VIC fires brought under control as heat
Light rain and cooler weather helped firefighters bring
large bushfires in the upper Latrobe Valley east of Melbourne under
control today. The largest, at Blue Rock 13km NNW of Moe,
had burnt through 2200ha by late this afternoon. A second fire at
Tonimbuk 25km NW of Warragul had burnt through 730ha in the Bunyip
State Forest. Neither was affecting property and both were expected
to be brought under control during the weekend. Six fires in the
Alexandra/Broadford area are now contained, including the 375 Marginal
Road blaze 5km N of Castella. The 361ha Patrol Road fire, 7km S
of Noojee and between the Blue Rock and Tonimbuk fires, was also
contained. Over 30 other fires that flared across the state over
the past two days were now under control. Many of the fires are
believed to have originated from government and private backburns
that blazed out of control on Wednesday and yesterday in unseasonable
weather conditions that were both hotter and windier than expected.
Hot conditions contracted into eastern NSW today, with maximum
temperatures 8 to 12 above normal reported across the state's southeast.
Burrinjuck Dam's 32.6 was 11.8 above. The hot day followed another
warm night across NE VIC and parts of inland NSW. Wangaratta and
Rutherglen both reported minima of around 17°, 10 above normal.
Locusts a continuing problem in SE AUS
The same hot northerly winds that brought unseasonable heat to
SA, VIC and NSW over the past three days have also carried outliers
of the QLD/NSW locust plague deep into southern states. The locusts
were hatched by widespread flooding rain across QLD and NSW in mid
January and reached plague proportions in Central Western NSW mid
March (see report 16 March). Continuing
dry conditions have reduced food supplies for the locusts, but low
intensities of the plague have reached as far south as Wallan, 45km
north of the Melbourne CBD. The 1km square infestation is the first
known in the area. Victoria's member on the Australian Plague Locust
Commission, Malcolm Campbell was reported by The Age as
saying that locusts had migrated into Victoria only three times
since the group was formed in 1975, each time to the state's north-west.
"There are about 10 to 20 adults per square metre [near Wallan],
which is really not very much," he said. "When we're talking
a decent sort of plague we're talking numbers of 100 to 1000 per
Small swarms had also been spotted south and east of Wangaratta
and Benalla VIC. In SA, small swarms have been found in the Riverland
district and on the Eyre Peninsula around Cleve and Cowell. There
have also been sightings in western NSW around Broken Hill and Milparinka
to the north.
Laurie McCulloch, Director of the Australian Plague Locust Commission,
told ABC Radio that the last time the insects made it so close to
Melbourne was in the 1950s. He said the locusts were in search of
greenery, whether native grasses or crops, but the exceptionally
low rainfall across southern NSW and VIC over the past four months
were making that scarce. "Locusts have migrated, particularly
into New South Wales and the conditions where they have migrated
into are very, very dry and what they seem to be doing is making
several migrations, which is quite unusual."
Locusts continue to cause concern in Central Western NSW where they
have been reported in plague proportions north of Orange. Low to
medium intensity swarms are still active on the NSW Northwest Slopes
and Plains. The Central Tablelands Rural Lands Protection Board
and most of the Molong RLPB areas were drought declared on 1 April,
with continuing dry weather since moderate rain fell in February
adding to concerns for graziers and horticulturalists in the area
as winter approaches.
The main worry now in all areas in which swarms have been reported
is the potential posed for future outbreaks. Northern Slopes Rural
Lands Protection Board ranger Andrew Phillips told the Inverell
Times "A lot are laying or have laid, and with up to 80
eggs per lay and each adult laying up to three times in their life,
that's a lot of eggs to hatch when the conditions are right,"
he said. The "right" conditions were likely to be after
25mm of rain fell in spring once the temperature reached about 25°.
Billions of locust eggs now underground could then hatch with the
only means of control being ground spraying after the wingless juvenile
locusts banded together into areas about a fortnight after hatching.