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AFPA looks to working with Victorian Government to reduce bushfires

Ross Hampton

The Australian Forest Products Association has paid tribute to the thousands of forestry industry workers and contractors who have been working tirelessly for months fighting fires. Source: Timberbiz

“While we are all rightly applauding the volunteer fire fighters in the various states who are battling the flames, we must equally acknowledge that there are a large number of Australians wearing Hi Viz rather than orange fire fighter clothing who have also given up their Christmas holidays to assist their fellow Australians at this devastating time,” AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said.

He said that all around the fire areas, forest industry workers were using their expertise and machinery to put out flames and push through vital fire breaks to allow fire-fighters to back burn.

“They have also been clearing roads of fallen trees to make it safe for holidaymakers to evacuate and possible for volunteer fire-fighters to access flanks of fires,’’ Mr Hampton said.

“This has already been a tragic fire season and the loss of life and livelihoods is heart-breaking.

“It would have been much worse however if we did not have a large number of highly trained forestry fire fighters and contractors with decades of deep understanding of how to manage the bush, in place to assist the volunteer fire fighters.

“These forest industry ‘Hi Viz heroes’ will not be present in Victoria in the future should the Andrews Government continue in its ill-considered plan to close down the native forest industry,’’ he said.

“This devastating fire season demands a rethink of that plan. AFPA looks forward to participating if the Government agrees to reconsider and choose a new path which will secure environmental, social and economic values and keep regional Victoria safer.”

Mr Hampton responded to news of the estimated deaths of up to 10,000 koalas in NSW by confirming regenerative forestry would continue as one of the best things that can occur to support the marsupials’ future survival.

“Koalas and a vast number of native species have been lost as these mega fires have ravaged national parks and some multiple use forests where timber harvesting and regenerating takes place,’’ he said.

“Some are estimating that we have lost more than a billion native animals so far over this fire season across Australia.

“The best science has shown that native animals prosper in forests managed for timber and other values.’’

Mr Hampton said that as the fire season continued, it was becoming clearer that multiple use forests, with their people, heavy machinery and extensive secondary and tertiary roading networks were a far safer option for people and koalas.

“There is no appetite by the vast number of Australians to create yet more national parks and make communities less safe – especially when science says native species are equally at home in multiple use forests,” Mr Hampton said.