Where do the plantations fit in the Fire Operations Plan?

Residents living near the Hancock Moonlight Flat pine plantations have been informed by company foresters that the plantations are to be harvested and resown this coming season. This finally puts to rest the story that the plantations were slated to be cut and then allowed to revert to bushland under the care of Parks Victoria.

Harvested section of the Moonlight Flat plantation: it is not at all clear how the pines fit into fuel reduction strategies on the adjoining public land.

Harvested section of the Moonlight Flat plantation: it is not at all clear how the pines fit into fuel reduction strategies on the adjoining public land.

In its submission to the draft Fire Operations Plan, FOBIF has requested that the plantations be incorporated into the fire protection strategy for the adjoining public land. We’ve made this request before, without result. It has been consistently surprising to discover how relaxed authorities are about the fire risk from the pines, or how ready they are to say that safety issues are the responsibility of the management company. Our efforts to find out some detail about the fire protection plan for the pines have been completely without success.

Our submission to the draft Fire Operations Plan is as follows:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the current FOP draft.

We acknowledge your response to the matters we raised in our 2012 and 2013 submissions. In spite of some modifications to the plan, however, our general concerns remain substantially the same:

• We believe that the five per cent target is skewing burning operations away from strictly safety concerns towards achievement of burn coverage which has little relevance to safety or ecological health, and may be damaging to both. We believe that it should be replaced by the kind of risk based approach recommended by the Royal Commission Implementation Monitor [and supported in theory by DEPI, we have been told].
• We remain disturbed by the unavailability of burn plans and post burn assessments, in spite of the requirements explicitly set out in the Code of Practice.
• We are particularly concerned about the relatively large area burns zoned LMZ [for example, in the Muckleford/Maldon and Amanda’s Track areas], and would like to see the risk management assessments and specific ecological intentions in these burns.

We would like to add the following points:

1. It is now clear that the Moonlight Flat pine plantations are to be harvested and resown. We have expressed our concern about the fire risk from these plantations in the past, and have been amazed by the relaxed response on this matter on the part of those directly and indirectly responsible. We are aware that these plantations are the responsibility of Hancock Plantations, not DEPI: however, page 10 of the Code of Practice does say that ‘Strategic bushfire management plans will…be prepared in collaboration with managers of public and private land, community and interested stakeholders.’
We repeat the request made in our letter to DSE on May 10 2010 that pines be removed from the blocks south of Specimen Gully Road and Clarks road.
We would like to know in what way DEPI’s Fire Operations Plan is integrated with whatever arrangements have been made by Hancock Plantations.
2. We note the addition of proposed small burn areas close to settlement. In principle, we are not opposed to small strategic blocks being treated. We are puzzled, however that the same principle is not being applied to extremely dangerous and substantial patches of gorse along Fairbairn street Chewton and North Street. It seems strange that DEPI is resolved to burn Quartz Hill, again, but not focus on apparently more dangerous areas closer to Chewton.
3. We are extremely concerned that over 1200 hectares of the Muckleford/Maldon bushland is up for burning, after some pretty severe treatment in recent years. We are similarly concerned about plans for the Middleton Creek-Tarilta catchments.
4. From our maps it looks as if it is proposed to burn almost all of the Gough’s Range State Forest. It is impossible for us to believe that this is necessary for ecological purposes. What is the safety reason for this proposal? What risk analysis has been done for it? What is the ecological purpose of this proposed burn?


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