I agree with the comments by the Bushfire Commission Implementation Monitor Neil Comrie who said the target to burn 5 per cent of Victoria’s public land every year to ease bushfire risk should instead be focused on protecting high-risk fire areas and public safety rather than simply meeting a target.
In March this year I held a Bushfire Prevention Forum where experts came together to discuss the prevention of another Black Saturday from ever happening again.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended Prescribed Burning and Underground Cabling of electricity as two key bushfire mitigation approaches.
However the annual rolling target of a minimum 5% prescribed burning of public land as outlined in Recommendation 56 of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission is not directly linked to protecting communities and accordingly drives perverse public policy outcomes.
As reported in The Age (Monday 23 January 2012) the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s planned burning program has achieved only 16% of its target in the densely populated central region, whereas in the sparsely populated North-East DSE has burnt 150% of its goal!
Aerial electricity transmission lines are a major cause of bushfires, particularly on Total Fire Ban and Code Red days. Recommendation 27 of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission proposed the progressive replacement of all SWER powerlines in Victoria with aerial bundled, underground cabling or other technology that delivers greatly reduced fire risk.
It is time the Baillieu Government made a tangible commitment to this Recommendation’s implementation. This would make a real, rather than imaginary, contribution to the protection of human life and the safety of communities.