Ground access for fire management - Gulf NT
This map shows the ground access options for fire management in the Gulf NT. Plotting this map at the prepared scale of 1:1,000,000 requires a large format plotter capable of plotting a map size of 84cm by 58cm. [pdf 1.3 Mb]

Managing fire in the Gulf NT
This document briefly outlines the scenario in the Gulf Region of the Northern Territory in relation to managing fire. The Gulf Region of the Northern Territory is not unlike other regions of northern Australia in terms of its considerable size, remoteness, sparse population and suite of land management issues. It does have its own complexities in terms of its people, country and the approach required to address some of the land management issues. Fire is a significant issue in the Gulf and one that requires ongoing regional collaboration. [pdf 398.1 kb]

NT Gulf fire frequency 1997 to 2005
By overlaying successive years of fire mapping as transparent layers, the frequency (number of times an area has been burnt) is dispalyed - the redder the colour, the more frequent the fires. [pdf 1.2 Mb]

NT Gulf fire year last burnt 1997 to 2005
By overlaying the burnt areas sequentially, the year in which areas were last burnt is displayed. This could also be interpreted as the number of years since the last fire. [pdf 1.4 Mb]

NT Gulf fires by month 1997 to 2005
Burnt areas can be displayed by the month in which they were mapped to show the progress of fires throughout each year. [pdf 1.3 Mb]

NT Gulf fires early and late 1997 to 2005
This shows the extent of early and late season fires from year to year. In most years there is a higher proportion of late season wildfires compared to earlier 'cooler' fires. Early fires are those that burn up until July, although this does depend on seasonal factors. [pdf 1.1 Mb]

NT Gulf late fire frequency 1997 to 2005
By overlaying successive years of only late season fires as transparent layers, the frequency of wildfires is displayed. [pdf 1.2 Mb]


Burning as a management tool

In much of the Gulf country there is limited fire-related research and extension. Therefore there continues to be a reluctance to use fire as land management tool; rather, the main use of fire is to burn breaks which will limit the impact of wildfires. There could be more understanding of the ways in which burning could be used to benefit land in a productive sense, and how current fire regimes might be impacting on local environments.


This satellite image from 1999 shows early fire scars in blue and late scars (after July 31) in red

Fire exclusion and burns

As in neighbouring areas in the Mitchell grass lands, many graziers, especially those with better grazing country maintain a policy of fire exclusion. This is because the perceived value of the grass as a forage resource outweighs the potential benefits of burning country. In areas of good pasture, such as the bluegrass country at the base of the gulf, there is some evidence to suggest that current levels of fire exclusion may be leading to a lower level of biodiversity and, in combination with grazing pressure, weed invasion.

Many properties to the south-east of the region carry out burns, especially on the light textured soils. River frontages, which represent corridors of good feed for many properties, tend to be protected, and this have implications for weed species such as rubber vine, which is continuing to spread across this region.

In the north east of the region, on the frontages of the Mitchell and Gilbert rivers and floodplains, there is quite rich grazing country. Fire is used in this part of the Gulf as a mustering tool by encouraging cattle to areas of green pick. It also is used to spread cattle to lighter country, and to prevent late dry-season wildfires.

NT Gulf sector

There are fewer people on the land and managing the land on the Northern Territory side of the border than there have been in the past.

The style of pastoral operations in the Territory are still very traditional with few fences, low input of labour and capital and fairly marginal profitability. Resources available for strategic burning then are also limited. Most burning that is carried out is solely with the end of preventing wildfires at the end of the dry season when the country has dried out. There is one property in the north west of the region that is using fire to attempt to control woody weed invasion, but this is more the exception than the rule.

Large areas of Northern Territory gulf country then are burned by wildfires. The Bushfire Council (BFC) NT carries out 'strategic drop line' burning, in which a line of fires is lit from an aircraft with the intention of creating a fire break. These burns are intended to benefit more than one property, and are lit usually around early May. The timing of these burns however is crucial, as the intention is that they will be put out by cool nights or frosts. BFC also will do preventative burning within individual properties, and will cover 50 per cent of the costs.

Lawn Hill National Park

In Lawn Hill National Park, just over the Queensland side of the border, fire is predominantly used to secure the borders of the park. This protects the park from potential wildfires of neighbouring properties, and limits the chance of burns within the park escaping outside. Securing the park border in this way is necessary as adjacent areas, most of which are pastoral leases, are likely to have very different fire-management strategies. Park management has also been seeking to uncover traditional Aboriginal burning regimes, but much of this knowledge has been lost. The major focus at present is on fuel reduction, with planned experimentation to investigate various regimes and their effects on vegetation, and native fauna populations. At present the park is patch burning on a six-year rotation.

Aboriginal lands

The exception to the overall trend of fire exclusion and regular wildfires, would seem to be on the Aboriginal lands on the Territory side of the border where some traditional mosaic burning regimes are being maintained.


Fire may provide relief to shrub increase

Article on a project that has been trialling burning regimes in the northern Gulf of Carpentaria to help manage vegetation change. From Savanna Links, Issue 31, Jan - June 2005 [read more...]