DSE has invited FOBIF, along with other concerned groups, to submit our ‘specific fire management issues, concerns and priorities as they relate to Fire Prevention Works’ in our area. This is part of the process of producing the draft Fire Operations Plan for the Murray Goldfields District. This plan will be made available for public consultation in August.
We have submitted the following list of issues to DSE. They are not necessarily in order of importance:
- We have ongoing concerns about the detailed management of burns: the escape of the Mount Alexander burn, apparently through inattention; the severity of parts of the Wewak Track burn, which seems to have generated more fuel [in the form of massive stringybark regeneration] than it removed; the crude approach to track making and mineral earth barriers [Smutta’s/Hunter’s Tk link] and the destruction of old habitat trees [Helge Tk, Wewak Tk and Hunters Tk].
- We would like to be more confident that DSE’s monitoring is being used to modify approaches to burn practice.
- We are aware of the extreme pressure faced by DSE over safety, especially in Asset Protection zones, where the Department doesn’t have much room to manoeuvre. However, in the other zones we believe that a less destructive approach to the bush can be made while still keeping to fuel reduction targets.
- We believe a particular problem is faced by DSE in Kalimna Park, high quality bushland close to Castlemaine. This problem can be at least partly solved by a ruthless approach to weed growth along the town boundary. This includes feral conifers.
- Similarly, the fire risk could be reduced by an attack on flammable weeds generally: Wattle Gully, with its infestation of Pampas grass and gorse is an example [this grass played a role in the Bracewell St fire in Bendigo in 2009]; a systematic approach to the removal of feral or unwanted pines [for example, next to the Chewton fire station] is another.
- We believe that with proper management, Forest Creek Castlemaine/Chewton can be an effective fire barrier while still keeping important natural and amenity values.
- We continue to be irritated by the fact that the Elephant in the Room in fire matters for Castlemaine and Chewton—the Moonlight Flat Pine Plantation—is not open to public discussion . Does DSE consider the plantation to be safe? We don’t think the answer, ‘It’s not our responsibility’ is good enough, especially since we have been unable to get any response from Hancock Plantations on the matter.