We’ve received a prompt reply to the questions we put to the Environment and the Bushfire Response Ministers yesterday.
Readers will remember that our question was simple:
–the government is trumpeting its achievement in setting out to burn 5% of public land every year.
–at the same time it’s developing a risk management policy, which essentially implies that you only burn where it’s really needed.
–so, how do these contradictory approaches mesh with each other?
The reply from the Minister’s office doesn’t answer the question, but it does clarify one thing:
‘The Strategic Bushfire Management Plans are currently being finalised and will highlight the Coalition Government’s commitment to delivering a fuel reduction program that is focused on reducing the risk of bushfires to lives, property and assets, in addition to implementing a hectare based target recommended by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.’
In other words, the Government is going to implement both a risk based and a target policy–at the same time. This is in spite of the fact that the Royal Commission Implementation Monitor recommends the second be reconsidered in favour of the first. Bafflingly, the ministerial reply ends by approvingly quoting the Monitor, as if he is in favour of such an incoherent approach.
Here’s the Government’s letter in full. Readers can make up their own minds about its argument:
‘The Strategic Bushfire Management Plans are currently being finalised and will highlight the Coalition Government’s commitment to delivering a fuel reduction program that is focused on reducing the risk of bushfires to lives, property and assets, in addition to implementing a hectare based target recommended by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
‘Each will outline strategies to reduce the risk of bushfires impacting on communities, infrastructure and the environment, including planned burning.
‘These plans have been developed to reflect community and stakeholders values by reducing bushfire risk to the things that are most important.
‘They are part of the Napthine Government’s risk-based approach to planned burning. The latest Bushfire Royal Commission Implementation Monitor report recognised the importance to a risk-based approach.
‘The risk-based approach behind the planned burn program is built using local knowledge of the landscape, the latest science, talking with communities, and using sophisticated bushfire simulation technology that helps understand the potential impact of bushfires, and the effect of fuel reduction in reducing the impact of bushfires on the things communities value including our biodiversity.
‘Their latest report said:
‘The BRCIM notes the substantial progress made by DEPI in developing a strategic risk management approach to bushfire management on public land,….and understands that this is guiding how the hectare based target is being implemented.
‘The BRCIM is strongly of the view that this risk based approach, supported by the broad range of initiatives arising from all other VBRC recommendations, holds the most promise in delivering the overriding intent of the VBRC, of giving priority to protecting human life.
‘With the benefit of five years dedicated work in this area, the BRCIM considers it may be timely for the State to reconsider VBRC Recommendation 56, having regard to the positive shift in focus from a numeric area based target to a risk based approach in order to deliver an effective long term program of planned burning.’
Yes, but…To repeat our question: how do these two incompatible policies fit together? [And what is the Government doing about the Monitor’s recommendation that it ‘reconsider’ the ‘numeric based target’?]