How a Gamba Army could contribute to the Northern Territory’s recovery from Covid-19
The NT Government's Operation Rebound Green Paper includes a ‘Gamba Army’ as a possible priority initiative. A Gamba Army is a jobs focused proposal that can play an important part in keeping Territorians in work in geographic regions where it is needed the most. A Gamba Army can provide ‘shovel ready’ jobs tackling a long term challenge that can reduce fire risk facing communities and take long-term strain off the Territory budget due to increasing fire response costs.
The Benefits of a Gamba Army
What a well resourced, well targeted, scalable Gamba Army could achieve over the coming years
A well resourced Gamba Army would mean more Territorians employed to do this work. This would mean flow on benefits for Territorians in work, spending in businesses and supporting local suppliers. A Gamba Army could provide jobs for workers who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 downturn and get iconic parks like Litchfield National Park in good shape for when tourism numbers rebound.
A larger Gamba Army deployed at scale with clear plans can reduce the fire risk that Territorians face every dry season. Gamba infestations fuel hotter, more intense, more dangerous fires putting lives at risk, threatening businesses such as mango farms and resulting in skyrocketing fire management costs for Territory taxpayers.
A Gamba Army can get to work protecting iconic landscapes in the Top End. These efforts could bolster current capacity working to protect tourism assets, favourite local spots and their environmental values. This includes (but is not limited to) Litchfield National Park, Harrison’s Dam, Fogg Dam, Charles Darwin National Park, Windows on the Wetlands, Casuarina Coastal Reserve and Nitmiluk National Park.
A Gamba Army can help Territorians who have been struggling to get on top of their gamba (such as elderly people or people with limited capacity to do physical activities), and reachout to landholders in priority zones (key vectors, nearby important assets).
At scale, a Gamba Army can power the Territory’s response for the next decade, make a major difference to dealing with gamba on the ground and have a significant increase in public confidence in the Territory’s plan to deal with gamba.
Training (chemical handling); survey and planning; community engagement (door to door); weed control, monitoring.
Target areas: control zone (DENR, Councils) and partners (ie natural resource management organisations), eradication zone (NRM bodies, rangers). Localised activity: local land management organisations could be a delivery partner for a Katherine team.
A Gamba Army could be built as a seasonal jobs package. The most effective gamba control period is through November - April. This matches broadly with the ‘low season’ for tourism and other sectors in the Top End. The Interim Report from the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission made specific reference to the need to get the sector through to ‘tourism season 2021’. A Gamba Army could support jobs through this period. This timing also coincides with the reduction in JobKeeper and JobSeeker support measures later this year. This could provide jobs for Territorians when there is less work over the coming years and deliver value for money for taxpayers targeting this work when it can make the most difference.
A well designed, scaleable Gamba Army would receive strong backing from the community. We could expect a very positive public response to news that a well resourced Gamba Army is up and running. This can help ensure a Gamba Army receives strong backing for its work, helping break through the attitude that gamba has been put in the ‘too hard basket’ and community indifference. At scale, this is an ‘Army’ - operating at scale that can make a difference that Territorians will notice, recognise and celebrate.
- Gamba Army team members - Approximate costs: $60k pro rata salary, 25% on-costs and 3:1 operational costs: $100,000 pa. FTE/p.a
- Gamba Army Coordinators/Leaders - Approximate costs - $80K salary, 25% on-costs and 3:1 operational costs - $130,000 pa
- Year 1: 50 FTE workers over 6 months; leaders 5 FTE over 12 months - approx. $3.15 million
- Year 2: 25 FTE workers over 6 months - leaders 5 FTE over 12 months - approx $1.9 mill
- Year 3: 25 FTE workers over 6 months - leaders 5 FTE over 12 months - approx $1.9 mill
- Year 4: 12 FTE workers over 6 months - leaders 3 FTE over 12 months - approx $0.9 mill