The recently abolished ‘five per cent target’ policy aimed at burning at least 390, 000 hectares of public land per year.
This target was never reached, and was probably never going to be possible. In the last five years, the highest annual total was 250,542 hectares burned.
Under the new ‘risk management’ policy [see our post below], bushfire management will still be heavily concerned with fuel reduction burns on public land:
‘From 1 July 2016, our fuel management program on public land will be driven by a state wide target to maintain bushfire risk at, or below, 70 per cent of Victoria’s maximum bushfire risk. Based on the current assessment of risk, this will involve treating between 225,000 and 275,000 hectares in 2016-17.’ [Page 13, Safer together]
In other words, there’s still a target, and it’s about the same as now.
As we’ve pointed out before, recent documents on fire have been very keen to tell us that fuel management is ‘only one’ of several approaches to bushfire control. For example: ‘Fuel management is just one strategy for reducing bushfire risk…Beyond planned burning, we take many other actions to reduce bushfire risk – slashing, mowing, creating fuel breaks and maintaining infrastructure like water points and lookout towers in our forests and parks. Other ways to reduce risk include positioning firefighters and aircraft across Victoria for rapid response to bushfires when they start, building standards for new housing, developing neighbourhood shelters, issuing community warnings and coordinating evacuations.’ [page 8, Safer together]
There are also challenges around prevention [arson, for example], and issues to do with housing development in bushland.
Unfortunately burning is the approach that gets heavy priority treatment.
And fuel reduction on private land? On this, we have vague gestures about what will happen in the future [See below: Lessons from Lancefield 2].
The emphasis on strategic burning around assets is good news for malleefowl. The previous practice of burning large tracts of mallee forest to achieve targets did nothing to make people safer in risk-prone areas. It is also disastrous for many species in particular the malleefowl which is the focus of our research.