The Gamba grass war

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The Northern Territory is ramping up its battle against an invasive African grass ahead of the upcoming Top End bushfire season.

Gamba grass burns 10 times hotter than native grass species and can grow up to six metres tall, creating uncontrollable fires if it catches alight.

“Gamba is a major issue for the Top End,” Environment Minister Eva Lawler told reporters on Wednesday.

“It has spread right across the Territory. It’s a terrible weed and it needs to be managed because when it burns it burns ferociously.”

Northern Australia’s peak bushfire period is during the dry season from April to October.

Introduced in the 1930s as cattle feed, the grass flourishes in the northern Australian wet season and could infest areas from Broome to Cairns

It has invaded rural properties, crown land, backyards and parks in the NT, including about 25 per cent Litchfield National Park.

“We can find up to 80 per cent coverage at some rural properties. We found one specimen that was about six metres tall and it’s quite thick,” environmental management consultant Geoff Niere said.

“So managing that from a fire risk and environmental perspective is paramount.”

The NT government has tasked Mr Niere’s land management team with clearing Gamba grass from vulnerable and elderly Territorians’ homes on Darwin’s outskirts.

“They’re really in need of some support out there in the community,” he said.

The program is part of a broader attack on the grass that includes the Gamba Army, a seasonal workforce focused on controlling the weed, as opposed to eliminating it.

“We know that Gamba cannot be eradicated across the Top End but we do need to manage it,” Ms Lawler said.

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