Fuel loads must be reduced: O’Brien

GIPPSLAND South MLA Danny O’Brien wants the state government to recommit to a five per cent annual fuel reduction burning target.

Mr O’Brien said the devastating east Gippsland bushfires had highlighted the “error” of Labor’s decision to abandon planned burning recommendations from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

“The royal commission considered expert evidence following the horrific 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and made a clear recommendation that the Victorian state government should conduct fuel reduction burns on five per cent of public land per year to reduce bushfire risk,” Mr O’Brien said.

“This equates to around 390,000 hectares per year.

“The Andrews Labor government abandoned the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommendation and consequently, far less planned burning has taken place, despite assurances to the contrary at the time.”

The Liberal Nationals Coalition have called on Premier Daniel Andrews to again make the royal commission’s hectare-based target the basis of Victoria’s planned burning objectives, in addition to a revised residual risk reduction target.

The Nationals are also calling for incorporation of indigenous fire practices, including the ‘Return of the Firestick’ traditional burning project which they committed to at the last election; and improved state forest, Crown land and roadside vegetation management to reduce bushfire risk.

“Our indigenous Australians managed the landscape with fire for eons, and they did it through all seasons and in many different landscapes,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The bush has changed since 1788, but we could do worse than utilise some of the techniques aborigines used for thousands of years.”

Mr O’Brien said the people of Gippsland South had given him strong feedback that more fuel reduction burning must be undertaken.

Nationals Leader Peter Walsh said Mr 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,” he said.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said Victorians didn’t want history repeated.

“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.”

LOCH Sport residents and business owners are calling on forest management authorities to commit to a time frame to reduce fire hazards in the coastal town, after what they say are years of inaction.

Following a town meeting in January that was attended by more than 350 people, a working group has formed to demand action on threats identified to Loch Sport in the event of a bushfire, including isolation of the town, loss of power and water, “unsafe” emergency evacuation assembly locations, and communications failures.

Loch Sport business owner and working group member Craig Holland said authorities must act on risk management solutions and confirm their plans for implementation.

He said the same threats this year were highlighted in the Fire Service Commissioner’s VIC report into the September 2012 fire near Loch Sport, but had still not been acted on.

Among other things, people at last month’s meeting called for a 30 metre cleared zone either side of the access road into Loch Sport, regular fuel reduction burns in compartments, regular ground level mulching, and approval to remove dead timber for firewood within designated areas.

It was attended by most relevant authorities, including a representative for Eastern Victoria MLC Jane Garrett, and representatives from Parks Victoria, DELWP, Forest Fire management, the CFA, SES, Gunai Kurnai Land and Water Aboriginal Corporation, the state government and Wellington Shire Council.

Mr Holland said there had been small steps taken since January, with VicRoads and SP AusNet committing to undertake review inspections soon.

The working group is continuing discussions with the other authorities, and will provide progress updates to residents.

Email questions or suggestions to info@lochsportcrg.org.au.