The recent devastating bushfires have highlighted the vital importance of properly managing public land to mitigate bushfire risk. Sadly, the bushfires have also demonstrated the error of the Andrews Labor Government’s decision to abandon the planned burning recommendation of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC).
Having considered expert evidence following the horrific 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the VBRC made a clear recommendation that the Victorian State Government should conduct fuel reduction burns on 5 per cent of public land per year to reduce bushfire risk. This equates to around 390,000 hectares per year.
The Andrews Labor Government abandoned the VBRC recommendation on planned burning. As a consequence, far less planned burning has taken place than if the target had remained in place and been met.
In light of the recent bushfires, the Victorian Liberal Nationals call for the VBRC’s hectare-based target, in addition to a revised residual risk reduction target, to again form the basis of Victoria’s planned burning objectives.
To keep the government accountable, actual planned burning undertaken must be reported on by government annually.
Daniel Andrews has answered criticism of his cuts to planned burns by referring to the conduct of “strategic burns”. This is no answer; there is nothing that prevents a 5 per cent target being focussed on the areas of greatest strategic importance - to the contrary, they should go hand in hand.
The Victorian Liberal Nationals call on Daniel Andrews to commit to the VBRC fuel reduction recommendation of planned burns on 5 per cent of public land in the next three years.
The Victorian Liberal Nationals also call for the incorporation of indigenous fire practices into Victoria’s planned burning program. Indigenous Victorians have a long and proud history of sensitive land management and using controlled burns to reduce bushfire risk.
The “Return of the Firestick” - an indigenous burning project - should be supported to train fire practitioners that can be deployed to collaborate, educate and practice cultural burning. This should occur in partnership with traditional owner groups, Forest Fire Management Victoria, the Country Fire Authority and other landholders.
The Victorian Liberal Nationals also call for the Andrews Labor Government to improve management of state forests and Crown land, including fuel reduction and roadside vegetation management, so as to significantly reduce bushfire risk and the risk to communities caused by roads being cut due to improper tree placement.
Comments attributable to Leader of the Opposition, Michael O’Brien:
“Daniel Andrews must commit to implementing the Bushfires Royal Commission recommendation for planned burns of 5 per cent of public land to help prevent devastating bushfires.
“Victorians don’t want history repeated. The Royal Commission heard from experts which led to the 5 per cent planned burns recommendation. It is time for this recommendation to be honoured, not rejected.
“The recent bushfires are a stark reminder of just how fire-prone Victoria is, and the risks communities are exposed to if public land isn’t responsibly managed.”
Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals, Peter Walsh:
“Daniel Andrews must act immediately to implement fuel reduction targets to help protect the Victorian community from the devastation of bushfire.
“We must learn lessons from the past, we must learn from the devastation of fires like Black Saturday and those of this summer.”