Kosciuszko National Park recovery effort under way as National Parks and Wildlife Service assesses damage

Two weeks ago Kevin Gee and Kylie Edwards were handed the keys to the Talbingo Supermarket from its former owners of 30 years.

The tree-changers from the Central Coast traded their two-hour daily commute to Sydney for a quieter life in the Kosciuszko National Park. Unfortunately, the handover happened days after the Dunns Road Fire ripped through the region, cutting the town and its inhabitants off from the rest of the park.

Threatened species officers assisted by National Parks and Wildlife Service fire crews were the first to access the fire grounds to provide an emergency response for Mountain Pygmy-possums. They are pictured here putting in custom-built food and water stations. Picture: Supplied

Threatened species officers assisted by National Parks and Wildlife Service fire crews were the first to access the fire grounds to provide an emergency response for Mountain Pygmy-possums. They are pictured here putting in custom-built food and water stations. Picture: Supplied

"When the fires were on we took a bit of a hit," Mr Gee said. "We never once thought about packing it in though."

At this time of year the supermarket would usually be the go to for fisherman visiting the Talbingo Dam. In winter it acts as a stop in for ski tourists en route to the Selwyn Snow Resort.

With roads to the dam closed to visitors and fire damaging the ski resort beyond repair for the winter season, Talbingo Supermarkets new owners are relying on the few carloads of concerned tourists who've come through with "empty eskies", and the loyalty of local shoppers.

"That support hasn't dropped, they're still coming in," Mr Gee said. "As long as we don't change the hamburgers or the coffees. I have it from good authority they're the best in the Snowy Mountains."

Kevin Gee and Kylie Edwards took over the Talbingo Supermarkets towards the end of one of Australia's worst bushfire seasons. Picture: Supplied

Kevin Gee and Kylie Edwards took over the Talbingo Supermarkets towards the end of one of Australia's worst bushfire seasons. Picture: Supplied

Just over 60 kilometres south is the Snowy Hydro township of Cabramurra, which provides temporary accommodation to personnel who work in the nearby power stations in the Snowy Mountains.

On January 4, more than 35 houses at the township were destroyed, along with several unit blocks, the school, a ski club and the Edinburgh Cottage where members of the Royal family have stayed over the years.

Now that work has resumed, employees of the Snowy 2.0 project will be housed in Adaminaby, Talbingo and Providence Portal, to resume their work exploring the viability of a new underground power station in the Snowy Mountains.

Once all Kosciuszko fires were listed as contained this week, it was estimated two thirds of the park from the Great Dividing Range to the South Coast had been badly affected by fire.

The northern end of the park surrounding the Talbingo Supermarket were some of the worst hit, with a 90 kilometre stretch through to Adaminaby sustaining significant damage when the Dunns Road fire came through on New Year's Eve.

Kosciuszko's Mountain Pygmy-possum is listed as an endangered species. Picture: Supplied

Kosciuszko's Mountain Pygmy-possum is listed as an endangered species. Picture: Supplied

With areas of Kosciuszko recording up to 300 millimetres of rain in the recent downpours which contained the last of the fires, recovery efforts between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Transport for NSW are under way.

Workers recently began removing unstable trees and replacing rails and signs in an effort to provide road access to closed-off regions of the park as quickly as possible.

Several projects to support threatened species including the Mountain Pygmy Possum and Corroboree Frog kicked off ahead of the rain, with Parks installing temporary feeders in damaged areas.

Parks is also working with Aboriginal people to assess the impact on cultural heritage, and other communities to assess the damage to buildings such as the historic Kiandra Courthouse.

Once timber from the structurally damaged buildings which cannot be reused is removed, authorities will make a decision on the future of the huts scattered throughout the park.

National Parks Association of NSW executive officer Gary Dunnett said the usual response for the bush's rejuvenation post fire - weed and pest control while letting nature do its thing - may not apply.

"As far as we know there's never been a proportion of the park that big go up at once," Mr Dunnett said.

"The problem we have had [with this fire] is it's big enough and it's intense enough that it's a game changer."

Mr Dunnett said its unprecedented for areas of the Australian Alps to burn with such ferocity in such a short period of time, as was the case with the 2003 and 2020 fires.

"They should happen every 100 years," he said.

The Snowy township of Cabramurra suffered huge amounts of damage. Picture: Supplied

The Snowy township of Cabramurra suffered huge amounts of damage. Picture: Supplied

When the wildlife service has finished evaluating the safety of access to the park, conservationists will begin looking at whether surviving plant and animal species will need to be transported to burnt areas to improve their chances of survival, as has occurred in South Australia's efforts to save the Mallee emu-wren.

Mr Dunnett said the NSW government's response, including the installation of drinking stations for native wildlife, taking in several species for captive protection, while launching a feral animal and weed control operation had been quick and appropriate.

"We're pleased to see introduced species including deer, goats, pigs and rabbits - which steal food from native animals - will be controlled," he said.

"We're bemused and frankly appalled by the omission of feral horses from this program."

Mr Dunnett said the decision which allowed "feral horses to turn the park into a paddock" would make it harder for Kosciuszko to recover.

"The woeful decision is not helping the situation of a national park already in peril," he said.

This story Kosciuszko recovery effort faces mountainous journey ahead first appeared on The Canberra Times.

Comments