Queensland needs to take an honest and intelligent look at its poor bushfire hazard reduction regime, according to LNP Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers, Lachlan Millar said in Queensland Parliament yesterday.
Mr Millar said that while there is no doubt that the severe and prolonged drought contributed to the size and the speed of the fires, poor land management regimes over many years have been a major contributor.
“Queensland has always had cycles of wet years when the vegetation grows like crazy. These are followed by dry years and if the vegetation is left, it transforms into bushfire fuel,” he said.
“In Western Australia, they are setting their fuel management KPI’s in the forest areas of the south-west in terms of the age of the fuel on the forest floor. They aim to have no fuel older than six years.
“In contrast, Queensland is allowing years of flood and cyclone debris to accumulate in the wet years. Then we are surprised when we get a Eungella or Deepwater National Park fire,” he said.
Mr Millar also referenced the Northern Territory’s use of year-round, ecological burns which have revolutionised the management of Kakadu National Park.
“Instead of complaining that the “Cool Burn” season is too short, we should be looking at a similar program for Queensland’s savanna lands.”
Mr Millar pointed to a recent report that Queensland’s Forestry Department does not concern itself with bushfire in the nearly four million hectares of state forest it is charged with managing.
“These forests are a public asset that earned $17 million dollars last financial year. Lack of management threatens those royalties, but the biggest threat is to neighbouring landholders.
“We have been told continuously since the 2018 fires that landholders are free to conduct their own bushfire hazard management. This is simply untrue as a recent decision in the Queensland District Court of Appeal shows.
“The Court upheld a $1 million order against a Queensland grazier for illegally clearing native vegetation whilst constructing firebreaks. It is a stark warning that fire laws do not over-ride vegetation and conservation laws,” he said.
Mr Millar said he would continue to call for a public, bi-partisan inquiry into bushfire preparation and response in Queensland as it was clear there was no system for monitoring fuel loads or undertaking fuel management locally.
“In the past, fuel reduction was undertaken locally. Rural Fire Wardens, councils and departments such as Main Roads, Queensland Rail and Parks and Forestry would work together at a local level to manage fuel loads.
“This has disappeared with Labor’s love of centralisation. We need to have a long hard look at what are doing and what the real outcomes are,” he said.
- W A forest fuel KPI’s set by age of fuel on Forest Floor
- In contrast, Qld lets years of flood and cyclone debris become fuel
- NT has fuel management year-round on savanna
- Qld complains “Cool Burn” season too short