ONE of the last remaining patches of bush left unburnt from the Black Summer bushfire crisis will be part of a "Defending the Unburnt" partnership involving several high profile agencies.
The unburnt forest in Manyana that locals are fighting to save from clearing has been recognised as crucial habitat for threatened species and wildlife recovery in a powerful new partnership launched today by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia) and the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).
The Manyana Matters Environmental Association (MMEA) is proud its campaign to save the 20.2 hectares of unburnt bushland in Manyana - located adjacent to the devastated Conjola National Park will feature in the vitally important "Defending the Unburnt" partnership.
A WWF-Australia video featuring members of the Manyana Matters campaign has been produced to launch the partnership and tell the Manyana Matters story.
The video will live on the Manyana Matters Facebook page from today [Thursday April 15].
MMEA President, Bill Eger said their commitment remained strong.
"We have known throughout our campaign how important areas of unburnt habitat and old forest are for the survival of threatened species and precious wildlife. That's why we've been fighting so hard to save this unburnt area in Manyana," he said.
"Since the Black Summer fires, it has become a Noah's Ark for plant and animal species that survived that devastation.
"To be part of this ground-breaking partnership by leading environmental organisations WWF-Australia and the Environmental Defenders Office, puts our campaign and what we are standing for front and centre for decision-makers including the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
"We also understand that our fight is part of a bigger struggle to protect what remains of Australia's critical unburnt habitat against deforestation."
In the Shoalhaven an estimated 80 percent of bushland was destroyed in the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires.
The site locals are campaigning to save falls within the WWF-identified South Coast priority landscape and have been home to threatened greater gliders and grey-headed flying foxes.
The critically endangered swift parrot and scrub turpentine have also previously been recorded on site.
In August last year, Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley declared the development project slated for the site "a controlled action" and requested additional assessments from the proponent about the project's impact on federally-listed threatened species.
The proponent is yet to submit the additional information requested.
Mr Eger said with the fate of the unburnt forest in Manyana yet to be decided, his community is not giving up its fight.
"Our community has gone through so much to defend this forest. Volunteer firefighters risked their lives on New Year's Eve 2019 and residents, including local wildlife carers June and Lex Frew who suffered deep tissue burns to 50 percent of their bodies during the bushfires, have campaigned all year against the development that was approved under very different circumstances," Mr Eger said.
"Working together with WWF-Australia and the EDO will strengthen our efforts to activate existing environmental laws and advocate for stronger laws to enhance protection of landscapes like the Manyana forest.
"If we can't fight for what we believe in locally, how can we make a change on a national or global level?"
Wildlife carer June Frew, who almost died trying to save the native animals she cared for at her property has welcomed the partnership.
"Being a wildlife carer makes it even more important to save that place because I have released animals in there, greater gliders, sugar gliders and bandicoots," she said.
"I would never have released them there if I thought the land was going to be cleared."
An emotional Mrs Frew, who was also a Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer for 28 years, said a fireball incinerated many of the animals she had cared for when heat, then flames, tore through her property on New Year's Eve 2019.
"It's still fresh in my mind. I still think about those animals which upsets me terribly and to think more would be destroyed in the block of land at Manyana is just too much for me," said Mrs Frew, whose husband Lex was also badly burnt as he fought to save their wildlife.
Mr Frew, who had been the local fire captain for more than two decades, said protecting the unburnt forest is so much more important after so much was scorched.
"In my 30 years with the RFS I've never seen anything like what I saw on New Year's Eve 2019," he said.
"The flames went from a metre high to 40 metres in a matter of seconds - it was the radiant heat that burnt us," he said.
About 'Defending the Unburnt'
In the 'Defending the Unburnt' campaign, WWF-Australia has identified six landscapes on the east coast of Australia that includes areas of unburnt habitat now serving as vital refuges for threatened plants, animals, and ecological communities.
WWF-Australia is funding EDO solicitors to help the community use existing federal and state laws to protect the six landscapes identified, as well as working to improve those laws.
While the EDO focuses on legal avenues for protection, WWF-Australia will advocate for up-listing of threatened species and ecological communities that have an increased risk of extinction after the fires.
Support WWF-Australia and EDO by signing their petition to save the unburnt six now atwww.wwf.org.au/DefendTheUnburnt (link live on 15 April 2021).
About Manyana Matters Environmental Association
The Manyana Matters Environmental Association exists to preserve, protect and enhance the natural, social and cultural environment of Bendalong, North Bendalong, Manyana, Cunjurong Point, Berringer, and the surrounding Conjola National Park.
The association also aim to ensure a sustainable future for the plant, animal and human communities of this region, and to champion and support broader environmental campaigns throughout NSW and Australia.
Follow its story on Instagram and Facebook.