Ravaged Prom's Easter reopening

WILSONS Promontory national park is likely to be closed to visitors until late March because of a major bushfire that has burnt half of the much-loved park.

The closure is for safety reasons, but will disrupt the holiday and camping plans of thousands of people.

It is closed because the 24,800-hectare blaze is still burning and requires substantial rainfall and groundwork to be extinguished.

It means the prom will be shut to visitors on the Labour Day long weekend, traditionally a time of high visitor numbers. It has now been closed for nearly four weeks because of the fire, started by a lightning strike on February 8.

Prom management and local businesses are desperate for the tourist spot to reopen before Easter, one of the peak times of the year for the Prom. Good Friday is on April 10, five weeks away.

The large scale of the Prom fire is evident when compared to the significant bushfire of 2005 in the park.

In 2005 fire hit about 13 per cent of the park; this fire has affected 50 per cent of the park and is still burning, although the threat is easing.

The current fire has burnt in a horseshoe shape over the northern part of the park.

The southern part has not been burnt, but the eastern side, northern and (much of the) western part has been. It came to within about six kilometres of the park gate south-east of Yanakie and within a kilometre of the Tidal River settlement.The incident controller managing the fight against the fire, Dennis Matthews, told The Age that an earlier goal of reopening the prom by the Labour Day weekend could now not be met.

"It will definitely be open for Easter, definitely, and our aspiration is to have it open by the end of March," he said.

When the park reopens, visitors will see a different landscape. Mr Matthews said the blaze had exposed for the first time in decades beautiful rock formations that had been covered in vegetation.

And during the next two springs Prom visitors would see spectacular wildflower displays, he said.

Mr Matthews a said the Prom landscape was a "fire-dependent regime" that benefited from fire.

"The plants and animals that live here are there because of the way fire has shaped them. And the biodiversity of this park really depends on fire — hopefully at the right times — to kick it along and refresh it," he said.