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Deputy Nationals leader slams Labor inactivity for summer bushfire season

Roadside vegetation in Gippsland

The Victorian Government needs to lift its game to prepare for the coming fire season, Member for Euroa and Nationals deputy leader, Steph Ryan has warned. In a scathing report released last week, the Victorian Auditor-General found Labor had monumentally failed to meet its prescribed burning targets. Source: Timberbiz

Ms Ryan also raised concerns about long grass on roadsides through the region, which has seen a substantial increase in fuel loads.

“Grass along the edges of major highways including the Hume is now waist-high. This grass threatens to become a wick along roadsides as the weather gets warmer, if it is not slashed urgently. It is also impacting on the visibility of motorists, particularly at intersections,” Ms Ryan said.

“While you cannot eliminate the risk of bushfire, you can manage it to help protect people, property and the environment, it starts with early prevention through planned burns and roadside slashing.

“The CFA estimates that roadside slashing decreases any potential flame height by half, making roadside fires easier to put out.

“With last year’s devastating fire season still at the forefront of our minds, it is critical that the government properly resources VicRoads to get on top of slashing and management of roadside vegetation to mitigate fire risk.”

Ms Ryan said Labor’s failure to reach its fuel reduction targets was also a massive concern ahead of the summer fire season.

“The Auditor-General’s investigation found Labor achieved just 43% of planned priority burns and 30% of normal burns last year. This is a real cause for concern, particularly in light of the fire season we have just had,” Ms Ryan said.

“When the Andrews Government introduced its new model removing the 2009 Bushfire Royal Commission’s requirement that five percent of the state’s forest to be burnt every year, it assured regional Victorians that there would be no change to the area of forest that is treated.

“We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that is not the case, and it is our communities which are being put at risk as a result of Labor’s failure to meet these targets.

“It is unacceptable to use climate change as an excuse for inaction. If anything, a longer bushfire season means the government needs to be more active in burning when there is an available window. There are also ways to utilise traditional indigenous burning techniques that can be adapted to almost any climatic situation.”

Ms Ryan said The Nationals have been pushing for an expansion of indigenous burning practices because they show promise in delivering better protection for communities and are more in turn with the natural systems and processes of the Australian landscape.

“Utilising cool indigenous burns can ensure the window the government is so worried about can be expanded and our bush and communities are better protected,” Ms Ryan said.