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WA Greens – ban logging during fire bans

The WA Greens have called for a rethink on logging in forests during fire bans, after the State Government revealed chainsaws and heavy machinery are used despite Department of Fire and Emergency Service (DFES) warnings. Source: ABC News

The Government has confirmed contractors for the Forest Products Commission (FPC) used chainsaws and heavy machinery in the South West recently during a total fire ban.

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren had asked questions of the Minister for Forestry in relation to activity in Mowen, Helms, and other forests.

She referred to the DFES requirement that during a total fire ban chainsaws should not be used.

Ms MacLaren suggested using chainsaws in such a situation would be considered reckless and contracted logging should cease during fire bans.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston answered the questions on behalf of the Forestry Minister, saying it was true chainsaws and heavy machinery had been used.

He told Parliament the FPC received confirmation in 2011 that for the purposes of bushfire regulations, forestry is considered to be an agricultural activity.

“The restrictions on the use or operation of any engine, vehicle, plant, equipment or machinery during a total fire ban do not apply if the use or operation is part of an agricultural activity, and all responsible precautions have been taken to prevent the use of operation from causing a bushfire,” Mr Baston said.

Ms MacLaren said that was not good enough. She said the general public was encouraged not to use risky equipment during a total fire ban period and loggers should do the same.

“They’re sending a message to people to be careful and cautious in the fire season, and here you’ve got logging operations continuing unabated in these really hot and dry conditions that we’ve faced in January and the horrific fires that we’ve just had, during the total fire ban.

“I asked about the dry, hot conditions in the jarrah forest and they continued to log even though there was a total fire ban.

“They can’t compare the dry, hot conditions of a jarrah forest with, for example, cleared farmland, which is why the agricultural exemption is there. “There is no way that should be implied in our native forests.”

Ms MacLaren said her argument was based on the safety of the public and of wildlife, which she said had suffered a horrific toll in recent fires in WA.

She headed off any potential counter-argument that the Greens’ key concern is about logging itself.

“It’s much bigger than our long-standing argument against logging,” she said.

“This is about public safety, this is about the extreme fire danger that we face in Western Australia, this is about prudent government practices that protect human life and property.”