Cherry Gardens fire

Published on 17 June 2022

Millions for Onkaparinga bushfire preparedness and resilience

A City of Onkaparinga project to support bushfire risk reduction and community resilience will receive $3.57 million in federal government funding from the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.

The project—focusing on bushfire fuel load reduction, woody weed control, better understanding risk through new data collection methods, and resident education—is one of 158 to receive funding through the Australian Government’s Preparing Australian Communities Program – Local Stream.

The program aims to reduce the risk and minimise the impact of large-scale natural disasters, such as floods, bushfires and cyclones, on communities.

City of Onkaparinga Acting Mayor Simon McMahon said the funding would build on a significant amount of work council has already done in bushfire prevention and building resilience in recent years.

“The Cherry Gardens bushfire of January 2021 is still fresh in our memories, and we know the risk of extreme bushfires in Australia is set to increase due to the impacts of climate change,” Acting Mayor McMahon said.

“That’s why this project is so important in keeping Onkaparinga’s communities safe.

“We’ll leverage our existing experience and data in fuel load reduction, community development and project management to deliver innovative and effective techniques to understand and reduce risk.

“We’ll be tackling this both on council land, and on privately owned land by communicating with and educating residents.”

Some of the initiatives the funding will allow council to implement include:

  • increasing the scope and amount of roadside and reserve fuel that can be managed by hiring a project officer and two more field staff, purchasing a remote-controlled mower, and increasing access to steeper areas
  • increasing boom mowing capacity for rural roadsides that are inaccessible by tractor slashers
  • ramping up efforts to manage infestations of woody weeds (particularly highly flammable olive species) across selected road verges and reserves where council have existing data and management plans
  • engaging an external data specialist to capture and analyse fuel load data to support council decision-making around fuel-reduction efforts
  • develop and deliver communications and education material to improve the long-term resilience of community members
  • expanding the successful Community Led Emergency Resilience pilot project in Kangarilla that was delivered by Australian Red Cross on behalf of council, to include communities including  Cherry Gardens, Coromandel Valley and Clarendon.

Council will begin work on the project as soon as the grant agreement is signed, with the estimated completion date in 2025.

The funding comes in the wake of another significant grant the City of Onkaparinga secured for a project to strengthen local communities’ resilience for disasters and natural emergencies.

The $165,000 Disaster Risk Reduction Grant was provided by the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission, and has allowed council to employ a community connections officer to provides hands-on support in two locations vulnerable to emergency events.

Council’s roles and responsibilities around bushfire preparedness involve providing advice to residents through its community development programs, the slashing of dry grass on reserves and rural roadsides, pruning of trees on rural roadsides to ensure safe access, and removal of weeds that are highly flammable.

Council has a Bushfire Management Plan, which documents bushfire risk, captures current and future risk treatment strategies, identifies custodians responsible for managing risks and reducing vulnerability to bushfire, supports and informs fuel reduction activities, and informs stakeholders of potential bushfire risks.