Freedom of Information documents show the Brumby Government has been irresponsibly slow to act on bushfire prevention works, Shadow Minister for Bushfire Response and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan said today.
“Documents detailing the government’s Project Implementation Plan to repair and replace old bridges and crossings in national parks across Victoria show Labor has failed to upgrade crucial bushfire prevention infrastructure,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said bridges were a vital element of the road network in bushfire-prone areas and John Brumby’s failure to repair these bridges was a disgraceful failure of his responsibility to protect Victorians.
The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition lodged the FOI request after the Department of Sustainability and Environment 2009 Annual Report revealed government inaction hindered the capacity for rapid bushfire response access to emergency crews by completing only five out of 60 promised bridge upgrades.
“We now know the remaining 55 bridges have not even been identified despite the government being warned to undertake urgent works,” Mr Ryan said.
FOI documents showed that “Due to their age and deterioration many of the old bridges are now poor and in unsafe conditions and … many had exceeded their serviceable life.”
Mr Ryan said it was particularly concerning that the documents showed incidents involving the collapse of older wooden bridges had increased in recent years.
“Failures included an incident in 2007 where a DSE float with a bulldozer crossed a wooden bridge in the Strathbogie State Forest and broke the wooden supports,” Mr Ryan said.
“John Brumby has known about the need to improve fire access tracks in forests and national parks since 2003.
“The Auditor-General’s Report said the road, track and bridge network was a key factor in minimising and controlling bushfire and that firefighters needed to know that roads, tracks and bridges were open and in good condition.”
Mr Ryan said the Brumby Government must now explain why it had been so dismally slow after promising to spend $60 million over four years to replace and repair 300 deteriorating and unsafe bridges and crossings.
“Labor is so far behind schedule it will need to repair almost 100 bridges a year for the next three years to complete the project,” Mr Ryan said.
Peter Ryan MLA
Member for Gippsland South | Deputy Premier
Minister for State Development | Minister for Regional and Rural Development