A second point worth highlighting in the Carter report is the importance of integrating public and private land in fire preparations. The report says: ‘The Department must adopt a tenure-‐blind approach to the management of bushfire risk including the planning of burns.’
In the case of Cobaw:
‘A common response from some [DELWP] staff interviewed who had responsibility for planning part of the burn was that in spring the surrounding area was green paddocks, but in reality this burn is surrounded by public and private forest, much of it long unburnt. The burn plan contains little information about the surrounding area, the fuels outside the burn, neighbours and the broader context. It will be stated throughout this report that the focus of the Department in relation to the Lancefield-‐Cobaw burn was clearly on its own tenure with inadequate attention to external considerations. The Investigation Team does however note that processes are afoot to shift bushfire risk management, and therefore burn planning, to a broader landscape approach… This will provide some impetus for change however significant cultural and procedural shifts within the Department are also required to increase the focus on external factors and contingency planning.’
The policy of integrating public and private land into bushfire plans is still undeveloped, as we’ve pointed out before. The Safer together document [see below], while enthusiastically embracing the idea of private participation in bushfire mitigation, has this to say:
‘While our bushfire risk target will only apply to the delivery of the fuel management program on public land in the immediate term, we will build our systems and processes to enable a bushfire risk target to guide planning and investment across all bushfire risk reduction activities on public and private land in future.’ [p 13] [Our emphasis]
In other words, ‘processes are afoot’, but as for action: not yet.
The risk we run is that the ‘new’ policy will look very like the old one.