The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the terms of reference for the national bushfire Royal Commission and applauded the inclusion of hazard reduction as one of its priorities.
The terms of reference include; “preparedness and resilience responsibilities, which includes land management and hazard reduction measures”.
AFPA CEO Ross Hampton has reiterated that hazard reduction must encompass a whole-of-landscape fuel reduction approach, including the use of mechanical techniques to complement winter burn offs.
“The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference give it the authority to investigate and recommend ways of limiting the impact of future bushfires, and Mechanical Fuel Reduction has proved highly effective in other bushfire prone countries,” he said.
‘It’s clear that a business-as-usual approach in our forests is not an option anymore, and this announcement of the terms of reference is great news. This terrible fire season has exposed the fact that we have multiple approaches by multiple land managers and agencies when it comes to fuel load reduction. With the best will in the world this is not a recipe for success. Multiple use State Forests only make up about 8% of our 132 million hectares of native forest. Forestry areas have road networks and men and women with heavy machinery able to put fires out before they get too large. But forestry areas are the smallest part of our native forest area. We need a new approach to reducing fuel loads across all our forest tenures to mitigate against devastating fires. Farmers too need permission to actively manage for bushfire mitigation. With State governments generally falling behind recommended prescribed burning targets, it is time to add to the mix the internationally proven technique of mechanical fuel reduction, to better fire-proof key assets, regional towns, farms and livelihoods.”
Earlier this month AFPA released a new report Using Fire and Machines to Better Fire-Proof Our Country Towns, which makes the case for mechanical fuel reduction.
Mr Hampton said, “Australia cannot afford a repeat of the summer we have just experienced, and all effective ways of reducing risk must be considered. That’s what mechanical fuel reduction is and this is what we will be seeking to discuss with the Royal Commissioners.”