Understanding what led to the bushfire which destroyed critical eco-systems in Namadgi National Park is pivotal to better prepare the ACT's environment for inevitable bushfire crises in a changing climate, the sustainability comissioner says.
The Orroral Valley fire burnt 80 per cent of Namadi National Park, destroying threatened eco-systems, some of which may never recover.
The blaze was sparked by the landing light of an Army MRH-90 helicopter on January 27. The crew on board didn't alert fire-fighting authorities until 45 minutes after it ignited, when the helicopter landed at Canberra Airport.
The release of early photos of the blaze taken by defence personnel on board as they left the scene have prompted new calls for an inquiry into the incident. Chief Minister Andrew Barr told reporters on Thursday the incident had ""absolutely nothing to do with the ACT government" and challenged questions into it as a "witch hunt" which would achieve nothing.
ACT Sustainability and Environment Commissioner Sophie Lewis says understanding exactly what happened in the lead-up to the blaze which has so deeply devastated our natural environment, is essential to understanding how to protect it in the future.
"The more information we have about that event, the best prepared we are for avoiding future fires of that scale," she said.
"In terms of what happened on that day is for other people to enquire about and investigate, but my office is very concerned about how we are going to keep these natural eco-systems as resilient as possible when we have a backdrop of a changing climate."
The impact of the blaze which obliterated parts of the national park's eco-system was "very significant", she said.
The ecological reserve, home to threatened plants and animals, holds significant Indigenous cultural significance, and as more severe and frequent bushfires are an inevitability, Dr Lewis said the ACT needs to prepare now.
"It's not just the built environment that we have to be making these considerations," she said.
"Although human life is paramount and that is the top priority for these emergency service agencies, the environment was so deeply affected by this catastrophic event both in the Orroral Valley but also across Australia.
Some parts of the burnt bushland will never recover. Dr Lewis said that is not only important environmentally but affects the community's connection with the land.
"I think the Canberra community are really concerned about the national park and its ability to recover," she said.
Dr Lewis believes the fact that no lives were lost in the Orroral fire, although some properties were lost, demonstrated the capability of emergency services, and their ability to learn from past events.
She says in the same way systems are adapted to best protect lives, they can also be shifted to better protect the environment.
"The fact we've gone through the 2003 fires, we've gone through the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria and we've implemented these changes that have gone so far to protecting human life, by doing that process we can implement changes that protect all sorts of systems," she said.
Dr Lewis said preparation needs to be done now for impending disasters in years to come, fuelled by a rapidly changing climate.
The Commissioner says it is too early to know exactly how to best protect the ACT's eco-systems moving forward, but wants as much information as possible to figure that out.
"We're doing a lot and we do have these strategic plans in terms of bushfire management and climate mitigation policies," Dr Lewis said.
"[Severe bushfires] are going to occur and we have to be prepared for the worsening of those background conditions.
"Now it's a matter of working out how we prepare for that."