What exactly are the pine plantations?

Amendment  C 65 before the Mount Alexander Council proposes to rezone the Moonlight Flat Pine Plantations to Farming Zone. FOBIF has opposed this rezoning as follows:

‘We believe the proposed rezoning of Crown land leased to Hancock Pine Plantations should not go ahead and the land should remain in a Public Conservation and Resource Zoning (PCRZ).

Moonlight Flat plantation: FOBIF believes that the fire threat from this area should be taken more seriously.

‘The stated purpose of Amendment C65 is to correct zoning/overlay errors. There is no error in the existing zoning of this land. It is Crown Land and hence a public land zoning is required and the PRCZ zoning is the most appropriate. A Farming zone is only applied to private land.

‘The land being proposed to be rezoned to Farming contains a large tract of significant box-ironbark forest in the north of the leased area. A PCRZ zoning provides the best protection of this native forest.’

‘There is no mention in the Amendment documentation of any ecological assessment of this box-ironbark forest or any details of any overlays to be applied to protect this vegetation. This would need to done before any proposed rezoning could be considered.

‘The Amendment documentation is also deficient as it contains no information on any overlay (or other planning measure) to protect neighbouring properties from the serious bushfire threat posed by this pine plantation. There has been continuing concern expressed in the Chewton and Golden Point communities, following Black Saturday, about the bushfire threat posed by this pine plantation to their north. We

believe before any rezoning can be considered, measures must be devised to ensure the necessary firebreaks of the order of hundreds of meters are made within the pine plantation to protect neighbouring properties and forests.’

The question of fire and the plantations is a curious and ongoing one. Readers will remember that the draft Municipal Fire Plan didn’t list the plantations as a fire prone environment. FOBIF questioned CFA representatives at a briefing session on this curious omission, and found them surprisingly relaxed about the fire risk from the pines. To do them credit, however, the final draft of the Plan [page 18] includes the Plantations as a ‘key bushfire landscape’, with a high fuel hazard rating [the change from the draft to the final version can be seen in the introduction to the relevant table: it says that the Shire has ‘four key bushfire landscapes’…the table lists five; the fifth is the plantations, added after the introductory sentence was written].

The lethal Black Saturday Churchill fire was started in a pine plantation. Similarly, the 2003 ACT Duffy fires burned through plantations to housing. FOBIF believes that more attention should be paid to this fire risk.

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