Evers: Virus Burn-Off Adaption Should Highlight Long-Term Health Risks

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South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has encouraged a State Government response to concerns about regional prescribed burning practices highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia on March 23, on days where air pollution in WA exceeded national air quality standard levels during a 15-year period, 73 per cent of those were directly caused by prescribed burns or wildfires.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forestry, has called for a review of bushfire mitigation practices in the past and said she had received urgent concerns regarding burning permits in regional towns from members of the Great Southern community with a view to its environmental and health impacts.

In response to this correspondence, Ms Evers has written to the WA Government to share the community view of prescribed burning being risky and unnecessary during the current COVID-19 response period, while acknowledging initial adjustments have already taken place. 

Ms Evers’ letter, addressed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson and Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan, highlighted particular concern for impacts on those suffering from asthma and respiratory issues, as well as the need to observe social distancing requirements.

Ms Evers said she believes an opportunity exists to reconsider the application of prescribed burning practices once the state transitions out of its emergency period.

The Shire of Denmark recently extended its restricted burning period to the end of May, with only conditional permits factoring social distancing protocols being considered until this time.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Regional residents and the volunteers who manage the landscape are finely tuned to the needs of their community as well as the environment, with the ability to care for both.

“The urgent concerns I was informed of last month reflected a deep concern not only for the current health crisis we are all experiencing, but an ongoing consideration of how prescribed burning is carried out.

“I have called in the past for a thorough review of bushfire mitigation practices in Western Australia.

“We must abandon annual burning targets and instead focus on strategic planning around towns and infrastructure.

“Any prescribed burning of forests and woodlands should be based on ecological principles and independent, peer reviewed risk assessment incorporating land use planning, residential design and community preparedness to risk reduction strategies.

“An outcome from our forced adaptation to the COVID-19 crisis is a shifted perspective on how the environment is managed as the land is given time and space to heal.

“Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents as countries try to contain the spread of the new coronavirus and as a society we have a responsibility to learn from this healing by adapting how we operate once restrictions are lifted.

“Less prescribed burns would mean less health risk to volunteers, as well as members of the wider community staying at home, given that COVID-19 can cause significant respiratory illness and place at risk those vulnerable to the negative impacts of smoke inhalation from prescribed burns.

“As a result of these community concerns, it appears some COVID-19 adjustments may have already been effected by the State Government, however, these voices must continue to be raised and be heard to make a difference.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

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