Fire in Nightcap National Park near Protestors Falls.
Fire in Nightcap National Park near Protestors Falls. Terri Nicholson

'Decimated': Green lungs of Australia are being choked

AS THE world-heritage rainforest they spent most of their lives protecting burns around them, ecological and political pioneers Hugh and Nan Nicholson wait for Government-action on the NSW bush fires with bated breath.

Along with more than 5000 hectares, the Mt Nardi fire has burned "nearly all" of the Terania Creek farm the Nicholsons moved onto 45 years ago.

It continues to threaten surrounding properties and the nearby Protestors falls in Nightcap National Park.

The falls acquired its name 40 years ago after the Nicholson's made history leading a protest and successfully protecting the rainforest at Terania Creek from logging.

 

Terania Creek locals and environmental activists, (right) Nan and Hugh Nicholson at their home with views of the rain forest they fought so had to protect. photo Jay Cronan/The Northern Star
Terania Creek locals and environmental activists, (right) Nan and Hugh Nicholson at their home with views of the rain forest they fought so had to protect. photo Jay Cronan/The Northern Star Jay Cronan

"Since we moved to our farm we've been protecting and restoring that rainforest and other rainforests where we can," Nan said.

"It's heartbreaking to see it on fire."

Now taking refuge in The Channon the couple are making "many trips a day" up to their property to check on things.

"It's still very frightening up there," Ms Nicholson said.

 

Terania Creek protests, 1979.
Terania Creek protests, 1979. The Northern Star Archives

"The fire is burning down both sides of the valley and has burnt the rainforest above our property, I don't know why it's been down-graded, it's still very active and houses are still threatened."

With hotter and drier conditions predicted into summer Nan said her fear was a wind whipping up and a crown fire coming through the dry vegetation and tearing back up through the basin and back down the two ridges nearby.

"It would be utterly catastrophic," she said.

Like most national parks, Protestors Falls has been closed due to bush fire activity but locals have been desperate to find out if the falls and the surrounding rainforest was still intact.

"We heard the very bottom rainforest into Protestors falls looks like it's mostly okay so far but there's some fire burning," she said.

"But the forest above the falls has completely burnt and even the rock face has burnt... falling burning logs have come over and started to ignite the rainforest below, not to a huge extent, but with the wrong conditions, the whole thing could be lost which would be inconceivable. Many pockets of the rainforest in Terania Creek have been decimated.

"The falls have stopped flowing which I haven't seen before."

She said while the old growth forest could withstand bushfires more than logged trees, the palm forests were extremely vulnerable, due to the bone-dry palm fronds on the forest floor.

"We need to protect old growth forest at all costs because they are the ones taking up the most carbon," she said.

"We are losing the forests when we need them more than ever and we are losing the most important forests when we need them more than ever."

She called for the State and Federal Government to recognise the NSW bushfires as a national emergency act accordingly.

"It's a scientific fact this is because of Climate change," she said.

As the former fire and rescue commissioner Greg Mullins said, it is a new age of unprecedented fire danger.

"The continuing cost of this ongoing event is incalculable, as Nicholas Stern said years ago the cost of doing nothing is much greater than the cost of doing something.

"It's beyond me why there's no action at a government level, just on economics alone, it's crazy not to do anything."



RAIN DANCE: Kids boogie to bust the drought

premium_icon RAIN DANCE: Kids boogie to bust the drought

‘Raindance’ singer Sara Storer dropped in to help lift their spirits

Rain helps fireys, but more needed

Rain helps fireys, but more needed

THE much-needed rain is a mixed blessing on the fireground, with cloudy conditions...

‘Absolutely fantastic’: Surf lifesavers’ impressive victory

premium_icon ‘Absolutely fantastic’: Surf lifesavers’ impressive victory

THE Far North Coast surf lifesaving team has won the country titles for the seventh...