Labor fails to act on fuel loads putting Gippsland at risk of bushfire

The Andrews Government is failing to protect central and west Gippslanders from the threat of summer bushfires by allowing the Latrobe District forest fuel loads to reach alarming levels.

Fire Forest Management Victoria’s (FFMVic) Joint Fire Management Program (JFMP) identifies an 84 per cent residual bushfire risk for the Latrobe District, well in excess of levels stipulated in Labor’s ‘Safer Together’ policy.

FFMVic’s Latrobe District includes Latrobe City, Baw Baw Shire, Bass Coast Shire, South Gippsland Shire, and small areas of Wellington Shire.

The Nationals Eastern Victoria MP and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Public Land Use, Melina Bath labelled the Andrews Government’s management of fire risk as “utterly irresponsible”.

“Under Labor’s so called ‘Safer Together’ policy statewide target of 70 per cent residual risk entire regions face a summer bushfire season of unacceptable high fire danger.”

Under questioning from Ms Bath in State Parliament, Minister for Environment, Ingrid Stitt refused to explain why the residual fire risk in the Latrobe District was so dangerously high.

“A risk level of 84 per cent is unacceptable, and places thousands of people, property and the environment in harm’s way.”

Ms Bath said the Minister’s response was “woefully inadequate” – she tried dodging the issue by talking about the state’s collective risk.

“After years of cooler and wetter conditions and Labor inaction, Gippsland now has out of control fuel loads.

“Lower fuel loads in northern Victoria will not control a bushfire in the Latrobe District – it’s nonsensical.

“Furthermore, Minister Stitt refused to commit to any additional fuel reduction activities in the Latrobe District before the bushfire season commenced.”

Analysis of Labor’s ‘Safer Together’ program reveals only 43 per cent of Victoria’s planned fuel reduction burns targets have been met in the past six years.

Between 2017 – 2022 the Andrew Government planned a total of 1,472,000ha for fuel reduction. The actual achieved work was only 628,000ha, and this includes the area burnt in the East Gippsland bushfires.

Ms Bath said Labor is reckless for rolling the dice with regional lives and the environment.

“The Labor Government must explain why it has been negligent and failed to reduce fuel loads in the Latrobe District, jeopardising a significant area of Gippsland.”