Australia — Roadside reserves carrying high fuel loads – some of which acted as “fire corridors” on February 7 allowing bushfires to spread – must be better managed, farmers have told the Bushfires Royal Commission.
In a submission to the commission, the Victorian Farmers Federation also urges the Government to allow livestock to graze on Crown land to reduce bushfire fuel loads.
Such grazing would be a “low risk” way to manage fuel loads on government land that borders private property, it says. It would also cut the risk of conducting prescribed burns on Crown land near private property, the submission says.
The federation claims that in recent years the management of roadside reserves has been too heavily skewed towards their preservation as “biodiversity” corridors, which has allowed fuel to build up. “This has contributed to the level of fire risk to the community and the spread of fire on Black Saturday,” the submission states.
The federation also called for new fire access trails across all areas of Crown land at regular spacings and for better maintenance of existing trails.
Its submission quotes a St Andrews farmer who makes damning criticisms of the management of fire trails in the Kinglake National Park.
“With the exception of the Everard Track (along the north-south ridge), these have all overgrown and become impassable due to a lack of maintenance,” the farmer says.
“No fire-fighting unit can be expected to enter this bushland with its difficult terrain unless a properly designed network of trails exists to ensure multiple entry and escape routes. The design, installation and maintenance of this network of fire trails should also be made a fundamental responsibility of the DSE/Parks Victoria bodies for every piece of public land they manage.”
Government statistics indicate that Victorian farmers across the state lost nearly 13,000 livestock, 13,418 kilometres of fencing and thousands of sheds during the fires, while 71,222 hectares of grazing land was burnt.