Page 3839 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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The Australian Council of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, noted in its resolution on the impacts of human-induced fire events on biodiversity conservation “that in some protected and non-protected areas the current management focus on the use of planned fire events for fuel reduction is giving rise to an increasing reliance on fire-based techniques at the expense of more ecologically and economically sustainable non-fire-based risk reduction strategies” and “that all human-induced fire management strategies should place emphasis on ecological sustainability when implementing strategies to reduce risks for life and property”.

The last issue I have is that the link between our severe weather conditions in recent years and climate change has been confidently asserted. Given that the hot weather has been a substantial contributing factor to bushfires, we really must take our greenhouse emissions seriously. More burning only increases greenhouse emissions, contributes to global warming and must be addressed by the ACT government as a matter of urgency.

Although I understand and empathise with the motivation behind the bill, which is to protect people and property from the ravages of bushfire, I believe that fuel reduction burning at an increased rate, at the expense of people’s long-term health and for uncertain outcomes, is not the way forward.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (12.00): The minister has already advised that the government will not be supporting Mrs Dunne’s amending legislation. Bushfire management in the ACT is underpinned and guided by the ACT strategic bushfire management plan. The strategic plan is prepared by the Emergency Services Authority and was tabled in the Assembly in January this year. Managers of unleased territory land are required to prepare a bushfire operational plan to implement the strategies set out in the strategic plan. An operational plan covers operational works to achieve bushfire prevention, including bushfire hazard reduction through to controlled burning. The bushfire operational plan is approved by the Emergency Services Authority.

This year, on non-urban land managed by government agencies, 19 burns were specified in operational plans. Of these, 18 were completed and several additional burns were undertaken. In other words, the land managers were able to achieve more fuel reduction burns than had initially been planned. The one burn not undertaken was on Lyneham Ridge, where the very dry conditions related to the drought meant burning posed the risk of unacceptable damage to the young eucalypt trees in this area. This burn is expected to be completed over the next months so that we achieve our fuel reduction and protect our environment.

Planning and conducting controlled burns requires attention to many factors to ensure the right amount of fuel is burnt in the right location without adversely affecting the health or safety of the community with smoke pollution. Land managers are fortunate to have available to them a set of smoke management guidelines for controlled burns, which give clear direction and certainty for their decision making in guarding the health and safety of the community.

Of the 19 burns undertaken this year, just one has been postponed. It was satisfactorily completed a week later, when atmospheric conditions had improved. The current processes for undertaking hazard reduction burns are working well. Compare the

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