The Brumby Labor Government will spend an additional $21 million on fire protection works over the next four years to help safeguard communities and assets on Melbourne’s outer urban fringe from the risk of bushfires.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings announced the funding boost today to coincide with the release of Department of Sustainability and Environment figures that show its prescribed burning program for the past year exceeded its annual target with 154,000 hectares treated to the year ending June 30.
“The new $21 million funding package and the news that prescribed burns have exceeded the target by 19,000 hectares shows the Brumby Labor Government is taking action to protect Victorian families and secure communities located on the fringes of bushland against the devastation of bushfires,” Mr Jennings said.
“The $21 million will be used to employ 15 more fire management staff – including fire fighters, communications officers and planners – to conduct additional planned burning as well as fire management planning and community engagement.
“The funding is in addition to the extra $10 million allocated through the Brumby Labor Government’s bushfire strategy, Living With Fire, which is assisting fire agencies in working with the community to develop and implement large-scale, mosaic burning.”
Mr Jennings said exceeding the annual prescribed burns target was positive but the number of hectares burned was not the definitive means of measuring the success of planned burns.
“Our goal is to reduce the fire risk across the state where it is most needed, not to simply tally up a number of hectares,” he said.
“Planned burns that assist with protection of life, property and critical community assets must be carefully and strategically placed to influence the run of a bushfire and often these burns are small, complex and very difficult to conduct.”
Mr Jennings said the funding will be used to purchase more fire fighting equipment and to help the ongoing community education and engagement programs that help authorities monitor the way fires are fought.
The funding will focus on outer metropolitan public space, Melbourne Water land and a range of parks including Dandenong Ranges National Park, Warrandyte State Park, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Point Nepean National Park, Arthur’s Seat State Park, Plenty Gorge Parklands, Yarra Valley Parklands, Dandenong Valley Parklands, Braeside Park, Mullum Mullum Parklands and Point Cook Coastal Park.
The annual program of prescribed burns was conducted by fire fighters from the DSE, Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and VicForests with strong support from CFA volunteers. Important community protection burns were carried out across the state, particularly in the Otways and Upper Yarra. The largest burns were conducted in East Gippsland and North East Victoria.
Release distributed by: The Minister for Environment and Climate Change, 7 July 2009