The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has called on all Governments to look at the emerging science and evidence on new ways of addressing bushfires.
AFPA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ross Hampton, said “Last year the Australian Government allocated $1.5 million to conduct a series of trials to physically remove shrubs, smaller trees and undergrowth from bushland by machinery rather than solely relying on controlled burning in winter.”
“There are a number of benefits from this practice as a complement to controlled burning, including community concerns over air quality, not being limited by weather conditions and managing fuel loads that are close to built-up areas.”
“The national trials project is extremely important but only a drop in the ocean compared to the resources spent on implementing controlled burning and fighting bushfires each year”.
“Hotter and more frequent fires driven by a changing climate are costing this nation dearly. Deloitte Access Economics estimated the total economic cost of bushfires to be $360 million in 2014. If left unchecked they estimated these costs to be as high as $800 million per year by 2050.”
“We are about a decade behind some other countries. The United States is halfway through a 10 year, $400 million programme to remove excess fuels using machinery,” said Mr Hampton.
An AFPA commissioned Deloitte Access Economics scoping study into the costs and benefits of adopting a similar approach in Australia found that, in locations close to cities, adding some mechanical removal to winter burn offs had a benefit cost ratio of 6. Meaning for every dollar spent our communities reaped 6 dollars of benefit (p.4, DAE Report).
“One of the major benefits was a reduction in smoke and associated health costs for people in towns and communities in bush-fire prone areas, which included less atmospheric particulate matter and potential hospitalisation.”
“All jurisdictions should be embracing the fuel removal trials and leaving no tool in the shed when it comes to dealing with bushfires,” said Mr Hampton.
The Deloitte Access Economics (DAE) report is available here.