We have received a detailed response from the Department of the Environment to our submission on the 2012 Fire Operations Plan. The response can be seen here.
DEPI’s letter clarifies a number of questions we posed in our submission, but is puzzling on others. In particular, we asked how sundry burns planned for the catchments of Tarilta and Middleton Creeks would ‘complement’ recent burns in that area, which we had seen as environmentally damaging. The DEPI response makes it clear that any ‘complementing’ would be in the matter of fuel reduction only. The burns in question are all ‘Landscape Management’ [formerly ‘Ecological Management’] zones: according to the Code of Practice they are supposed to have the triple aim of bushfire protection, ecological resilience and forest regeneration/catchment protection. Unfortunately it is only on the first of these objectives that DEPI seems able to be specific.
Secondly, the lack of useful detailed information on how burns are conducted continues to be frustrating. We are assured that ‘DEPI conducts an environmental assessment for every planned burn’: we would dearly love to see these assessments, especially for large scale burns, but none of them are public documents, in spite of the Code of Practice requirement that such information will be ‘publicly accessible’. It’s to be hoped that continued public pressure, together with more detailed enquiry by the Royal Commission Implementation Monitor, will see these documents come to light.