With DSE starting burns around Castlemaine, it’s worth clarifying what the Department’s targets are. The following has been supplied to us by DSE for land within the Murray Goldfields district:
|Zone:||1. Asset protection||2. Bushfire management||3. Landscape management||4. Planned burning exclusion|
|Area total||8,322 ha||59,119||227,846||56,716|
|Burn rotation||Every 5 years||Every 10 years||37 years plus||0|
In his reply to FOBIF’s question of the safety value of the five percent target, DSE Executive Director, Fire [Lee Miezis], sought to create the impression that Asset Protection burns, those most directly concerned with human safety, had been vigorously pursued, while Landscape Management burns in remoter areas were relatively softly pursued.
It’s clear from the above table that nearly half DSE’s fuel reduction burns in the Murray Goldfields district are in remoter areas. FOBIF’s view [like that of the Royal Commission Monitor], is that the effort put into these exercises would be better spent doing a more effective job in areas closer to settlements.
This more effective work might, for example, involve fuel reduction through methods other than burning [grooming and slashing, for example]–but these can be time consuming and labour intensive.
Part of the problem is that Royal Commission recommendation 56 was for ‘prescribed burning’, not ‘fuel reduction’. There are other ways of reducing fuel than setting fire to the bush, but we have found that there is confusion in the DSE itself about whether fuel reduction by, for example, grooming 50 hectares of gorse, counts towards the five per cent target. The result is a drive to burn regardless, and the government is apparently unwilling to review this policy.