The State Budget confirms the Brumby Government continues to ignore the urgent need for increased fuel reduction burns in Victoria, Shadow Minister for Bushfire Response and Leader of the Nationals Peter Ryan said today.
“This government has repeatedly disregarded overwhelming advice for additional fuel reduction burning and has failed to act to reduce bushfire risk,” Mr Ryan said.
“Now, not only has John Brumby failed to increase the current 130,000 hectare target, but he has refused to even set a target in this year’s budget.”
Mr Ryan said there was a desperate need for additional fuel reduction burning across bushfire-prone areas throughout Victoria.
“In 2008 the Parliamentary Environment and Natural Resources Committee echoed previous recommendations when it called for the annual prescribed burning target to be increased from 130,000 hectares to 385,000 hectares,” Mr Ryan said.
“The United Firefighters Union, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria, the Victorian Association of Forest Industries and countless other groups agree with this proposition.
“At the Bushfires Royal Commission senior Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) personnel conceded the current target falls short of what is needed.
“Lawyers for the Commission have also strongly recommended DSE achieve a minimum annual rate of at least 385,000 hectares or 5 per cent of public land.
“Despite this, the government has stated on numerous occasions it intends to move away from setting targets for fuel reduction and today’s budget unfortunately shows just that.”
Mr Ryan said the Brumby Government’s failure to fund additional resources and personnel to boost fuel reduction burning would be the final straw for many.
“When it comes to the need to increase fuel reduction burning, the time to act was yesterday. We need to train additional firefighters now so we can immediately begin to tackle the risk to Victorian communities that dangerous fuel loads pose,” Mr Ryan said.
“Setting an increased prescribed burning target and funding additional firefighters to fulfil it in yesterday’s budget would have given Victorians at least some hope that the Brumby Government understands this is a critical issue.
“Instead we’ve been given confirmation the Brumby Government intends to gamble on the next fire season being as benign as the last, and Labor will again leave Victoria dangerously unprepared.”