Recovering from the 2019–20 fires

The 2019–20 bushfire season was the most widespread and extreme that New South Wales has ever experienced.

Our most recent estimates indicate that more than 5.5 million hectares of New South Wales were impacted by the 2019–20 bushfires. This includes extensive damage in our national parks, with more than 2.7 million hectares of national park estate affected.

The NSW Government has been delivering actions to ensure our native species and natural landscapes have the best chance to recover from the 2019–20 fires.

Immediate response

The NSW Government acted quickly to support recovery of our wildlife and conservation values. The Wildlife and Conservation Bushfire Recovery: Immediate Response January 2020 (the Immediate Response) provided information about the scale and severity of the fires and set out immediate actions taken to protect wildlife and support recovery.

Emergency response actions included wildlife rescue operations, seed banking and the creation of insurance populations of some species, and the provision of supplementary food and water to sustain wildlife until habitat regenerated. Additionally, intensive feral animal and weed control was implemented to protect surviving wildlife from feral cats and foxes and to reduce the impact of feral animals and weeds on recovering native vegetation.

The NSW Government also provided an additional $1 million in emergency funding for licensed wildlife rehabilitators to support veterinary care and build capacity in the wildlife rehabilitation sector to respond to bushfire emergencies.

Ongoing recovery action

While the Australian bush has an amazing capacity to recover from fire, many species and ecological communities are still experiencing the impacts of the fires one year on. This is particularly true for species not adapted to fire or impacted by prolonged drought or other threatening processes.

In February 2021, the NSW Government released the NSW Wildlife and Conservation Bushfire Recovery: Medium-term response plan. The plan outlines the actions that will be taken over the next 1 to 5 years to support biodiversity recovery and build the resilience of our natural environment to future fires and other threats.

Mapping fire impacts on wildlife and conservation

The scale of the bushfires that burned throughout New South Wales in 2019–20 was unprecedented. During and following the 2019–20 bushfires, the NSW Government worked hard to determine the extent and severity of the fires. Preliminary findings on fire damage across the State were detailed in the Immediate Response.

Since the release of the Immediate Response, significant work has been done to improve our understanding of the impacts of the fires on wildlife and biodiversity. NSW Wildlife and Conservation Bushfire Recovery: Supplement A – Assessing the impacts of the bushfires on wildlife and conservation (PDF 2.6MB) provides the latest and most accurate information on the extent and severity of the fires, and details the findings of conservation assessments undertaken on fauna, flora and ecological communities in New South Wales.

Reporting on recovery actions to date

Bushfire recovery work has continued since the release of the Immediate Response in January 2020. The NSW Wildlife and Conservation Bushfire Recovery: Supplement B – A report on the Immediate Response (PDF 1.6MB) provides an update on the progress and achievements of the actions outlined in the Immediate Response.

NSW Koala Strategy: Bushfire Recovery Actions

The impact of the 2019–20 bushfires on many koala populations was devastating, with fire impacting over 1.9 million hectares, or 22%, of the eastern NSW koala habitat that is modelled as high or very high suitability.

The NSW Wildlife and Conservation Bushfire Recovery: Medium-term response plan includes actions that address koala recovery following the 2019–20 fires. The plan includes 'Appendix A – NSW Koala Strategy: Bushfire Recovery Actions', which details actions to address the short and medium-term issues generated by the 2019–20 bushfires.

The actions were informed by experts, including the NSW Koala Strategy Independent Expert Panel, and will help ensure the successful delivery of the NSW Koala Strategy in the event of future bushfires. 

Responding to the NSW Bushfire Inquiry

In the aftermath of the fires, the NSW Government commissioned an independent expert inquiry to make recommendations on preparedness and response ahead of the next bushfire season. The Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry (PDF 18MB) was publicly released in August 2020 and included 76 recommendations, all of which were accepted in principle by the Government.

The NSW Wildlife and Conservation Bushfire Recovery: Medium-term response plan addresses a number of recommendations from the Final Report of the Inquiry, particularly where recommendations relate to wildlife, conservation and Aboriginal land management issues. A list of Inquiry recommendations either fully or partially addressed in the medium-term response can be found in Appendix B of the plan.