Doomed Planet

Blackfellas, Whitefellas, Greenfellas and Fire

Professor Bill Gammage’s award-winning book, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia, doesn’t explain how Aborigines originally made Australia. It’s more about how country was maintained after humans changed fire regimes and vegetation, exterminating the megafauna and creating new ecosystems that depend on human management (see How Australian Aborigines Shaped and Maintained Fire Regimes and the Biota). To manage these ecosystems sustainably we need to understand their ecological history: how they were made, how they were affected by natural climate change, how Europeans changed them.

Professor Bruce Pascoe’s award winning Dark Emu cannot guide sustainable management because it misrepresents Australian history. For example, Pascoe writes that Surveyor General Mitchell

counts the houses and estimates a population of over one thousand. He’s disappointed that nobody’s home; it’s obvious they have only just left, and the evidence is everywhere that they have used the place for a very long time.

In fact, Mitchell wrote

I saw two natives at a distance, making the best of their way to the southward. We had this day noticed some of their huts The place seemed to have been in use for years, as a casual habitation. … The natives invariably fled at our approach The native population is very thinly spread over the regions I have explored, amounting to nearly a seventh part of Australia. I cannot estimate the number at more than 6000 ; but on the contrary, I believe it to be considerably less.

Mitchell explored a large part of eastern Australia after Aborigines were decimated by a smallpox epidemic most likely introduced by Macassan trepangers, which swept the country from Torres Strait to Bass Strait in 1789. His were the most comprehensive observations available to estimate the population immediately after European arrival and before it was affected by pastoral development. Going by land area, a little more than eight times 6000 people would amount to a total population of about 50,000. Fire regimes, vegetation and fauna had already changed as a result of the greatly reduced Aboriginal population before the European “invasion” reached most of Australia.

Mitchell’s explorations in Queensland were obstructed on seven occasions by dense acacia scrubs full of fallen timber with no grass to carry fire. Strzelecki struggled for 26 days through 50 miles of dense young forests and ate koalas to survive because there were no kangaroos, emus or small game in the thick scrub. He was the only explorer to see koalas. When European ‘invaders’ started clearing the scrub 30 years later, they discovered spearpoints, stone axes, grindstones and clay cooking ovens showing that it was open country before smallpox. There were plagues of dingoes feeding on plagues of koalas. When Edward M. Curr squatted on the Central Murray in 1841, he deduced, from the size of trees growing in abandoned cooking ovens, that the Aboriginal population had been greatly reduced 50 years earlier.

Smallpox did not reach Tasmania, but diseases such as flu, introduced by visiting sealers, had similar impacts before European occupation. George Augustus Robinson wrote:

many of those districts which had been formerly peopled by the Aborigines are now unoccupied; the once resident tribes being utterly extinct, a fact which was evinced by the dense overgrown underwood.

Mitchell understood how Aboriginal burning maintained the landscape and described how things changed after it was disrupted on the Cumberland Plain. Gammage’s quotes in Country show this. But his collaboration with Pascoe to produce Country: Future Fire, Future Farming seems designed to downplay whitefellas’ understanding of firestick ecology and embellish traditional Aboriginal knowledge, making it supernatural – something it is not:

I’m delighted to write this book with Bruce Pascoe. He enlarges minds … offers fresh insight into the achievement of the people of 1788 and the failure of those who came later to do more than glimpse its scale and grandeur. …

Trying to understand 1788 in simply Western terms is folly. It lets some researchers say in effect, ‘We can’t see why or how Aborigines did x or y, so they didn’t’

Bill Gammage accused me of this in our correspondence about mountain ash forest. In The Greatest Estate he claimed that it is a fire-sensitive wet forest – “Mountain Ash has thin bark and almost any fire kills it” – which Aborigines regenerated with high intensity fires more than a century apart.

I wrote in Firestick Ecology that

Aborigines fired mountain ash in summer. Mature, wide-spaced trees have a thick ‘stocking’ of rough bark up to fifteen metres above the ground that insulates them from the heat of fires. Even young regrowth forests with scrubby understoreys can withstand moderate fires in dry fuels under mild weather

Gammage corrected his mistake in Country, writing “Mountain ash withstands moderate fire – that’s why tree butts are so often fire-blackened”. But he prefaced the correction with “Experts say that fires there can’t be controlled … close to saying that because newcomers can’t control fire there, people in 1788 couldn’t”.

Of course, the so-called experts who have the ears of government are wrong. But Gammage is equally wrong to lump experienced whitefellas, who know fire as a friend, with the academics and fire chiefs who are causing our fire problems.

Gammage and Pascoe seem to have taken their cue from fairdinkum traditional burning expert Victor Steffensen’s reaction to what he calls “Western science” and “the Western-trained mind”. Steffensen contrasts reductionism against a “wholistic, interconnected” world view which, he argues, requires an understanding of Aboriginal sprituality. I respect and admire Steffensen’s knowledge, his eloquence in sharing it and his quest for proper recognition of Aboriginal knowledge. Fairdinkum science is in perfect agreement with this knowledge of fire’s critical role in maintaining landscape health, safety, resilience and biodiversity. This is my quest as well, along with all the other non-Aboriginal holders of traditional knowledge.

The problem with land management in Australia is neither racial nor scientific. Our history clearly demonstrates that green academics and junk science are wholly responsible for massive and ever-increasing fire management problems including pestilence, holocaust, erosion, siltation, pollution, loss of biodiversity and massive preventable ‘greenhouse’ emissions. Not to mention death and destruction.

Gammage’s and Pascoe’s book totally ignores the real cause of Black Summer and fully embraces the Climate Cop-Out. It is divisive, for example:

In whitefella fire, controlled or not, species must take their chance … Species protection adds immense complexity to any fire plan. Today this complexity splits firies from greenies, often hostile to each other.

Ironically, Gammage refers to Black Friday 1939 and traditional burning by whitefellas to prosecute his magic view of fire ecology. He quotes my good friend and mentor John Mulligan, who was there when East Gippsland, unlike West Gippsland, was spared death and destruction long after Aboriginal management ended. Despite extreme fire weather and many ignitions by lightning, the landscape was healthy and safe because graziers still maintained it. John, with his family, travelled unconcerned through the East Gippsland bush on that day of searing heat in a car that was repeatedly stalled by vaporization in the fuel lines as a result of the extreme temperatures. There’s nothing complex about using frequent mild fire to maintain a healthy, safe, diverse and resilient landscape. Until evicted by A Labor state government, Alpine graziers maintained the tradition of burning country on their way home from summer pastures.

Cattle and brumbies didn’t destroy the peat bogs, as activists claimed when successfully lobbying the Victorian government to end the 170-year-old culture and tradition of summer alpine grazing. The bogs have been burnt and eroded, leaving the corroboree frog critically endangered since grazing and burning were progressively excluded on the advice of green academics, not fairdinkum scientists.

Gammage claims that Aborigines made magic, such as arranging clumps of cypress pine on the Murray floodplains or turning rainforest into grassland. In The Biggest Estate, he wrote: “Climate, soil, altitude, aspect, nutrients … they cannot explain all, or even most, 1788 landscapes”. He’s wrong, as I explained in Firestick Ecology. Aboriginal people did a great job by working with the natural environment, not against it like modern academic “wilderness” warriors. The truth is that rainforests survived where soils, topography and microclimate made them inaccessible to Aboriginal burning except during millennial-scale droughts. For example, Aborigines used the firestick to turn Araucarian dry rainforest on the Atherton Tableland into grassy woodland about 40,000 to 30,000 years ago. But about 9,000 years ago, a changing climate made it too wet for them to burn. Thick forest re-invaded, after which mixed eucalypt forest was maintained for 2000 years over rainforest by infrequent high intensity lightning fires until eucalypts died out after a long interval with no fire.

When European pastoralists arrived, they managed the grassy forests and woodlands remaining in the drier areas on the west of the rainforest by grazing and burning. Araucarias still survive there as woodland trees. However, with reduced burning since the second half of the 20th century, a handful of trees and shrubs, including some rainforest species, are invading the grassy country. But it’s scrub, because the country can’t support real rainforest.

You don’t need to ‘backburn’, as Gammage inappropriately and inaccurately describes it, to protect rainforest. It’s not flammable unless there’s a ladder of scrub to carry fire into the canopy when extreme conditions occasionally prevail.

Gammage believes climate change is a real and urgent danger and that Black Summer “generated an unimaginable 20 pyrocloud storms, when fire takes over the weather”. Pyroclouds are, of course, generated by fire, not climate, and history proves him wrong. He does a great disservice to Aboriginal people who maintained a healthy and safe landscape despite the rapid global warming and hugely rising seas that separated New Guinea, mainland Australia and Tasmania about 12,000 years ago.

The Settlement Drought in the early 1790s was the worst in 500 years and there were three consecutive extreme summers with high temperatures and searing northwesterly winds. Aboriginal fires were burning 24/7 to the northwest of Sydney and Parramatta. Fires reaching the European settlements were contained using hand tools and green branches. All that was lost was one hut, some gardens and fences at Sydney and another hut, out-buildings and a stack of wheat at Parramatta.

In February 1791 at Parramatta, Watkin Tench reported temperatures in the high 40s:

the north-west wind again set in, and blew with a great violence for three days. An immense flight of bats, driven before the wind, covered all the trees around the settlement, whence they every moment dropped dead, or in a dying state, unable longer to endure the burning state of the atmosphere. Nor did the perroquettes, though tropical birds, bear it better; the ground was strewed with them in the same condition as the bats.

But there were no firestorms and ember showers to destroy buildings clad with highly flammable bark and thatch, because biomass (fuel) was light and discontinuous. Nowadays, under similar or milder conditions, columns of fire engines and sorties of heavy waterbombers are unable to protect buildings clad with brick, steel and tiles. The problem is not Europeans’ “invasion”, but green academic nonsense. Gammage unaccountably neglects that part of our history where foresters realised the folly of their attempted fire suppression and applied adaptive management in response to pestilence and holocaust.

Things were bad in the mid 20th Century when thousands of hectares of hydroelectric catchments were aerially bombed with dangerous pesticides in diesel oil to control insect outbreaks and three Western Australian towns were destroyed by a megafire. Things are worse now because management has regressed again. Only two decades after broad-area burning, including aerial ignition by means of light planes, restored healthy and safe landscapes in the 1960s, academics raised theoretical objections to burning because they confused biomass/fuel with biodiversity. Since then, burning has been reduced and an ever increasing reserve system has been managed under the ‘lock it up and let it burn’ notion of ‘conservation’. Our supposedly world’s best forest management systems have been conceived in a wilderness mindset, as if the hands of man, black and white, have had no role in shaping the landscape.

After four human lives and 500 homes were lost in Canberra, the 2003 House inquiry took advice from experienced land managers, black, white and brindle. It recognised that the lack of mild burning was the problem. Fire chiefs and green bureaucrats boycotted that inquiry and gave us the 2004 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) cover-up. So we got ‘education’, evacuation and emergency response instead of sustainable management. The inevitable consequence has been unprecedented catastrophe.

When lightning ignited the Gospers Mountain fire — the largest from a single ignition the world has ever seen – the flames raged over an area which long ago had been safely occupied by Aboriginal people without benefit of boots or overalls through three consecutive extreme summers during the Settlement Drought. So ‘firies and greenies’, along with Lesley Hughes of the Climate Council and others, joined in the Climate Cop-Out. The Black Summer Royal Commission endorsed it too.

Gammage asserts that

Apart from a scatter of Aboriginal fire experts, almost no one today has the knowledge to use 1788 fire for fuel control and species protection. We must learn to burn and burn to learn. Climate change will make this harder.

That’s adding insult to injury in respect of all the experienced land managers who gave evidence to the 2003 parliamentary inquiry but were excluded from the hearings of the latest royal commission. But it’s certainly true that academic experts and fire chiefs who have the ears of government don’t know how to use fire. That’s why we had the Black Summer.

As Victor Steffensen says, “It’s not a good idea to manage country just for one species”. He also says there’s only one fire, the right fire. Victor knows that it’s about ecological maintenance, not fuel reduction, because proper management prevents fuel from accumulating in the first place. He talks of upside-down country – thin on top and thick underneath — and of sick trees growing in damp soils with lazy roots. He and I share an holistic view of caring for country.

Since the 1980s, not 1788, beautiful, healthy, safe, resilient and diverse bush has turned into sick, dirty and explosive scrub with plagues of animals such as koalas and psyllids that feed on sick trees. There are plagues of predators such as dogs and carpet snakes, or bellbirds, which feed on the leaf-eating animals. The truly endangered fauna are those, such as small mammals, that rely on diverse grassy groundlayers and are being choked out by scrub.

Pestilence is happening across the country in forests sick from lack of mild fire. At the same time, millions of dollars are being thrown at academics to study these mysterious ‘diebacks’ that are, of course, supposedly a consequence of climate change rather than loss of resilience due to neglect.   

Gammage’s and Pascoe’s book seems to be part of a wider campaign. One of Professor Pascoe’s colleagues at Melbourne Uni, Professor Michael-Shawn Fletcher, put a similar view during an ABC bushfires special report. He recently co-authored a paper touted as a world-first” on the one-sided Conversation, which tolerates no criticism of its authors in comment threads, purporting to show that our current fire problem is due to “colonial suppression of Indigenous cultural burning”. However, the sedimentary records analysed clearly show the marked downturn in biomass burning after foresters reinstated mild fire in the 1960s. Recent sediment cores also show the charcoal signature of fires that have destroyed alpine bogs since traditional whitefellas’ management was stopped. Gammage and Pascoe neglected to mention it, as did that ‘world-first’ paper.

The problem is much larger now than then and requires managers of all colours and all tenures to reinstate mild fire across the landscape. The problem is not lack of traditional knowledge. the problem is that land management is under the control of academics and fire chiefs who don’t know firestick ecology. They’ve prevented traditional burning by blackfellas and whitefellas alike.

As Noel Pearson puts it, the problem is “greenfellas putting their foot on our throats”.

Vic Jurskis, a frequent contributor, is the author of  The Great Koala Scam, which can be ordered here

32 comments
  • Peter OBrien

    Thanks Vic, a very valuable and readable contribution to what is, or should be, a comprehensive debate. The other night I was watching Andrew Bolt interviewing Anneliese Neilsen on the subject of Biden banning Russian oil and gas and, rather than using their own oil and gas, sourcing it from Saudi and Venezuela. Bolt’s frustration was so palpable that I feared for his hair.
    Your article prompts the same reaction in me.

  • vicjurskis

    Thanks Peter. I can imagine your frustration, after doing such a thorough job, that a half-hearted critique got credit in MSM for scrutinizing Pascoe’s ‘work’.

  • Brian Boru

    Thanks Vic, please keep writing and correcting the self serving non-intellectual academics.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Well, I am the sort of heretic who would like to replant quite a bit of the settled land of Australia with the non-fire prone and often deciduous large trees from Europe, which also provide some useful wood. Some of them do very well indeed here. If you visit the C19th ‘Salmon Ponds’ heritage site of Tasmania just outside Hobart you will enter an amazing arboreal world containing many very old examples of the various European trees that the settlers admired and were missing from ‘home’. Just because one group of people thousands of years ago used one technique of land management for their primitive hunter-gathering, producing a dearth of anything but explosive ‘petrol’ trees, does not mean that other species should not now be introduced. Other continents are full of ‘introduced’ species.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    We have an arborist for the fourteen large trees on our 900 sq metre property who has a truly encyclopaedic knowledge of habitats of various native species he identifies for us, as well as the full range of introduced species that exist on Sydney’s foreshores. Seeds are carried by birds. He has just removed for us an ‘African Olive’, a relative of the domesticated olive (two of which I have planted on our land, along with a bay tree, lime tree, fruiting fig and a pomegranate) which had been seeded by birds into our foundations from where it was growing enthusiastically, and damagingly. A huge Jacaranda on our land is of course introduced, as is the bird-sown Chinese Elm (the ‘weed-tree’ called Hackberry) which has sprung up next door. Deciduous and a very fast grower, the Chinese Elm is a very pretty tree. As many introduced species are. Camphor Laurels too have naturalised in Sydney and also dot the Northern Rivers areas. Given a chance, introduced species could change the landscape. Like any tree, they may need to be controlled so they don’t get out of hand.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    “Bolt’s frustration was so palpable that I feared for his hair.
    Your article prompts the same reaction in me.”

    Yes, a compelling image there, Peter, and one that suits the article’s view about the mismanagement of the landscape which for better or worse we have inherited. If we want to keep this arboreal landscape we should at least recognise how to do it properly and avoid die-offs and the creation of flaming infernos.

  • vicjurskis

    Thanks Brian Boru, i’m sure you must have some good stories of Irish traditions.

  • vicjurskis

    Elizabeth Beare, eucalypts are not petrol trees. If all the explosive ‘wilderness’ was managed properly, people could have whatever trees they liked in suburban/rural areas without danger from firestorms. There are bombs waiting to go off close to my daughter’s family in Lane Cove National Park, Field of Mars and Buffalo Creek Reserves. One day they will. It’s not because there are eucalypts, it’s cos there are sick eucs and scrub from lack of gentle fire. Perhaps you’ve noticed the plagues of scrub turkeys. Most invasive species are natives, like the pittosporum that plagues Sydney’s Foreshores. Phytophthora is a native species that evolved in Gondwanaland. The experts say it’s an exotic pest causing dieback around the harbour. But it’s merely a symptom of sick soils, roots and trees. Native ti trees etc. are out of control. Remember the recent ‘controlled burn’ at Middle Head by experts who haven’t a clue? I recommend you read Firestick Ecology.

  • Peter OBrien

    Vic,
    yes we have the pittosporum ondulata infesting our area. An ugly and invasive tree.

  • ianl

    >”As Noel Pearson puts it, the problem is “greenfellas putting their foot on our throats”” [from essay above, Vic Hurskis]

    Jennifer Marohasy, found here amongst other places https://jennifermarohasy.com/jenns-blog/, skewers the real point behind the BoM constantly re-casting the recorded weather database from the past.

    As she says, cooling the past, as well as limiting the extent of the data by cherry-picking start dates, eventually flattens the recordings of natural climate cycles so drought and flood years become UN-natural, rather than results from El Nino/La Nina/Indian Dipole/Southern Ocean oscillations, as has actually occurred for at least 11,000 years (ocean floor sediment cores from both sides of the Pacific demonstrate this).

    This deliberate sleight-of-hand by the BoM, dishonest by any scientific standards, reduces the lessons of past cycles including those from pre-European time to complete pointlessness. So “anthropogenic climate change” becomes just “climate change”. QED …

  • Doubting Thomas

    Here is my latest rejected comment in this Weekend Australian. (Slightly off topic, but relevant, I think.)
    “In my 80+ years, I’ve seen many disasters similar to the recent supposedly unprecedented fires and floods. Climate change, to the almost imperceptible extent that it has occurred over those years, is not the cause of those disasters or the reason for their severity. The cause is our own human stupidity.
    Incompetent and/or corrupt local government allow people to build housing developments in historical flood country, and stupid people continue to buy them. Fools continue to build and buy houses in forest country and “green” councils forbid the creation of effective fire breaks. Environmental zealots refuse to allow timely and effective reduction if fuel loads.
    Government organisations should not help people too stupid to help themselves.”

  • vicjurskis

    Doubting Thomas. Firebreaks can’t stop firestorms any more than can waterbombers. We have to keep the whole landscape healthy and safe. 60 years of empirical data from sw Aus show that an absolute minimum of 8% of the landscape must be maintained each year to prevent firestorms and megafires in severe seasons. The benefits persist for a maximum of 6 years. so unless half the landscape is properly managed we’ll have disasters every bad season. In the southeast we’ve been burning 1% per annum and the majority of that is high intensity hazard production burning because Fire Chiefs and NPWS dunno what they’re doing. In any case it’s illegal in NSW to burn frequently/mildly enough to do a good job. That’s why ex-Fire Chiefs and green academics such as Greg Mullins and Prof. Lesley Hughes from Climate Council need the Climate Cop-Out to cover their derrieres.

  • vicjurskis

    Peter O’Brien, Pittosporum undulatum is a nice short stout round crowned tree growing on its natural rocky sites in low depauperate rainforest. it’s fruits are spread far and wide by birds. Without mild fire to kill seedlings it is an aggressive invader of forest, woodland and tall heath. Some councils on Sydney’s north shore recognise it as a pest. I wrote a report on the biodiversity benefits of removing it for a bloke who was doing a good job of cleaning it up in a council reserve in front of his house at Pambula Beach. Of course he was persecuted by Council, convicted and fined in the Land and Environment Court.

  • Doubting Thomas

    You’re preaching to the converted, Vic.

  • vicjurskis

    Doubting Thomas. Unfortunately not! A significant proportion of the ‘converted’ don’t understand the difference between maintaining the whole landscape and relying on the ‘Colgate ring of confidence’ approach as Roger Underwood calls it. I get sick of hearing prominent leaders of Aus Fire Authorities Council, Forestry Australia etc. saying that prescribed burning is not the panacea. It bloody well is and has been for tens of thousands of years. The fire ‘experts’ from universities in Melbourne, Sydney and Wollongong have convinced governments that wide ‘hazard reduced’ zones around suburbia are the answer. These ignorami advise the inquiries after every inevitable disaster and get more money for bs research and modelling.

  • lbloveday

    Doubting T, my rejected comment to The Australian is right off topic, but here it is, in response to a spiel about “same-sex parents”:
    .
    The fact that 2 people of the same sex raise a child does not make them parents – a person cannot have two parents of the same sex as the egg must come from a biological female and the sperm from a biological male.

  • lbloveday

    Oops, sent too quickly; it was also rejected by The Spectator Australian.

  • Biggles

    ianl. I have lived in Melbourne for most of my eighty years, but have never experienced a summer without a forty-degree day, as had happened this year. The BoM is desperate to cover-up the fact that the Earth is cooling, not warming. See the work of Prof. Valentina Zharkova if in doubt.

  • Biggles

    vicjurskis. What a shame that the aborigines no longer ‘keep the place clean’ as stated in your earlier article in QOL. (And BTW, it is reams, not reems.)

  • vicjurskis

    Biggles. It’s a crime that no-one’s allowed to keep country clean and healthy and safe. That’s the point.

  • Daffy

    @Elizabeth Beare, I with you on exotics! I’ve been raising deciduous trees for two friends’ rural properties. Its great fun and sometimes they even survive the kangaroos. One friend has built cages around the young plants, the other not. Seems to be fine.

  • Adam J

    Every tree must apparently be ‘native’ these days; so much xenotreephobia from the tolerant set.

  • Blair

    “Country: Future Fire, Future Farming highlights the consequences of ignoring this deep history and living in unsustainable ways. It details the remarkable agricultural and land-care techniques of First Nations peoples and shows how such practices are needed now more than ever.”
    What are these remarkable agricultural techniques that are needed now more than ever? And why?

  • Ian MacDougall

    Vic Jurskis has written a good article here.
    In the 1920s, botanists classified Australian flora into two broad categories in relation to fire: 1. Pyrophytes (eg eucalypts, acacias) whose oily and resinous tissues encouraged fire, and 2. Pyrophobes (eg casuarinas, wilgas, kurrajongs) which had low fire tolerance.
    The pyrophytes, in their way, both encouraged fire and benefited from it, because it cleared away competing plants and created an ash-bed favourable to their own seedlings.
    The late academic Gurdip Singh (ANU) concluded from his studies of pollens buried in the sediments of Lake George, NSW, that there was a massive ecological change in SE Australia (and probably further afield) at around 110,000 years before the present. Before 110,000 BP, the dominant tree species were pyrophobic casuarinas, not pyrophytic eucalypts. The incoming European settlers found the pyrophobic casuarinas pretty well confined to the banks of the rivers and hence christened them ‘river oaks’, though inland they are well represented by the majestic belah. Singh concluded that Aborigines with their ‘firestick farming’ practices were present at 110,000 BP.
    Since 1788, what are now the productive agricultural lands of Australia have been cleared of much of their native vegetation, settled, fenced and farmed. The national parks, such as the Kosciuszko, Royal National (south of Sydney) and the Warrumbungle National Park were all formed out of the bits and pieces left over that the settlers did not want.
    Though the burning off of stubble and post-harvest trash was standard cropping practice, settlers mindful of their fences, buildings, homes and other improvements, feared wildfires. As a kid growing up in the 1950s, I recall signs everywhere, and particularly on railway stations, urging us all to ‘prevent bush fires.’
    The choice has never been between fire and no fire. It has always actually been between cool, controlled fire and raging out-of-control inferno.

  • RB

    We recently moved to the hinterland behind the sunshine coast, one property we inspected was surrounded on 3 sides by a “wildlife corridor”.
    This corridor was 1 meter deep of what can only be described as kindling made up of palm fronds, fallen limbs, and leaf matter.
    Silly me contacted the council to ask if I could remove the debris to a sufficient distance to provide some protection against fire.
    Of course, it wasn’t refused but it did mean I needed approval from multiple departments and then it was subject to approval by the local community. If I wished they would send me the forms I could fill out to start an application.
    Needless to say, we moved on and purchased elsewhere.
    Whoever bought that house is living on borrowed time.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Vic, I think I’ve got your general gist re in toto and everywhere in bushland right throughout it maintaining what was here in 1788, tho’ will read up on it some more.
    My feeling is though that in urban areas in particular we should let go of what was here in 1788 and allow other sorts of plantings and the ecologies they bring. Difficult I know if the aim is still protect a eucalypt habitat. One of the 14 trees on our rocky foreshores place is a huge pittosporum. Birds do nest in it sometimes, so it forms part of the utility of our land. ps. when I say ‘petrol’ tree I mean a tree evolved to burn. Left to run without care, they can turn into explosives. I am not anti some beautiful eucalypts (I know there are numerous varieties) planted in the right places and properly cared for and left properly to slow burn in widespread bushland areas as per your management hopes. However, I don’t have any sort of fervor to maintain Australian landscapes in settled and farming areas as predominantly eucalypt native landscapes.
    I lived for a while in Killara on Sydney’s North Shore and often visited what was once ‘leafy’ Turramurra. I visited the other day and thought how hideously overgrown it was by trees that straggled everywhere due to green ideologies. They seemed a danger to housing and people from fires and falling limps as well as creating a dank, dark sunless place to live. Half of them should be removed now as past use-by date, and the other half lopped as needed for human comfort.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Also, astounded at the degradation trees have caused to exclusive Burns Road, Wahroonga.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    lol, gotta watch out for those falling ‘limps’. Almost as bad as drop bears.
    Apologies for my occasional typos, mostly the context I hope is clear. And it’s not just limbs.
    Whole trees uprooted into housing during storms as the roots get old are also lethal.

  • vicjurskis

    Elizabeth Beare i agree wholeheartedly that most eucalypt plantings in urban areas are totally inappropriate. My beef is about management of bushland including council reserves and national parks in urban areas. If they want to keep them as healthy and safe bush they need to reintroduce gentle fire. This will require clearing of scrub in a lot of cases. But the green bureaucrats in charge haven’t got a clue. Their idea of rehabilitation is generally clearing exotic scrub and planting native scrub. Furthermore they can’t even properly manage eucalypts as exotic plantings in manicured parks. Sydney Olympic Park has a small plantation of spotted gum that are already in chronic decline and plagued by insects and fungi cos they rake all the leaf and bark litter up into circles around the base of the trees. Royal Botanic Gardens has some older plantings that have recently been ‘augmented’ with heavy mulch and plantings of macrozamias (burrawangs). The large pole-sized eucs are already getting sick as are the new macrozamias which were starting to turn yellow last time i was there.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    Having toured a number of the grand gardens of the world, having enjoyed trees such as rhododendron and oak and maple and cherry I will add my vote that we need trees like these in the broad Australian landscape. Others are expert in implications of fire amongst them I am not. I have done my bit. Several trips to western China allowed some rare species of lovely yellow-flowered camellias to be brought back here and grown on. Now, even that is prohibited by yet another United nations intrusion into our sovereignty, the CITES stuff, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Geoff S

  • David Packham OAM

    A totally wonderful article.

    I am blessed to have seen real foresters restore the WA’s southwest Jarrah forests and, speaking prsonally, am so pleased to have contributed to a policy that makes sense of thermodynamics, vast empirical experiments and has been shown to be effective in creating healthy and safe forests.

    I am disgusted by the corruption of science, anthropology, public policy and ethics by Green “scientists” who are mot practicing science but delusional politics by a different name.

    These people are truly guilty of a crime against the environment and humanity.

  • wdr

    Very good, as always.

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