Planned burning is an important tool for reducing bushfire risk, both to communities and to our precious plants and animals. However the current planned burning program, which focuses largely on the number of hectares burnt each year, has the strong potential to damage our natural environment.
It is difficult to see how the burning of large areas of bush well away from communities or assets can create any tangible reduction in the bushfire risk to life and property. Many of these burns will have long-term, negative impacts on our natural environment, particularly for threatened species.
Species threatened by the current burning regime include the South-eastern Red Tailed Black Cockatoo, the Mallee Emu-wren, the Swift Parrot and the Malleefowl. Repeated burning of these birds’ habitats can reduce food supplies and nesting sites, or even potentially wipe out isolated populations completely. Small mammals are similarly affected, while feral animals such as cats and foxes can be advantaged by planned burning.
Burning also increases the potential for erosion which can affect water quality in rivers and creeks.
Monitoring and review of the impacts was an integral part of the hectare-based approach adopted following the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission. The 5% target has been criticised as unachievable, non-affordable and unsustainable by Neil Comrie, the Implementation Monitor Victoria’s Code of Practice for Bushfire Management on Public Land specifies that the bushfire management program must “maintain or improve the resilience of natural ecosystems”. This is an important objective is that should be given equal consideration to reducing risk to the community.
Environment Victoria strongly supports the development of a strategic, risk-based approach to planned burning in Victoria, with a focus on activities that measurably reduce the bushfire risk to people’s lives, homes and communities. The hectare-based target has not produced the best outcomes for public safety, the protection of assets, catchment protection or the management of Victoria’s heritage, and should be abandoned.
Environment Victoria supports the submissions made to this review by VNPA and Birdlife Australia.
Juliet Le Feuvre
Healthy Rivers Campaign Manager
Direct: 03 9341 8106
Mob: 0428 770 019