We have the answer, but where’s the answer? [and what’s Hawkeye?]

FOBIF has had another go at finding out what if anything the Government intends to do about the Royal Commission Monitor’s suggestion that the five per cent target be revised. The letter we received from DSE Director of Fire, Lee Miezis, failed to answer our question on this.

We’ve also asked Mr Miezis to give us examples to back up his claim that the Monitoring program Hawkeye is ‘guiding approaches to planned burning.’ Though we believe that local DSE fire managers are trying to tighten up their practices, we haven’t seen any evidence on the ground of a guiding research principle.

According to DSE”s 2011 publication ‘Fire ecology program achievements 2009-11’, Hawkeye is a ‘long-term biodiversity monitoring project’ established in 2010 ‘to inform the way [DSE] conducts planned burning and guide how we balance the dual objectives of fire safety and biodiversity protection.’  The project began field operations in 2011. Hawkeye might be a very good project: we think it could be. But to claim that it is already ‘guiding’ DSE approaches to planned burning –one year into a long term project!–is testing our goodwill.

It should be remembered that DSE and its predecessors have been producing Codes of Practice, Strategic Directions and Guidelines and Procedures on fire management for many years. The oldest one we have is the 1995 code, which stipulates that fire management practices must ‘be appropriate for maintaining the vigour and diversity’ of our native flora and fauna; that they must protect water quality by minimising impact on streams; that they must prevent ‘inappropriate destruction’ of soil; that the possible introduction of pest plants and animals be avoided; and that burns should be monitored when specialist officers recommend.

The claim that burning is being guided by a program that’s one year old seems to be an admission that the requirements of numerous Codes of Practice over the years have been widely ignored.

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