Yee–Haah! On the runaway horse!

The Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Bushfire Response, Kim Wells, has today issued a press release on the State Government’s achievements in planned burning. The release is mainly concerned with publicising increased cooperation between DEPI and the CFA; it includes an obligatory electioneering flavour in the form of comparisons between the CFA budget under Labor and the budget under the Coalition—naturally in the latter’s favour.

All of this can be taken on its merits. What is of interest to us, however, is the tremendous satisfaction the Minister expresses in the burning program: “The Coalition Government’s planned burning achievements last year reached a 30 year high and over four years has carried out planned burns more than 700,000 hectares of public land.’

Although this sentence is spectacularly ungrammatical, we get the gist: area burned is what the Government is proud of.

Representatives of FOBIF and numerous other enviro groups are gearing up to attend a DEPI ‘Strategic Bushfire Management Reform & Environment Workshop’ in Creswick on October 10. The agenda for this workshop includes sessions on planning, risk management and ecological monitoring.

At the moment, all of these worthy activities are subject the five per cent target promoted in the press release. This policy effectively decrees that no matter what your research finds, you’ll still burn the same area of land around the state. Until the Government [and the Opposition] get off this runaway horse, all the research and monitoring in the world will end up where it has often gone in the past: into a dusty cupboard, never to be seen again.

We’ve written the letter below to the Minister asking for him clarify how the target sits with risk management. Our letter was forwarded to the Environment Minister, suggesting that the two ministers aren’t actually coordinating their activities. We’ll publish the reply when it comes:

‘I believe that the Environment Minister is due to release three Risk Management Strategies for fire protection this month.

‘Can you tell me how these strategies will mesh with the planned burning program referred to in the [press] release?

‘Further: given that the Royal Commission Implementation Monitor has recommended that the area based target apparently promoted in the release be abandoned in favour of a risk based approach, can you tell me whether the Government has explicitly rejected the Monitor’s advice?’

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