There are some good and some very bad. And of course the empty motherhood statements are fairly thick. They seem to be fairly politically driven recs.
Enviro or contentious comments in green...
Bushfire Safety Policy.
Recs 1-4 then 6-7 – all sensible feel-good stuff; education, safety policy revision, evacuation and shelters, look at the vulnerable and elderly, standards for community refuges. Tick. Rec 5 – a bit ambiguous re evacuations.
Emergency and incident management.
Recs 8-19. Internal processes to be improved – DSE/CFA need better coordination etc etc.
Rec 20-26. Fast response by aircraft – put on standby, look at engaging Defence Dept to help, more inter-agency talkies, radio black-spot problem looked at etc. Tick.
Rec 24 & 25 – dangerous incidents including back-burns (obviously a problem in the past) be fully investigated, and no back-burns lit until IC gives approval (implies past mistakes with cowboys lighting up and creating bigger fire front – hearsay that 50% of fire area in 2003 and ‘06 caused by back burns).
Electricity caused fires.
Recs 27-34. Underground or bundled power lines – priority in high danger zone – replaced within 10 years, power utilities to lift their game and inspect every 3 years, cut down even more trees along power lines that are outside of clearance zone ‘just in case’, councils to also cut down ‘hazard trees’ around lines, install spreaders and vibration dampers asap on power lines.
Deliberately lit fires.
Recs 35-36. Recs sound like huffing and puffing about better arson prevention and detection and police training but no details. Report gives more practical suggestions – police patrol etc. Tick.
Planning and Building.
Recs 37-55. Planning, mapping, bushfire risk, council controls, CFA input ... etc –
Rec 39 “substantially reducing development in areas of highest risk – giving due consideration to biodiversity conservation...” can’t see how these connect but it makes it appear enviro-conshy.
Rec 39-40 - Talked about minimal lot size to allow for ‘defendable space’ – ie – plenty of space to cut down trees (I assume)!
Rec 41 - Amend planning regs to let more tree clearing permits through where fire threat is a priority. Determine a maximum level of clearing that can be OKd.
Rec 42 – mentions “collective offset solution” (?) when native veg cleared.
Rec 43 – this is a ripper. DSE to “conduct biodiversity mapping to identify ...threatened species throughout Vic...” Given they have no will let alone resources to do this even in small areas where it’s critically important, there’s no way on Earth DSE will be willing or able to carry out such an immense survey and mapping exercise. Appears to be a feel-good rec that is totally impractical and one we can be sure Brumby will either reject or set up a Mickey Mouse type biodiversity mapping exercise.
Rec 44 – fire resistant plants list – CFA to produce. Tick.
Rec 46 – buy-back land and settle elsewhere in high risk zone – non compulsory. This is a strange one. It’d be much cheaper to help fund bunkers for these properties.
Rec 47- 55 – building codes, overlays, etc
LAND AND FUEL MANAGEMENT
Recs 56 – 62. Currently burn about 1.5% of land annually. Planned to up this to 5%, or 3 x increase! This is despite the Royal Commission’s expert panel earlier admitting there was little evidence that control burns achieved anything on the extreme days we’ll now be facing. Does this show the whole Royal Commission is politically driven? (no surprise really).
Rec 57 Annual report on targets and “impacts on biodiversity”! They can’t tell the impact for years after a burn – need baseline data, seasonal monitoring, and surveys on many diff veg types, aspects, areas etc. This is a totally absurd rec but at least they admit they don’t know this info. Have to start somewhere I guess. Current minimal monitoring is only looking at plants – not on micro-fauna, fungi, insects, frogs, reptiles, birds and the ground mammals that are most heavily impacted when huge areas of forest are ‘control burnt’.
Rec 58 DSE to up its long-term data collection to monitor effects on its burns and on bushfires. Its current data collection is almost non-existent to useless. There is no monitoring of effects of loss of ground cover and the soil life that depends on healthy leaf litter. Or of the thicker more flammable and fire-adapted veg that grows back.
Rec 59 Risk analysis model to give humans priority over env. where there’s any dispute. This could be dangerously interpreted. Prescribed burns in old growth areas render those forests NOT old growth for about 20 years. Handy when planning to log.
Rec 60 Revised Planning regs that will allow major veg clearing along roads under the guise of fire safety. This is often where the last remnant strips of original vegetation survive in farmland.
Rec 61 Get Feds in to solve conflict over destruction of valuable roadside veg and change the Fed EPBC Act to allow for annual destruction of protected veg!
Rec 62 VicRoads (no ecological or env expertise within cooee of this authority) to do risk assessments along roadsides.
Recs 63 – 64 OK
Monitoring and implementation.
Rec 66 – Auditor General or other ‘independent’ body report back on the progress of these recs by July 2012.
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FORESTS - our breathing space!
Photo Details and Credits (from left to right)
Fire affected forest treated with a prescribed burn in 2008. Chris Taylor 19 April 2009.
View of Mount Riddell from Chum Creek being treated with a prescribed burn. Sarah Rees 10 April 2008.
Extent of fire limited by Cool Temperate Rainforest Community in the Upper Royston Valley. Chris Taylor August 2009.
Source: 2009 Black Saturday Fires Report by Chris Taylor (Commissioned by the Victorian National Parks Association, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society.) available here (PDF 6.2MB)