The Victorian Auditor General’s long-awaited report – Reducing Bushfire Risks reveals the Andrews Labor Government has failed to reach half of its fuel reduction burn targets over the past four years.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath and Shadow Assistant Minister for Public Land Use said Labor’s prescribed burn targets were alarmingly low and simply negligent.
“Failing to meet 50% of the prescribed burning target shows Labor is knowingly placing regional communities at risk.
The independent Auditor General’s report released last week, showed nowhere near enough fuel reduction burning was occurring in Victoria and contributed to last summer’s bushfires that left the East Gippsland community devastated.
Ms Bath said the Andrews Labor Government had set itself a target of reducing the fire risk to 70 per cent of what the risk would normally be if left untreated, and states that to achieve this it must treat between 200,000 and 270,000 ha annually,” Ms Bath said.
“The report shows the Andrews Government has only been treating an average of 86,744 ha over the past four years, equivalent to 43 per cent of the lower level of its own target or 33% of its upper target.
“Labor is setting regional Victoria communities up for disaster with its lock up and leave approach to managing public land.”
Ms Bath said Labor also handed itself a ‘get out of jail card’ with the Auditor General pointing out that when fuel reduction targets are not met, the Andrews Government adds the area burnt by bushfire to make up for the planned burns it did not complete.
“The fact Labor is counting the areas burnt in East and West Gippsland burnt by bushfire in 2019 and 2020 is hard for affected Gippslanders to stomach.”
Last week Ms Bath said in state parliament under Daniel Andrews the Victorian public land management focus is not on disaster mitigation, but on disaster response.
“While you cannot eliminate the risk of bushfire, but you can manage it to help protect people, property and the environment.
“It’s alarming that during Fire Protection Week we have uncovered Daniel Andrews has not prioritised the protection of regional communities and public land management.”
Ms Bath said The Nationals remain committed to working with Traditional Owners, councils, and other land managers to fund and implement the Return of the Firestick project in Victoria.
“Return to Firestick sets ‘cool’ low-intensity burns when fire practitioners identify natural indicators that show an ecosystem is ready to burn, promoting healthy landscapes, boosting biodiversity, and importantly reduces the risk of bushfire,” said Ms Bath.