Fire burns out around 1000 hectares of Gwydir Wetlands Nature Reserve area

The Gwydir Wetlands area affected by the recent fire. Photo: supplied.
The Gwydir Wetlands area affected by the recent fire. Photo: supplied.

A recent fire at the Gwydir Wetlands Nature Reserve around three weeks ago has burnt out around 1000 hectares of wetland area.

It is still unclear how the fire was started, but it has raised some concerns from nearby farmers and irrigators that live near the wetlands.

Concerns and questions have been raised to the Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association (GVIA) regarding the management of the site and if there's appropriate resources given to National Parks.

GVIA executive officer Zara Lowien said the two main issues are around how the fire started and how the land area is "managed in conjunction with the water."

"There's been a lot of water sent down there over the last few years, how are National Parks resourced to manage the fire risk to themselves and neighbouring properties as well as other risks in terms of feral animal control and other components," she said.

Almost 100,000 megalitres of water has been delivered to the Gwydir wetlands over the last three years, including 60,000 megalitres in the last year, which some believe significantly enhanced the fire risk.

Concerns were raised with the GVIA about how a significant amount of water delivered to the area resulted in a large grass growth then left to dry which had little environmental benefit, just feral pigs and increased fire risk.

Additionally, Ms Lowien was concerned that the water was delivered during a drought and at cost to the community with that water removed from the irrigation production base used to grow vegetation, support bird life and other animals and now some of that area has been destroyed.

She believes it's not an issue with the individuals managing the site but rather a question of what the governments are doing with land and water assets.

She wants the community to be aware of what is done with the water that is delivered to these areas and how those decisions are made.

"No one really knows what happens out there," Ms Lowien said.

"There's a lot of money invested, there's a lot of water that goes out there. It's important that we know it's being managed for its purpose which is to improve that environment."

Ms Lowien said she has also received questions about why the community and those that live on properties around the affected area hadn't heard about the fire.

"They can't see it so they don't know what happens out there so they're just starting to ask," she said.

The Moree Champion contacted the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) regarding the fire.

"The source for the ignition has not been determined," an NPWS spokesperson said.

"The delivery of environmental water provides benefits throughout the Gwydir River and wetlands and has been critical in sustaining the values of the Gwydir Wetlands State Conservation Area.

"National Parks and Wildlife Services has a range of measures to assist in managing fire risk including a Bushfire Management Committee approved reserve fire management strategy which is available on the public website, hazard reduction burning, fully equipped fire-fighting units and highly trained and capable firefighters."