NSW’s Catastrophic Summer Needs Action

New laws are urgently needed to protect Ku-ring-gai’s bushland, forested landscapes and biodiversity.

Australia’s unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfires have changed everything.  Never before has Australia witnessed an 11,000km fire edge that has burnt so much of Australia.  Never before have temperatures been so high or prolonged, such severe drought, and hazardous smoke haze blanketing our cities.

The scale of the recent bushfires is hard to comprehend, with over 5.4 million hectares of NSW impacted by bushfires since July 2019.  More than a third of NSW’s national parks and reserves have been burnt out, including Sydney’s World Heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains National Park.  Nationwide, 34 people have tragically died, 3500 homes burnt and an estimated billion wildlife obliterated.  We now face the very real threat of extinction for many of our wildlife including our iconic koala.

FOKE has argued for many years that Ku-ring-gai, as an environmentally sensitive area, needs sensitive and controlled development.  Already too much of Ku-ring-gai’s natural environment has been destroyed by successive NSW Governments who have sponsored overdevelopment, without regard for long term impacts.  Ku-ring-gai needs ‘no go’ zones, where development is prohibited, especially in its bushfire prone areas.  East and West Killara and North and South Turramurra are renowned as extreme bushfire danger hotspots, yet they continue to be targeted for more development in the form of secondary dwellings.

Ku-ring-gai urgently needs new legislation to protect its many threatened and endangered species.  Ku-ring-gai is a landscape prone to bushfire threat. It is time to place sustainable limits on future housing numbers. It is time to review and reverse the NSW Government’s plans for increased high-medium housing throughout Ku-ring-gai, particularly on its ridge, which now retains less than 1% of our remnant Blue Gum High Forest, and where Sydney Turpentine Ironbark forests remain.  It is time to put in place new planning laws that preserve and protect our unique environment – more important than ever when so much of NSW’s environment is facing ecological collapse.

Despite decades of scientific warnings, successive governments have failed to take the decisive action on climate change. Climate change was predicted in the 2008 Garnaut report that warned, “Fire Seasons will start earlier, and later and be more intense.  The effect increases over time but should be directly observable by 2020.”  Thankfully Matt Kean, NSW Environment Minister, has strongly promoted the need for action on climate change, at a time, when NSW was not only devastated by catastrophic bushfire but also wild storms.  Lindfield, Killara and Gordon were badly hit in late 2019, with what residents describe as a ‘mini-cyclone’, causing tall gum tree trunks to snap in half, so ferocious were wind speeds.

We need our state Members of Parliament to take leadership and address the causes and consequences of climate change that will continue to profoundly affect the health and resilience of Ku-ring-gai’s environment but also its residents’ health and wellbeing.

Ku-ring-gai is one of the most biodiverse regions of Sydney.  Its bushland and remnant forests are vital refuges for wildlife. With urban temperatures rising, Ku-ring-gai’s role as the ‘Green Heart of Sydney’ is even more significant when Sydney had 81 days of hazardous bushfire smoke.

New laws are needed to protect and enhance Ku-ring-gai’s environment, biodiversity and protect residents from future climate disasters.  Scientists have been warning government for years, that the rate of growth is unsustainable and that we are hitting our limits, creating ‘superwicked’ problems!