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January 11th, 2012
GIS Sparks Cape Gantheaume Fire Management Plan

As with most of Kangaroo Island, the Cape Gantheaume area has a long history of bushfires and was last hit by a serious blaze in 2007.

DENR Spatial Information and Geographic Information System (GIS) advisor Iain Malcolm said a move to the latest technology platform developed by Esri Australia, the nation’s leading location intelligence specialists, was behind the new mapping application.

“Using Esri Australia’s advanced GIS technology, we created Fire Management Maps: an interactive, online mapping application used to present the plan for public comment,” Mr Malcolm said.

Because DENR is responsible for public land, direct consultation and engagement with the community is considered crucial for effective bushfire management.

DENR’s fire management program manager Shane Wiseman said, prior to Fire Management Maps the public would have had to view our plan physically using paper-based maps.

“Fire Management Maps has moved that process online and added extra functions, such as being able to focus on particular zones, save individualised versions and bookmark areas of interest,” Mr Wiseman said.

The plan covers one of South Australia’s most popular nature-based tourism attractions, Seal Bay, which is visited by around 105,000 visitors annually, and is also home to several species of important plants and animals that are either endangered or found only on the island.

Mr Wiseman said the Cape Gantheaume fire plan was essential to reducing the chance of fire threatening park visitors and the local community, along with the special flora and fauna in the area.

“The area is prone to lightning strikes and in 2007 a fire started by lightning strike burnt around a third of the very area this plan addresses,” Mr Wiseman said.

“The bushfire risk throughout Cape Gantheaume is therefore quite high and it is essential for us to use the latest technologies to support the development of the very best strategies for bushfire planning and management.”

The success of Fire Management Maps has been acknowledged widely across the geospatial industry, with the initiative recently awarded a South Australian Spatial Excellence Award in the Spatially Enabled Government category.

Esri Australia SA Business Manager David Trengove said the new system provided a way for DENR to communicate large volumes of information relating to fires and fire risk in a user-friendly format for public consumption.

“By leveraging GIS technology, Fire Management Maps gives users access to five switchable map views which cover local terrain and infrastructure, biodiversity, fire history, fire management strategies, and implementation,” Mr Trengove said.

“By plotting this data on a map, the technology translates it into a meaningful, universal language that transcends culture and education – so every member of the community can understand the situation and risk.

“It has an easy-to-use, intuitive interface so users can quickly access the information they require.

“For example, you can quickly find a region through the search function, or can use the ‘identify’ tool to view detailed information about features on the map, such as where and when planned burns are scheduled.”

DENR has been producing fire management plans for fire-prone regions across the state since 2003, with the Cape Gantheaume Fire Management Plan the fourteenth to be completed.

Plans for the Central Eyre Peninsula, Northern Flinders Ranges, South Para and the Alinytjara Wilurara region in the state’s far north-west are currently being prepared, while nine more plans have been scheduled.

The department is currently finalising the Cape Gantheaume plan, which is expected to be released early this year.

Mr Wiseman said fire management plans were regularly updated to reflect community feedback, so harnessing public opinion was an important part of meeting DENR’s goals for safer national parks and reserves.

“Sometimes we are made aware of existing projects that will influence our fire management strategies, such as revegetation, new developments or wildlife projects,” Mr Wiseman said.

“The adoption of Esri Australia’s GIS technology has ultimately made it easier for the public to contribute to the development of the Cape Gantheaume and other Fire Management Plans.

“Access to public and stakeholder knowledge ensures we develop plans that minimise the risk to all South Australians, their property and the environment.”