Australia — A parliamentary committee has slammed the Labor Government’srecord on bushfire management and linked its inadequate action to the state’sdevastating fires in recent years.
The Environment and Natural Resources Committee has recommended theGovernment almost triple the level of prescribed burning to reduce future risks.
The committee’s report was tabled in Parliament yesterday and said theDepartment of Sustainability and Environment should increase its yearly burningtarget from 130,000ha to 385,000.
“The scale of and intensity of the 2002-03 and 2006-07 bushfires werethe result of inappropriate fire regimes and, in particular, of an insufficientlevel of landscape-scale prescribed burning,” the report stated.
Fire devastated Victoria in the summer of 2006-07.
Fire destroyed almost 1.2 million hectares during the 2006-07 fire seasonwhen about 1000 blazes raged for more than two months, mostly in the state’snorth and east. The overwhelming view of the committee was that the managementof public lands must be improved.
State National Party leader Peter Ryan said the Government was trying toshirk its responsibility on the issue and added it must take swift action toaddress the alarming problem.
“The committee found that the frequency and extent of prescribed burningin Victoria has been insufficient,” he said.
“And this contributed to the scale and intensity of the 2002-03 and2006-07 bushfires and the impact of the Gippsland floods.
“It is also critical to note the committee found these bushfires had animmediate and severe impact on Victoria’s biodiversity and levels of prescribedburning have long been insufficient to preserve ecological processes.”
Mr Ryan added that the Government’s policy to ban cattle grazing in the highcountry had also contributed to its disastrous record on land management.
But Premier John Brumby said the state’s unpredictable seasonal weather oftenhampered pre-season burns and 400,000ha was a huge area.
“If you think of the big fires in 2003 and 2004-05, they burned morethan a million hectares of land, so if you think of 400,000ha that’s prettyclose to 40 per cent of that,” he said.
“We’d need to look very carefully at those recommendations and take intoaccount on the one hand, the need to ensure we’re properly prepared . . . but onthe other, if you burn that amount of land . . . there’ll be a lot of smoke inthe air.”