Bushfire mitigation a burning issue

Hon. Diane Evers MLC (left) with the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance’s Jane Fuchsbichler.

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The Greens (WA) have called for a thorough review of bushfire mitigation practices in the state.

Greens (WA) MLC for the South West, Diane Evers, said the need was amplified after two State Government-prescribed burns in the Great Southern got out of control and ripped through Stirling Range and Torndirrup national parks last week.

“Prescribed burns have their place, but is not appropriate in all situations, nor is it the only way of reducing fuel build-up,” she said.

“The prescribed burning procedures need to consider tree species, rainfall, water tables, location of built assets, rate of biomass decay, and the ability to maintain the prescribed burns, among other issues.”

Ms Evers welcomed similar calls by a group of WA university professors, who want a total overhaul of the State’s prescribed burning program, claiming the practice of broad-scale burn-offs was endangering biodiversity and lives.

“They rightly pointed out that there has been no scientifically proven benefit from prescribed burns in controlling the extent of bushfires, and that the loss of at-risk animals and plants was incalculable,” she said.

The academics said the Government needed to look at other options such as creating green belts and parklands around key towns and assets, strategic irrigation lines and discrete prescribed burning around assets that needed to be protected, instead of large-scale burns.

Ms Evers said this was completely in line with Greens policy.

“Any prescribed burning of forests and woodlands should be done only on ecological principles and independent, peer-reviewed risk assessment incorporating land use planning, residential design and community preparedness into risk reduction strategies,” she said.

Ms Evers also renewed calls for the establishment of a fully resourced and trained independent rural fire service to help manage bushfires that occur following prescribed burns.

“If the Government can get the capacity to have more people on the ground to get out there and get the burning done, we’d see the benefits of being able to get on top of intense fires quickly,” she said.

She said she was disappointed that the Government’s recently formed Rural Fire Division appeared to lack any sort of operational authority.

“It’s pretty much toothless and does not have any responsibilities relating to bushfire response,” she said.

She said the body seemed to serve as an advisory agency to “develop bushfire control doctrine”.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services said this week that it would conduct an internal inquiry into the Great Southern fires.

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