The Mirror News

Expect more planned burns

EXPECT to see many more planned burns taking place each year on public land across the state.

Fuel reduction burning is likely to increase to an annual rolling target of five per cent minimum of public land – about three times the current target (130,000 hectares) – across Victoria.

This is one of the key recommendations of the final report of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Premier John Brumby tabled the report last weekend in the Parliament of Victoria and released it immediately to the public.

In an interim response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, Mr Brumby gave in principle support to 59 of the report’s 67 recommendations.

However, in regard to the other recommendations, including the dramatic increase in the fuel reduction target, he said he would be consulting with the public and the relevant agencies before he made a firm commitment.

Mr Brumby said the Government would speak to stakeholders about a range of issues, including:

Fuel reduction – Increasing fuel reduction burning to an annual target of five per cent minimum of public land, in recognition that fuel reduction burning must increase, but that there are strong views held in different sectors of the community;

Refuges – How to integrate the provision of refuges into local emergency management;

Local Government – Obligations for local government, particularly in the area of local bushfire and emergency planning;

Evacuations – Requirements and policies around evacuations, including consideration of the ‘stay or go’ policy, recognising that there are strong views in the community;

Power lines – The progressive replacement of single-wire earth return and 22 kilovolt power lines with aerial bundled cable, underground cabling or other technology to reduce the bushfire risk, including all options for mitigating risk and financial implications for consumers;

Acquisitions – consideration of non-compulsory acquisition by the State of land in bushfire prone areas.

Good for farmers

Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) President Andrew Broad welcomed the report, saying it addressed the three major concerns of farmers: insurance, native vegetation and fuel reduction burning.

“Of particular relevance to farmers, the Commission has recommended the current fire funding model, the Fire Services Levy, be scrapped and replaced with a property based charge with consideration for a charge on motor vehicles. The Commission has discredited the Victorian Government’s argument that retaining the levy is the most appropriate way to build fire risk factors into insurance costs,” said Mr Broad.

“This recommendation is the most recent in a long line of inquiries and reports that have come to the same conclusion. The Fire Service Levy must go. There is no reason to delay the eradication of this failed funding model any longer.”

Mr Broad described as “sensible” the commission’s recommendations that an assessment of fire hazards be included in permit applications for the removal of native vegetation and that greater guidance be provided to local government in managing native vegetation.

He added that the commission’s recommendation of a substantial increase in the prescribed burning target had the support of Victoria’s farmers.

Copies of the report can be ordered from the Victorian Government by visiting www.vic.gov.au or by calling 1800 463 684. The report is also available online at www.royalcommission.vic.gov.au in HTML, high resolution PDF and low resolution PDF. A link to the report is available at www.premier.vic.gov.au.

Burns in South Gippsland

As it prepares plans for fire operations for South Gippsland’s public land, parks, forests and reserves, the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) will be consulting with the community. Staff will be available to speak to landholders about planned works in South Gippsland at a number of forums in coming weeks. Locally these are: Foster Parks Victoria office next Wednesday, August 11, between 3pm and 6pm; and an information stand at the Prom Country Farmers Market in the grounds of Foster War Memorial Arts Centre on Saturday August 21.

You can also visit www.dse.vic.gov.au/fires or call 136 186.

Draft Fire Operations Plans for 2010/11 – 2012/13 for all districts are available for viewing at DSE and Parks Victoria offices during August.

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