Experts: fire crisis will repeat without land control reform

THE State of Queensland's fuel load hazard levels has become a hot topic, with governments urged by experts and leaders to improve land management or risk a repeat of this season's catastrophic fires.

General manager of the Araluen-based Rural Fire Brigade Association Queensland, Justin Choveaux, said better land management practices and laws were on the group's radar more than a year ago as a key part of its submission to the state's 2018 bushfire review.

"It's still as true today as it was this time last year," Mr Choveaux said.

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The submission identified the State of Queensland was the largest land owner in the state, and said it had the same obligation to manage fuel loads as all other property owners did.

"The cornerstone of land management in Queensland is if you own the fuel, you own the fire," the submission said.

Justin Choveaux.
Justin Choveaux.

An amendment to the Vegetation Act was recommended by the RFBAQ in 2017 "relating to landholders being able to provide a defendable space for their homes".

The RFBAQ submission recommended the state adequately fund departments with frontline staff, or dispose of land to a manageable level under the current budget.

The need for better fuel load management was echoed by USC senior lecturer in geospatial analysis, Dr Sanjeev Srivastava, who said there were several ways this could be addressed, including by way of better resources.

"Most (governments) aim to burn about five per cent every year," he said.

"They may have to think about increasing that percentage."

Dr Sanjeev Srivastava
Dr Sanjeev Srivastava

The challenge, however, was an ever-shrinking window for hazard reduction burns.

"The best solution is to put more manpower on prescribed burns," he said.

Hazard reduction burns would also be improved by the creation of green trails and the development of a "mosaic" system for fire management.

This would be achieved by cultivating areas of fire-resistant trees (like the flame tree) in among the more flammable species.

This would help lessen the impact of bushfires, Dr Srivastava said, as the fire would struggle to pass from high flammable to low flammable areas.

"This is something people are talking about doing in the future," he said.

It was crucial a balance of all these things was found.

"Because of climate change the frequency of these weather conditions will increase," Dr Srivastava said.

Wide Bay member Llew O'Brien.
Wide Bay member Llew O'Brien.

"Governments should put more resources into prescribed burning … and creating green trails to be prepared as this will happen again.

"We have to be prepared for it."

Land management was al­so on the radar of Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien, who said it was key to avoiding a repeat of the catastrophic fire season.

"We need to adopt better land management practices and I expect the royal commission will bring together the experts to identify the policy barriers that need to be overcome to prevent disasters of this scale being repeated," Mr O'Brien said.

Gympie Times


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