Over the 2019-20 bushfire season, two of the ACT's most cherished natural icons – Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve – were impacted by devastating bushfires and floods.

The Orroral Valley and Beard bushfires burnt about 88,000 hectares of ACT rural lands, Commonwealth lands and national park. Shortly after these events, significant rainfall caused widescale flooding, throughout the fireground.

The ACT Government is coordinating and delivering actions to restore and protect our impacted natural and cultural landscapes.

Impacts

The Orroral Valley bushfire is the largest fire incident that the ACT has experienced in almost 20 years, burning more than 80% of the park and 22% of Tidbinbilla. The bushfire has changed the landscape, threatening native animals including threatened species and ecological communities, impacting European and Aboriginal cultural heritage, damaging park infrastructure and placing the ACT’s primary water supply at risk.

Bushfire response and recovery program

The ACT Government is working alongside the community to develop and implement a program to assist the natural recovery of impacted areas. Broadly this program is captured in three stages:

  • Stage 1 – Rapid Risk Assessment (complete)
  • Stage 2 – Immediate actions (complete)
  • Stage 3 – Long-term recovery actions (ongoing)

Stage 1 involved the development of a Rapid Risk Assessment Team Report (RRAT Report), which identified immediate recovery priorities following the fires. These priorities were broadly centred around managing impacts to ecology and wildlife, European and Aboriginal heritage, ACT's water supply, park and rural land infrastructure, and community safety.

Stage 2 was undertaken between March and July 2020 and involved actions to address key risks identified in the RRAT Report. An overview of these actions are captured in the Rapid Response Progress Update (2.9MB).

ACT Bushfire and Flood Recovery Plan

Stage 3 involves a long-term response that considers and monitors for broader ecosystem trends and drivers like climate change, as well as actions to support the natural recovery of the landscape. The long-term response is guided by the ACT Bushfire and Floods Recovery Plan (the Plan), which builds on the immediate actions achieved in Stage 1 and 2 of the recovery program.

The Plan supports actions to:

  • increase efforts to manage invasive plants and animals
  • protect threatened and vulnerable plants and animals
  • support catchment restoration efforts and protect water quality
  • manage and monitor erosion
  • manage impacts and threats to Aboriginal and European heritage
  • consider climate change adaptation and mitigation measures
  • restore infrastructure including roads, fences, walking tracks, signage, bridges and more.

Read the full ACT Bushfire and Recovery Plan (4.7 MB) and Summary (157.6 KB).

Recovery principles

Our efforts will be guided by the following principles:

  1. Traditional Custodians, the Ngunnawal people, and the Government will heal Country and walk the journey to recovery together.
  2. Environmental integrity and ecosystem functions will be restored through assisting natural processes.
  3. Heritage values will be restored through collaboration and contemporary and traditional practices.
  4. Canberra's communities, recreational, interest, conservation and user groups will be genuinely and meaningfully engaged throughout the recovery phase and reconnected to country.
  5. Recovery actions will consider ecosystem drivers and be underpinned by sound science, credible research, monitoring, and best practice techniques.
  6. Climate adaptation will be considered in every aspect of recovery.
  7. We will support our people through the recovery journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do we need to do to reopen Namadgi National Park?

The bushfire devastated over 80% of Namadgi and it has been a big job getting it safe for the public to visit again. ACT Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) have been working hard to make Namadgi safe, while also navigating the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 health emergency.

Currently North Namadgi, Corin and the Naas/Boboyan Road precincts in Namadgi have been reopened.

It is necessary for major work to be competed on key access roads, walking trails, low-level crossings and visitor infrastructure before the remaining areas of Namadgi can be reopened. This work is not expected to be complete till mid-late 2021.

Find out more information on what areas of Namadgi are open and timeframes for reopening closed areas.

How is climate change considered in the recovery response?

The long-term recovery plan will work to understand the ongoing impacts of climate change on natural recovery processes. It will also consider actions to adapt and address climate change risks as a result of the bushfires.

For example, PCS will look to build back better, more resilient infrastructure to the impacts of fires and floods where possible and the recovery program progress.

What are you doing to manage bushfires risk in our landscape?

The ACT Government has an ongoing bushfire management program that outlines key activities that will be undertaken across PCS managed estate to help manage bushfire risk (e.g. fuel reduction, prescribed burns, fire trail maintenance). These activities are outlined in the annual Bushfire Operations Plan (BOP).

How can I help our natural environment recover from fires and floods?

Protecting our environment is everyone's responsibility. Bushfire recovery in the ACT will be a long journey and there are many ways that the Canberra community can get involved. Interested people can help by volunteering with a community group who're involved in recovery efforts, becoming a citizen scientist, and also by knowing your responsibilities when exploring parks and reserves.

Find out more on the Community partnerships page.