Bushfire plan backlash

Philip Hopkins

VICTORIA’S farmers have attacked the Victorian government’s draft new bushfire management strategy for failing to plan for bushfires on the state’s agricultural industries ahead of an expected dangerous fire season.

The president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, Emma Germano, said the government’s recently released draft Bushfire Management Strategy had failed to take into account the devastation that fires can have on food and fibre production.

“The VFF is deeply disappointed with the draft Bushfire Management Strategy by the Victorian government. The strategy, which is meant to address the critical issue of bushfire management in our state, has failed to acknowledge the far-reaching destruction of bushfires on our food and fibre production,” she said.

“Bushfires are not just a natural disaster; they are an economic catastrophe for our community. The government’s draft strategy has largely overlooked the agricultural sector’s unique vulnerabilities and challenges. In fact, agriculture is barely mentioned in the document.”

Ms Germano said the impact of bushfire lingered long after the flames were extinguished.

“Devastated farmland can push food prices higher and the mental health burden on farmers cannot be overstated. In this time of increased cost of living and huge mental health burdens on people, we need to do better,” she said.

“Failure to understand the consequences of bushfires on farm businesses means fire agencies are less equipped to help protect farmers and their livelihoods, which results in prolonged and costly recovery in the aftermath of a fire.”

Ms Germano said after a couple of relatively benign fire seasons, the next big one was around the corner.

“The CFA is already warning of an early start to the bushfire season, so it’s critical that government is doing everything it can to prepare,” she said.

In its submission to the draft strategy, the VFF called on the government to create a dedicated chapter to cover impacts on agriculture with criteria on:

Data tools, systems and knowledge of the impacts fires have on agriculture and other primary industries and different commodities within agriculture;

Integrating research and knowledge of intensity of fires on different agricultural production systems into models, and;

Improving monitoring, evaluation and reporting of risk reduction and fire management activities on agricultural production.

“The VFF calls upon the Victorian Government to urgently revise the draft Bushfire Management Strategy to include a comprehensive section that acknowledges the specific challenges faced by the agriculture industry.”

“Only by acknowledging these challenges can government properly plan for and respond to bushfires and their enormous impact on primary production,” Ms Germano said.

The Bushfire Management Strategy replaces the 2015 policy, Safer Together: A New Approach, to reducing the risk of bushfire in Victoria.

“The work we do over the next 10 years will help ensure Victoria’s people, land, environment and resources are made as safe and resilient as possible for when bushfires inevitably occur,” the draft strategy says.

Victoria’s new draft bushfire strategy

KEY points in the state government’s draft new bushfire management strategy include:

  • Empower people and communities to manage bushfire risk, response and recovery more effectively in their local area;
  • Improve early warning information and advice on how to respond to bushfire emergencies;
  • Deliver a fuel management program across public and private land that addresses the challenges associated with a changing climate;
  • Continuously work to contain fires early, limiting their impact on people, communities, industry, the environment and cultural values;
  • Adapt and reduce the influence of climate change on bushfire risk requires a strong and continuously improving foundation of knowledge, evidence and tools;
  • Develop enhanced systems, processes, tools and programs to improve training and support to all staff;
  • Continuously improve data, tools, systems and knowledge of the impact of fire regimes on ecosystem resilience and the environment;
  • Providing traditional owners with access and authority to manage Country using cultural land management tools, including cultural fire. This involves traditional owners to lead the planning and to undertake cultural burns across all land tenures and Country types according to their cultural obligations, and;
  • Improve management of state forest reserves and private land through collaborative management to heal Country and build resilience.

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.