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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3840


Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (09:31): As I was speaking on this last night I was about to move to a Green Army proposal not approved yet that I think typifies exactly what the Green Army can be about, at least environmentally. There were 31 pretty dark days in South Australia from 14 January to 14 February this year when we had uncontrolled fires in the Southern Flinders Ranges just out of Port Pirie, only about 20 kilometres away, threatening townships like Nelshaby, Napperby and Wirrabara. This fire became known nationally as the Bangor fire. In the end, property losses were only moderate. Certainly there was no loss of life and, for that, we are very, very thankful. But there were times when this fire flared uncontrollably very near to settled areas. Lots of outbuildings, fences and things like that were lost on farms. Mercifully, only three houses were lost—a tribute to the volunteer firefighters and also the SA Metropolitan Fire Service. I add my thanks to those who came from interstate, particularly New South Wales. There were all the volunteer groups and obviously the ambulance service, St John's and the Salvation Army. You could go on and on listing them and the locals who gave a hand to fight this fire.

The difference with this fire was that it lasted for 31 days. There were times when we got a bit of rain and it quietened down and people went home for a while but, by the end, the firefighters and volunteers were just exhausted. It was a great effort. They did very well. There were over 100 farm firefighting units in the field and hundreds of firefighters on the ground. They used the Elvis helicopter bomber and a number of fixed-wing aircraft.

You might wonder what this has to do with the Green Army, but there is a proposal from the Mount Remarkable council which is looking at revegetating some of the areas most fiercely affected by this fire. What brought this fire to an end, as so often happens in Australia, was a flood. We had around 150 millilitres of rain in a few hours on the areas that were burning the most fiercely. Of course the flood then caused an enormous amount of damage. There is a very scenic drive up from Port Germein through to near Murray Town that crosses the Flinders Ranges. Rock walls which help form the roadway and were built over 100 years ago have been washed away. The gorge is still closed and will be for some time as they work to reconstruct it.

One of the great tragedies of this fire was that it burnt over 60 per cent of the Wirrabara forest. The Bundaleer forest, only 30 kilometres away near Jamestown, was burnt out 12 months ago. These were the oldest pine plantations in Australia. They were the very first. It is a great shock to the community and the businesses associated that those forests are now under threat, because there is no guarantee from the state government that they will be replanted. That is a bigger story for another day about insurance policies and state governments taking what they can out of bodies such as ForestrySA.

Anyway, this project will revegetate native scrub that has been burnt out by the bushfires. It will recreate ecological communities and assist some of the threatened species. It will assist landholders with fire and flood recovery and restore the natural beauty of the landscape. Nothing could be more needed. Seeing Green Army crews out there will bring a shot of enthusiasm to the community. It will be great experience for those who get to work on this Green Army project. At the end of the day, they will be delivering important environmental outcomes as we attempt to mitigate the damage that was caused, firstly, by the very high intensity fire and, secondly, by the very high intensity flood that followed it. It is through projects like this that the Green Army can rise above the ruck and show us what a good program this is for Australia. I am very hopeful, in fact, that other projects assisting fire recovery can be proposed and financed in the future. While I said in my opening remarks that this one is not yet approved, I have a very high level of confidence that it will be because it is such a good project. Whatever I can do to bring that about I will do. But, even if it were to fail, we will not give up.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): I thank the member for Grey for putting the story of that fire on the record of the parliament. It is extremely important. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.