Wollemi: Ancient trees get NSW bushfire protection

By Hannah Ryan 20 January 2021
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‘Dinosaur trees’ declared an asset of international significance, making it easier for government to protect them from bushfires.

The ancient Wollemi Pine has been declared an “asset of intergenerational significance” in NSW, bolstering efforts to shield the tree species from bushfires.

The Wollemi grow in a secret site in the Blue Mountains, which is the first to receive the protectionist label from the state government.

The designation means the government can take extra measures to protect the “living fossils” from bushfires, protecting them for future generations.
The Wollemi Pines forest was discovered in 1994 after being thought to be extinct.

Some of the adult trees are estimated be up to a thousand years old, and the species may be up to 90 million years old.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the declaration recognises the “extraordinary global significance” of the trees.

“This declaration enables us to take existing protections up another notch, and set specific legislative requirements including a dedicated fire management strategy to secure the survival of the species,” she said in a statement.

Fire retardant, irrigation techniques and an army of conservation experts have helped save the wild Wollemi pine amid the Gospers Mountain megablaze in 2019/20.

Last summer’s destructive bushfires threatened the Wollemi Pines, with the NSW Rural Fire Service and National Parks leading an elaborate operation to save them. 

“Despite the incredible efforts by the NPWS and RFS teams last summer, several hundred juvenile trees in the protected site were impacted and are yet to re-sprout,” Environment Minister Matt Kean said.

“That’s why we need to act now to put long-term protections in place that reduce the risk of fire exposure and allow the slow-growing juvenile trees to thrive.”

The “asset of intergenerational significance” label was part of a suite of legislative changes passed by NSW parliament late last year in response to the deadly bushfire season.

The label can be given to sites of environmental or cultural significance, allowing the government to make regulations to manage the land, including to protect it from bushfire risks.

The government says this includes setting a dedicated fire management strategy, ecological monitoring and ongoing conservation management.