Calls for burns review doused by government

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
South West Greens MLC Diane Evers, pictured at last week's Preserve Gnarabup rally, wants a review into WA's prescribed burns.
Camera IconSouth West Greens MLC Diane Evers, pictured at last week's Preserve Gnarabup rally, wants a review into WA's prescribed burns. Credit: Christian Fletcher Picture:

The WA Government has poured cold water on growing calls for a review of prescribed burning practices in regional WA.

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers is leading the charge, with a petition and backing from regional conservationists, including the Margaret River Regional Environment Centre.

But WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said any proposed review would not be considered.

“The McGowan Government strongly supports prescribed burning as the primary means of reducing the risk of bushfire faced by our community,” he told the Times.

“The Greens have obviously forgotten the recent devastating bushfires experienced on the east coast of Australia where lives were lost.

“Catastrophic fires such as these reinforce the importance of undertaking effective bushfire mitigation to reduce the impacts of bushfires on the community and the environment.”

The Greens are calling for the removal of prescribed burning targets, and more early detection and suppression of bushfires, including funding to review environmental damage from burns.

The environmental values of land outside of town sites also needed closer consideration, with protection of “unique flora and fauna” within biodiversity areas highlighted.

Ms Evers said she would table the petition in Parliament this month, as well as statements and their recommendations backed by scientists aligned with the Denmark Fire Study Group.

She said research showed “prescribed burning increases fire risk in the medium-to-long term”.

“Despite ongoing research on similar impacts in WA forests, the McGowan Government is currently adhering to a broad-brush burning policy that destroys vast areas of land at high temperatures,” she said.

“We must abandon annual burning targets and instead focus on strategic planning around towns and infrastructure alongside investment in research into the implementation of early detection and rapid suppression of bushfires before they develop into wildfires.”

Despite the Greens citing Aboriginal burning practices, Mr Dawson said the existing approach reflected “a mosaic of burnt and unburnt patches across the landscape” also in line with fuel controls by traditional owners.

MRREC and WA Forest Alliance spokeswoman Carole Peters said the Change.org petition had secured more than 2500 signatures so far.

“The group and supporters want more research into the cost efficiency and effectiveness of broad-scale prescribed burns,” Dr Peters said.

“The statements and petitions are also calling for more research into the early detection and rapid suppression of bushfires and to understand the full ecological impact of prescribed burning.”

Shire sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan said any discussion of “this important shared responsibility” was welcomed.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions previously said it aims to have 45 per cent of fuels in South West forests burnt within the last six years or less rather than specific quotas.

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