South Australia’s native vegetation raising fire risk

South Australia’s native vegetation raising fire risk

14 January 2009

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Australia — The State Government has failed to act on recommendations to manage native vegetation, exposing SA residents to a higher bushfire risk, the opposition says.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Stephen Wade said a lack of native vegetation control has contributed to two major fires near Port Lincoln and one on Kangaroo Island.

His comments came after CFS chief officer Euan Ferguson today called on Eyre Peninsula residents to apply for burnoff licenses follow revelations yesterday’s fires burned through Environment Department land earmarked for “high-priority” fire prevention work.

Mr Ferguson said in the Native Vegetation Act, landowners were allowed to apply for fire prevention work but since the Wangary fires in January 2005 only one application had been received and approved.

Port Lincoln was surrounded by mainly acreage properties with high fuel loads, he said.

“We encourage anyone who feels they are constrained by the native vegetation regulations to put an application in to do a permit to do clearing or burning,” he said.

“We believe there are a lot of people out there who just aren’t doing the work they should be doing.”

The Opposition said Tuesday’s Port Lincoln fire was “yet another reminder of the importance of effective management of native vegetation to prevent and control bushfires”.

“The coroner inquiring into the Wangary fires raised concerns in relation to the management of native vegetation through fire breaks and prescribed burns in 2007,” Mr Wade said.

“The Government assured the community that the Coroner’s recommendations would be addressed by amendments to the Fire and Emergency Services Act and through a new code of practice.

“In the first half of 2008, the Minister said the amendments were imminent and that a new code of practice would be in place before the 2008-09 fire season.

“Yet here we are in 2009 and no amendments to the Act have come forward and there is no code of practice,” he said.

Mr Wade said this issue had dated back to 2003, when it was raised as a concern in the Premier’s bushfire summit.

“The Rann Government has wasted the six years since the bushfire summit – why should people hope of action now for the future, when Labor has failed to act in the past?” he said.

“Over those six years, there have been major fires where native vegetation control has been an issue – the two Port Lincoln fires and the Kangaroo Island fire.

“After six years, three fires and three reports, Labor still offers nothing but promises.”

Emergency Services Minister Michael Wright is yet to provide a comment.

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