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Bushfire 2016

The SEQ Fire & Biodiversity Consortium: Celebrating 20 Years

South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium - 20th Anniversary Fire Forum

Image: QFES Superintendent James Haig, Emeritus Professor Rob Whelan, Healthy Land and Water Director Margie Milgate and SEQFBC Manager Dr Sam Lloyd.

On a perfect Brisbane winter day, over 200 people gathered together at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens to celebrate 20 years of the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium.  With the theme Fire, Research and Partnerships, this anniversary forum showcased applied fire ecology and onground fire management projects and programs that highlight the value of partnerships and longevity in applied fire ecology and onground management. As always, there was a focus on translating science into practice, with a session dedicated to local fire research and student projects. With an impressive line-up of engaging and skilled speakers, post-presentation question time was busy and there was much chatter and swapping of business cards and numbers during break time.

In a time of ever-increasing pressure on resources and people’s time, it is a remarkable achievement for the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium to have reached 20 years.  It is illustrative of not only the dedication and expertise of partners, but also the importance of the outcomes to the people and organisations involved and the strength of the relationships supporting those outcomes.

With 17 presentations, delivered by 30 presenters from 21 different organisations the program was a living example of collaboration, partnerships and applied fire outcomes.  It is not possible to do justice to all the great presentations, so instead we highlight key messages from each presenter:

  • Welcome presenter, Margie Milgate (Healthy Land and Water, HLW) reminded us that Traditional Owners have been expertly managing the land with the use of fire for over 50,000 years and linked the value of networks at the forum back to the SEQ Regional Plan.
  • Opening presenter, Superintendent James Haig (Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, QFES) spoke of the real success of the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium being the partnerships formed with stakeholders and the connection with landholders enabling improved fire management.
  • Keynote speakers Elizabeth Ashman (Department of the Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Vic) and Professor Alan York (University of Melbourne) illustrated how their nine-year research, planning and policy partnership supported applied fire research that uncovered patterns resulting in pivotal changes in planned burning program for biodiversity.
  • Former and current SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium Managers and Coordinators Dr Penny Watson (currently private contractor), Dr Cuong Tran (currently Ten Rivers), Dr Sam Lloyd (current Manager) and Craig Welden (current Coordinator) provided a retrospective of the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium for the past twenty years, recounting significant events and all emphasising the importance of partnerships and collaborations in delivering relevant outcomes and ensuring ongoing funding.
  • Steve Martin and Murray Abel (both Powerlink) emphasised the significance of linear infrastructure in the landscape (roads, powerlines etc) that are at risk from fire and the value of the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium to support Powerlink to explore issues relevant to their priorities.
  • Superintendent James Haig and Inspector Andrew Sturgess (both QFES) gave us a compelling summary of the November/December 2018 Queensland bushfire emergency, the conditions that triggered an emergency alert for Deepwater and how longer fire seasons with more frequent “extreme” days are the new normal.
  • Deb Sparkes (Centre of Excellence for Prescribed Burning) provided an excellent run down of the National Burning Project and the materials and resources available to download or purchase.
  • Keynote speaker, Emeritus Professor Rob Whelan (University of Wollongong) shared with us the importance and value of long-term research projects and the partnerships and knowledge that underpin them, with success stories including the translocation of the Eastern Bristlebird in NSW leading to the decrease in status under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
  • Jacob Martin, Nathan Frazier (both Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, Qld) and Dave Kington (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service - QPWS) shared their inspiring story of cultural fire landscapes in Quandamooka Country on Minjerrabah (North Stradbroke Island) and the sophistication of traditional fire management practices and current efforts to support those practices.
  • Kate McShea (NSW Nature Conservation Council), Jennie Cramp (Rural Fire Service, NSW) and Paul Donatiu (HLW)  shared with us how the NSW Hotspots Project, inspired by the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, has gone on to facilitate and deliver important onground outcomes and support services and resources for landholders in regional NSW.
  • Dr Tom Lewis (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) and Peter Leeson (QPWS) presented the amazing research story of the Australia’s longest running fire experiment, with the longevity providing valuable insight into plant composition and weed prevalence (e.g. lantana density significantly higher in long unburnt sites).
  • Dr Paul Williams (Vegetation Management Science) and Chandra Wood (Brisbane City Council) provided us with another example of the value of long-term research, with a local project (also born out of the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium) that looks at vegetation change in response to fire, the importance of the grass and herb layer and the significance of burn timing and soil moisture in supporting native grasses that in turn are a food source for granivorous birds.
  • Associate Professor Pat Moss and Honours student Penny Webster (both University of Queensland) presented their research on historical indigenous fire management on Minjerrabah and how a drop in the charcoal layer at the time of colonisation was thought to be associated with fire suppression and the importance of current cultural fire practices in sustaining Jumping Grass Swamp.
  • Andy Baker (Southern Cross University) shared with us his PhD research, which illustrates the importance of appropriate fire regimes and the risk to native vegetation communities (including dry open forest and wet sclerophyll) from rainforest invasion in the absence of fire, with 90% of dry open forest in the Bryon Shire (NSW) under rainforest invasion.
  • Peter McDonald (Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy) reminded us all of the importance of understanding the relationship between fire and the Qld Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VMA), including issues around the width of fire breaks, hazard reduction burning (which is exempt under the VMA) and that landholders need to recognise that there is a distinction between local laws and the VMA.
  • Former SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium scholarship recipient, Martyn Elliott (University of the Sunshine Coast) shared with us his new PhD research project, looking at the cost and effectiveness of prescribed burning as a risk mitigation tool, which he will report more on at future Forums.
  • Our final speaker, Ariane Allen (Southern Cross University) gave her first Honours presentation on her research focussed on identifying changes in forest structure due to fire exclusion in Bundjalung National Park and Ariane will also join us at future Forums for an update.

For more information on the Forum and presenters download our program below. Full presentations to come. 

20th Anniversary Fire Forum Program 20th Anniversary Fire Forum Program (1940 KB)

The SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium would like to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors, the Ecological Society of Australia, Brisbane City Council, the Centre of Excellence for Prescribed Burning and NRM Jobs.  Thanks are also extended to our Welcome and Opening presenters, Margie Milgate (HLW) and Superintendent James Haig (QFES), keynotes speakers Elizabeth Ashman (Department of the Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Vic), Emeritus Professor Rob Whelan (University of Wollongong) and Professor Alan York (University of Melbourne) for their engaging presentations and all our wonderful speakers. Special mention goes to our student presenters for braving the 200 strong audience to share their research, Session Chairs Chandra Wood (Brisbane City Council) and Mark Ready (Toowoomba Regional Council) for keeping us on track and the Country Women’s Association (Pine Rivers Branch) for once again providing delicious, homemade catering.

The South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium
Established in 1998, the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, is a network of land managers and stakeholders committed to improving fire and biodiversity management outcomes, supporting and disseminating fire ecology research, facilitating partnerships between key stakeholders and building the capacity of land managers and private land owners to address issues of fire management and biodiversity in south-east Queensland.  The SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium is embedded with Healthy Land and Water and is supported by the Australia Government’s National Landcare Program.


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