New plans outlined for bushfire prevention

New plans outlined for bushfire prevention

8 April 2008

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Australia — Controlled fires will burn longer and across larger swathes of Victoria under a policy shift designed to cut bushfire risks.

The new approach to bushfire prevention was outlined yesterday by Department of Sustainability and Environment secretary Peter Harris to a parliamentary committee hearing.

Mr Harris said fire authorities would now measure success by reductions in fuel load, rather than simply aiming for a certain number of hectares to be razed each year.

He promised a new system of continuous and persistent burning in designated areas, similar to what occurred naturally in Australia before European settlement.

“The expectation is there will be more megafires in the future, so in order to reduce the intensity of larger fires in the future we want to attack the fuel load, we want to try and remove it on a larger scale across Victoria,” he said.

Mr Harris said the new method would require significantly more community engagement, with sections of countryside closed off to the public for lengthy periods.

Monash University academic David Packham said fire prevention policy in Victoria had been lacking in recent years, and he welcomed the shift to more sustained burns.

“I’m just delighted with the path that they seem to now want to go down,” he said.

Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said ecological impacts needed to be foremost in the minds of those driving bushfire policy.

“There needs to be greater care in any of these new strategies to ensure that conservation outcomes are maximised,” he said.

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