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Mulching a win-win for Arthurs Seat State Park

Monday 31 March, 2014

A new fuel management technique using a large mechanical mulching machine that chews the vegetation into coarse mulch is currently being trialled in Arthurs Seat State Park.

Arthurs Seat has a long history of fire and with the proximity of homes and critical infrastructure to the nearby bushland and a large influx of tourists during the summer months, there is pressing need for high levels of bushfire preparedness.

This year two areas within the park, to the east of the Arthurs Seat Rd and another near Waterfall Gully Rd, are being treated for what is planned to be a very positive outcome for the ecology of the area as well as significantly reducing the bushfire hazard.

“Traditionally we would undertake planned burning to reduce fuel loads but this can be quite difficult in areas where the vegetation is predominantly thick Tea Tree with a sparse understory that will not carry a low intensity ground fire as would normally be required. We also know from past experience that when we do burn in these areas it is often challenging to manage the woody weeds after the burn,” said Parks Victoria District Manager Libby Jude.

Park Rangers have worked with local environmental experts to develop this trial as part of an integrated approach to managing fuel loads and woody weed species including Sweet Pittosporum, Tea Tree, Boneseed, Sallow Wattle and Burgan. Burning would reduce the immediate fuel loads in the short term but it will also have potentially detrimental effects in the longer term with vigorous woody weed growth and subsequent loss of indigenous vegetation.

This new fuel management technique uses a large mechanical mulching machine that chews the vegetation into coarse mulch. The mulch provides an ideal environment for native vegetation and it also reduces the amount of weed seed.

This treatment is then followed up with an intensive weed management program that will see it return to its native open wooded grasslands state which has a much lower and more easily managed bushfire hazard level.

 “This is a very positive fire and weed management outcome. We are reducing the fuel and hence the fire danger, we are reducing the number of weeds in the park. It really is a win all around because this technique’s overall cost is roughly the same as other options, plus we can do the work pretty much any time during summer or autumn and we are encouraging the local environment to return to its natural state,” she said.

“While the area might look a bit different for a short while this new fuel management technique should see the area progressively reverting to a more natural state in the coming years.”

Parks Victoria together with the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) maintains a network of approximately 40 km of fire access tracks and fuelbreaks in the park and conducts a series of planned burns every year as part of an integrated plan to reduce risk.

As well as the work by Parks Victoria, the Mornington Peninsula Shire, private land holders and CFA contribute to the overall fire preparedness throughout the entire Mornington Peninsula overseen by the Municipal Fire Management Planning Committee.

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