Five minutes with Tim Vale

Last month we welcomed Tim Vale to the newly-created Fire Policy Officer position for Conservation SA. Tim spent five minutes with us to explain his new role and outline his goals for this important area of conservation work.

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What is your history with Conservation SA?

I have been working for CCSA for nearly 12 years, mainly remotely based, firstly at Strathalbyn, then Willunga and presently at Victor Harbor. My role has varied but I have been working with landholders across the Fleurieu Peninsula undertaking habitat protection works in Fleurieu Peninsula Swamps (FPS) and Mt Lofty Ranges Southern Emu Wren (MLRSEW) habitat. More recently the Swamps and Emu Wren team has had a research focus and I have been working alongside Natural Resource officers, DEWNR staff and NGO project officers looking at the effectiveness of the actions we have undertaken to protect FPS and Emu Wrens. This work is ongoing but we are know that many of the swamps we have fenced and controlled weeds have changed dramatically in a relatively short period of time and we are looking at how best to manage the swamps either individually or as a system to have the best outcomes for a range of flora and fauna.

How does bushfire management tie in with your work in the Fleurieu swamps?

One of the methods the Swamps and Emu Wren team has trialled to manage swamps and Emu Wren habitat is ecological fire management. This is a very interesting and dynamic field of study and in some cases has produced dramatic results for our project with orchids and other rare flora being recorded in areas where they had not been seen or were disappearing from. Emu wrens also seem to like the interface between burnt and unburnt habitat and seem to favour vegetation that is in the 3-7 years since disturbance range.

The level of planning and considerations needed to undertake an ecological burn is huge and that brought me into contact with fire planners, ecologists and flora and fauna enthusiasts which has been an inspring work environment to be involved with.

How did you make the jump across to fire policy?

Earlier this year the CCSA advertised for a Fire Policy Officer and I was lucky enough to be selected for that role. My main duties will be supporting the nominees the CCSA has on the Bushfire Management Committees across the state, working with the nominees to provide input into the regional Bushfire Management Area Plans, helping with submissions on Bushfire and Fire Management across the state, updating the CCSA position statement on Fire Management and making sure that the environment is given due consideration in all areas of Fire Management planning and operations.

An important task I will be dealing with in my new role requires me to involve the community in identifying environmental assets that may be vulnerable to bushfire. These assets can occur on public or private land to be included on a risk register within the Bushfire Management Area Plan for the region where the asset occurs.

DEWNR has records for much of the flora and fauna in the land that they manage but there is a real lack of information available for private lands and land managed by local government.

What are your aspirations for your new role?

I am hoping that the membership of CCSA may want to be involved in the identification environmental assets once the process begins later this year. It would be an opportunity to make sure that vulnerable parts of our environment, like hollow trees, habitat for rare flora and fauna and natural areas that a community has a connection to get considered in Bushfire Management Planning.

On 6 April I held a workshop for the current Bushfire Management Committee (BMC) nominees at The Joinery. It was a great opportunity for us to meet, share our experiences from our time on our committees and how we can be more effective in our roles as advocates for the environment.

In the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 it is legislated that the CCSA can nominate a representative to each of the Bushfire Management Committees across the state, 9 in all, plus a nominee on the State Bushfire Coordinating Committee. At the moment the CCSA does not nominees on the Upper and Lower Eyre Peninsula committees and the Limestone Coast committee. I would really like to fill these roles with people who have an interest in the environment, have some knowledge of fire management and planning and are willing to jump into a committee that is made up of mainly government organisations. I provide support but the meetings can seem a little daunting at first. Each region holds 4 meetings a year and depending on the agenda some of the meetings are held via a teleconference. Sitting fees and travel are paid through the CFS for meetings that require attendance.

What's next?

It is important that the CCSA has nominated representatives on all committees by the time the Environmental Asset ID process takes place as we cannot rely on DEWNR to provide the voice for the environment as they are mainly dealing with issues on the land that they manage.

The area of prescribed burning on public land is a subject that some people feel very passionate about and is a topic that I will be dealing with in more detail throughout the year and will be addressing in the revision of the CCSA Fire Position Statement. I welcome any input CCSA members groups would like to have on the issue or any other fire related issue as I would like to consider all points of view.

To contact Tim, please email or phone Conservation SA on 8223 5155

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Contact Conservation SA on (08) 8223 5155, general@conservationsa.org.au, or at our offices at the Joinery at 111 Franklin Street, Adelaide.

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