Plans are rolling out to assist the healing process for the ACT's bushfire-ravaged Namadgi National Park but the recovery will take years and require a significant injection of funds.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the forthcoming ACT Budget in June as the "the most difficult" he has had to frame as a direct result of falling GST revenue, natural calamities like the Orroral Valley bushfire, and the need to continue investing in capital works and infrastructure.
He also flagged the need to invest in more capabilities to respond to future bushfire threats, to be spread across emergency services, parks and conservation, and the rural fire service.
What's uncertain is where the money will be coming from given the Chief Minister's suggestion that the Canberra community has no appetite for tax hikes.
"I'm confident that the community understands the importance of the investments that will need to be made," Mr Barr said.
"I am less confident of their willingness to pay considerably more in taxation and that's certainly a factor that does weigh on my mind at this time," Mr Barr said.
While insurance will pay for some damaged infrastructure and the Commonwealth has different "buckets" of funding to help support bushfire recovery, Mr Barr said "we [the ACT government] will be needing to spend and we'll need to coordinate that spending across different levels of government".
More than 80 per cent of the Namadgi National Park park burned in the Orroral Valley fire - Canberra's worst since the 2003 conflagration - and the two days of pouring rain that eventually put the fire out then caused its own share of damage.
Thousands of tonnes of topsoil were exposed when the tree canopy and everything below it burned, then was picked up by the hammering rain and washed down through the gullies and rivers to the lower alluvial plains.
The ACT government has published findings of an initial assessment of the fire damage and what will be required for the recovery.
The 49-page document highlights the scale and ferocity of the blaze, with satellite mapping showing swathes of severely fire-affected areas across the length and breadth of the 84,000-hectare fire ground.
It outlines the short-term priorities for the recovery in the Namadgi and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, more than a fifth of which was also burnt in the fire.
The report identified 23 "risks" that require urgent attention, including threats to flora, fauna, cultural heritage, infrastructure assets and the possibility of flooding and erosion.
Members of the local Ngunnawal Indigenous community made an initial visit to the park this week. There are six rock art sites, all on the ACT Heritage Register, within the fire-affected area and all will require further assessment.
Dr Margaret Kitchin, a forest ecologist and the ACT's acting commissioner for sustainability and the environment, led the 13-member recovery assessment team that identified the short term priorities and the longer-term goals.
"The natural recovery of the park will take its course but there are four extreme risks which have been identified," Dr Kitchin said.
- eliminating safety risks and repairing damaged road infrastructure so that visitors can return;
- protecting places of indigenous and cultural heritage;
- protecting biodioversity, in particular the alpine spagnum moss bogs which are the original source of Canberra's drinking water; and
- tackling the issue of predators like foxes and cats, plus the invasive weeds which will flourish in the fire's aftermath.
Hundreds of kilometres of walking tracks have been damaged and are now being assessed, a task that is expected to take several weeks.
Even main access routes like the Boboyan Road are closed to all but local traffic because while the riskiest trees have been felled from the roadside, important infrastructure like the guardrail supports for the Gudgenby River causeway have been burned through at their bases.
But senior rangers like Peter Cotsell, who will coordinate the "boots on the ground" element of the recovery plan, are confident that given enough time and no more fire in the landscape for many years to come, the flora will recover and the fauna return.
"The bush will heal, given time," he said. "Bushfires are part of this landscape but as climate change increases their frequency, that's a significant gamechanger."