FOBIF has had an answer from DELWP to its February submission to the upcoming Fire Operations Plan. The Department’s letter, from Andrew Koren, regional manager of planned burning, essentially breaks down into the following points:
- How does the Department’s planning for public land fit with fire prevention works on private land? ‘Over the next five years as DELWP partner with other fire managers and the community there will be a move to look at fire risk across both public and private lands…in 2016 DELWP and CFA will be working towards start identifying and integrating private land works in high risk areas.’
- How has the new Risk Landscape policy changed approaches to fire management? ‘[DELWP] works will continue to be informed by the West Central Risk Landscapes strategic planning. More details can be found at http://www.delwp.vic.gov.au/safer-together ‘
- On FOBIF’s concern about destructive track works: ‘Where possible DELWP try to minimise the impacts of track works on vegetation, soils and other values.’
- On FOBIF’s concern about large area burns, specifically the Gough’s Range cluster: ‘we are willing to come and meet with you and your group…for a targeted and open discussion.’
We’ll take up the invitation to meet with DELWP over proposed large area burns. On the other questions, readers can make up their own minds as to whether much has changed in fire policy. It seems, however, that implementation of a ‘tenure blind’ policy of fuel management is a fair way off, and that the risk landscapes policy still needs a bit of explanation before it’s clear to the public.
On this last subject, we’ve questioned DELWP about their plans to burn a small reserve in the Chewton Bushlands, surrounded by a large area of private bush. In reply, Ben Matthews, acting regional manager for the West Central Bushfire Risk Landscape project, has stated that ‘Although it may be better risk reduction on private land it could be a long time before we can actually implement any works in these areas.’
In other words, public bushland still bears the brunt of fuel reduction actions, even though a lot of the risk is on private land.
On the subject of destructive track works: we’ll continue to lobby DELWP on the meaning of the phrase ‘where possible.’ We believe that if the Department is really serious about the health of the land it’s responsible for, then it should reconsider the disastrously destructive practices it’s routinely perpetrated in the past.