Australia — NSW’s hazard reduction program needs millions of dollars in extra funding to match improvements recommended for Victoria by the Bushfires Royal Commission, volunteer firefighters say.
The Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) is calling for a 300 per cent increase to its current state government funding allocation of $6.5 million for fuel reduction.
It says $26 million is urgently needed to achieve outcomes similar to those recommended by the royal commission into the Black Saturday bushfire that killed 173 people.
“This funding should be delivered as quickly as possible, and certainly within the next term of government,” RFSA president Brian McKinlay said in a statement.
The royal commission recommended the Victorian government significantly boost its level of fuel reduction from the current annual level of 130,000 hectares.
Victorian Premier John Brumby has given in principle support to the recommendation, which sets a minimum yearly target of five per cent of public land, up from 1.7 per cent.
The move prompted the NSW opposition to call on the Keneally government to do the same, but the RFSA warns the proposed Victorian model is unworkable in this state.
Mr McKinlay says in NSW more than 50 per cent of land is privately held, sometimes in patchwork-patterns with public land.
He warns that using percentage targets in these circumstances could lead to mass burning of non-priority areas which does little to reduce genuine risk.
“In NSW we rightly measure the success of hazard reduction burning by the risk which is reduced, not in raw hectare or percentage targets,” he said. “We need to … increase the resources to focus on reducing real risks.”
Earlier this month, NSW Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan said the government was carefully reviewing the recommendations, and would respond after receiving advice from the NSW Rural Fire Service.