

“By using tech, we can pre-empt a disaster and plan for the futureWe don’t have to wait until it happens. We can make a difference now.”