Tassie fire chief: reduction target ‘no benefit’ to safety

At the risk of beating the same old drum on the five per cent burning target practised by the Victorian Government,  we reprint here reports from Tasmania on the island government’s parallel policy. The report is from the Weekly Times of June 14:

‘TASMANIA’S top fire chief has warned the state government its fuel-reduction target has no benefit” for public safety, cannot be delivered with current staff levels and will cause substantial” smoke pollution.

‘Chief fire officer Mike Brown’s confidential advice to the new Hodgman Liberal government reveals serious misgivings at the highest levels about the plan.

‘As promised at the March election, the government is committed to a target burning of 60,000ha each year — at a cost to taxpayers of $28.5 million over four years.

‘However, Mr Brown warns the policy can only easily be achieved by burning remote public land, while the real need is to reduce fuel loads on private land near towns and cities.

‘“Burning only public land will not protect Tasmanian communities (because only) approximately 20 per cent of the urban interface is with public land, the remainder is with private,” Mr Brown advises.

‘“A 60,000 ha target can be achieved easily (by) undertaking remote-area burning, with no benefit to community safety … (We) need to look at policy and/or regulatory instruments around permissions to undertake fuel management on private land.”

‘Mr Brown’s briefing note — Election Commitments Briefing For Incoming Government — advises there are not enough personnel to conduct the scale of burning envisaged.

‘“The human resources required … are not immediately available, and there is a lag between recruitment, planning and burning commencing,” he says, adding this period would be three years.

‘He also dismisses the idea of a four-year program, instead advocating sustainable changes. “A four-year program will not be long enough; a whole change of approach is required,” he says.

‘The fire chief advises that research shows the level of burning proposed “could have substantial smoke impacts on communities for the entire burning season”’.

Fuel-reduction targets were recommended by the inquiry into the state’s catastrophic bushfires of 2012-13, which destroyed hundreds of buildings and forced thousands to evacuate. However, Mr Brown notes that the inquiry recommendation was for “meaningful” targets and he suggests the government’s plan be amended to fund fire protection plans being drawn up by local committees.

He suggests the $28.5m — intended to fund a 70-person fuel-reduction unit — would best be spent on “existing (firefighting) agencies”, which include the Tasmanian Fire Service, Parks and Wildlife and Forestry Tasmania.


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