Fire risks in the Mount Alexander region: public and private responsibilities

In his response to FOBIF’s fire submission [see above], Andrew Koren made the following observations about fire danger in our region:

‘Communities in Castlemaine, Chewton and surrounds are considered to be at extreme property impact risk from bushfires on days like Black Saturday; based on Phoenix Rapid-fire bushfire simulation. Extreme property impact risk is where many properties in a community  are in the path of numerous simulated bushfires. In these areas, impact by a potentially high-consequence bushfire at some time is almost certain.

‘The simulated property impact risk across the West Central Bushfire Risk Landscape is shown on Map 6 in the West Central Strategic Bushfire Management Plan.

‘As these communities have always been considered at high bushfire risk, DELWP’s fuel management program has not altered in this area. The program continues to build on planned burning from previous years, with planned burns close to both Castlemaine and Chewton for asset protection purposes.

‘With modelling showing that bushfires from up to 50km away can impact on Castlemaine and surrounds under extreme bushfire conditions, proposed planned burning in the Maldon area also provides protection these communities through mitigation of bushfire behaviour.’

FOBIF does not dispute with DELWP on fire behaviour. We are still, however, not at all clear about the management of fire risk on private, as opposed to public land. The risk document quoted above shows ‘priority fuel management areas’ in our region as being largely on private land, as we pointed out in our account of this document last year [see the map in that report]. Andrew Koren says of this:

‘These priority areas offer the greatest risk reduction to our communities, while minimising impacts on ecosystem resilience.

‘These priority fuel management areas, in combination with fire management zoning and local knowledge, are being used to guide the development of the 2015/16 FOP, to reduce fuels in areas at risk. These priority areas will be used to prioritise burn implementation , with consideration also being given to weather and other local factors…

‘DELWP is responsible for fuel management on public land. The Department supports other agencies (mainly CFA and local governments) to prioritise and focus their fuel management activities on the highest-priority areas on private land.’

All this we know. What we don’t know is exactly what these fuel management priorities on private land are. In particular, we don’t know what the priorities are in the pine plantations, which are on public land but managed by a private company.

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