The DEPI submission is an eloquent statement of something which has been informally acknowledged for years: that fuel management in Asset Protection Zones necessarily involves destruction of important ecological values. DEPI also provides us with another interesting insight into fire management problems by offering an estimate of the money cost of these operations:
‘Costs associated with the specific small-scale land management measures are more expensive relative to broader landscape management measures. The requirement to manage at the smaller scale also limits future broader landscape-level risk management activities, as DEPI would be obliged to prioritise the management of the specific sites. The current approximate cost for the type of burning required to implement APZ is about $116 per hectare, imposing a cost to government (at current rates) of $31,320 every five years.’
The DEPI submission comments tersely that it is not the business of the public land manager to have to fix problems created by new developments: ‘Minister Smith and DEPI consider that it is not appropriate to manage risk created on private land using Crown land for defendable space.’
It remains to be seen how strongly the Department, and Parks Victoria, maintain these positions at the panel hearing. In the past they have made some very nice statements in their submissions, but have failed to defend them vigorously when it really counted.
The panel hearing will be held in Castlemaine on May 7.