Friday, October 9, 2015

Statewide Fuel Reduction Target Unscientific

The damage done by the Lancefield fuel reduction burn again raises the issue of whether our fuel reduction burning is scientifically based.

It should be remembered that the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission's recommendation to burn 390,000 hectares per year for fuel reduction was not supported by its own expert panel. The experts said a statewide target would encourage fuel reduction burns in the larger, more remote areas, which were not as important for public safety as smaller areas around towns.

I made two submissions to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and I held a Public Forum in 2012 which provided an opportunity for fire management experts to discuss the fuel reduction issue in detail. These experts didn't support a statewide target – what they proposed were local, zone-based targets for fuel reduction burns, and local, science-based prescriptions for ecological burns.

I was pleased that the Inspector General for Emergency Management recommended earlier this year that the 5 per cent prescribed burn target be replaced by a risk reduction target. I hope that the Victorian Opposition in particular will get behind a change to what has been an unsuccessful and counterproductive approach.

I also hope there is full accountability from the Northern Territory uranium mine owners ERA who allowed a "controlled" burn to become uncontrolled and enter the Kakadu National Park, threatening indigenous rock art. The Northern Territory gets far too many hot, late dry season fires, and the traditional owners and the environment deserve better.

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