The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region and Assistant Shadow Minister for Public Land Use, Melina Bath raised serious concerns about abandoned campfires in Gippsland during state parliament this week.
“Unattended and abandoned camp fires from visitors to the region are a major risk to Gippsland residents and our environment,” said Ms Bath.
The largest bushfire started by an unattended campfire in Gippsland was the Tamboritha Dingo Hill Track blaze in 2018 which destroyed 10,839 hectares within the Great Alpine National Park.
Ms Bath said the weekend immediately after the metro-regional border was lifted, Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) officers discovered 32 abandoned campfires in just two days.
“Even with the coronavirus restrictions, in the past 12 months FFMVic officers discovered 169 abandoned campfires in Gippsland,” said Ms Bath.
“Patrols often only discover abandoned campfires after campers have left the area.
“With fire season upon us, these statistics are confronting, sending a shiver down the spine of many Gippslanders who are still recovering from last summer’s bushfires.
“A change in weather conditions or one spark flying into dry grass can ignite a bushfire, threatening wildlife and endangering communities.
“Community members are disturbed by recent vision of abandoned campfires in the Walhalla area, with one left burning beside a clearly marked ‘no camping’ sign.”
Ms Bath said previous parliamentary reports recommended increasing fines and strengthening enforcement for people who abandon campfires, especially on and before total fire ban days.
“The Andrews Governments’ current measures are inadequate,” said Ms Bath.
“A multi-faceted approach is needed including a comprehensive statewide education campaign in a variety of languages targeting metropolitan campers and an increase in on the spot fines are a must.
“It’s important all fire offences be treated with the seriousness that they deserve.
“Gippslanders have lived through horrific bushfires and they understand the enormous risk abandoned campfires present to their livelihood and the environment they cherish.
“With a surge in domestic tourists expected and an increase in metropolitan visitors discovering the beauty of Gippsland, the Andrews Government has a responsibility to ensure our communities are not put at further risk.”