THE Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is undertaking works to improve safety for visitors and emergency service personnel accessing Lady Talbot Drive and adjoining roads and tracks.
The $3.325 million project, funded by the Victorian Government, will address the risks of hazardous trees in the popular tourist area which was impacted significantly by the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires.
To reduce the risk from hazardous trees to visitors and emergency service workers, fire-killed ash trees up to 100 meters either side of Lady Talbot Drive will be removed. The trees will also be removed along Mt Margaret Road, Keppels Hut Track, walking tracks and recreational areas. These works are expected to start in March 2022.
Once complete, road access will be reinstated to Lady Talbot Drive providing access Keppel Falls, Phantom Falls and the Beeches rainforest, key local tourism sites within the Murrindindi Shire.
These areas are currently closed due to the risks posed by the fire-killed ash trees.
The project is being undertaken in partnership with Parks Victoria, and in consultation with Taungurung Land and Waters Council.
The 2009 Murrindindi Fire burnt more than 330,000 hectares of private and public land, significantly impacting local communities and the environment. Mountain and alpine ash trees are highly susceptible to fire, unlike other eucalyptus species.
Thirteen years on from Black Saturday, the fire-killed ash trees are continuing to decay and are falling onto the road and tracks at regular intervals. This poses a significant risk to forest users and it is now necessary to remove the trees.
Some sections of the road have been previously treated, and once the hazardous tree works are complete the roading network will be restored to allow visitor access to the area.
Specialised contractors with harvesting machinery will be engaged to undertake the works. This is the safest and most effective option to remove the dangerous trees. Machines will use existing roads where possible to reduce impacts upon existing vegetation. Aerial tree lopping with the use of a helicopter will also be utilised where access is precluded or difficult, and to minimise ground disturbance in environmentally sensitive areas.
Most of the fire-killed ash trees will be felled away from the road and left on the ground to provide habitat and to support forest regeneration. Trees which fall on the road will be removed and made available for community firewood at an allocated site.
A biodiversity risk assessment has been conducted and mitigation strategies identified to protect and conserve key ecological values. Potential impacts will continue to be monitored during the works. To protect cultural heritage, assessments have been undertaken prior to the work beginning and monitoring will occur during the implementation of the works.
If you would like to know more about this project, please contact DELWP on 136 186.