Fires fuel veg management debate

Land clearing laws in Queensland hamper fire response


Fighting the fire at Marty Bella's property at Koumala was made all the more challenging by the lack of maintenance on government land.

Fighting the fire at Marty Bella's property at Koumala was made all the more challenging by the lack of maintenance on government land.

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High fuel loads and restrictive land clearing laws have heightened the fire danger in Queensland, landholders say.

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HIGH fuel loads on government land have exacerbated the risk on fire grounds around Central and North Queensland, landholders say.

Mackay Regional Councillor and Sarina farmer Martin Bella spent much of last week fighting fires that broke out around his property at Koumala and said a lack of maintenance on government land had created unnecessary challenges.

“Wednesday arvo we spent preparing and Thursday it all went to hell,” Cr Bella said.

“About midnight we managed to get a backburn along the breaks and we’ve basically been patrolling those breaks.

“It was extremely frustrating because the ability to push breaks through government land has been hampered, with the old tracks over grown, we couldn’t get a dozer up there.

“It’s disgraceful, there’s no fire breaks of any significance, vegetation laws prevent us from putting in fire breaks of any significance.

“I always say the worst neighbour you can have is government land.

“There’s crap right up to the fence line that you can’t clear back, there’s no grid lines through the place, all the tracks are overgrown.”

Cr Bella said he would demand the ‘Green Shirt Movement’ has a seat at the table when the fire response is reviewed.

“We need to formulate a response to the current state government about how there current regulations have made things unworkable and contributed to the devastation and loss in these fires - vegetation laws limiting woody weed control, firebreak and fence break widths.

“It is one thing to not be listened to and another to be regarded with absolute contempt.”

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry visited the fire stricken communities of Sarina Beach, Finch Hatton and Eungella on Sunday.

She said residents were calling for a return of ‘cool’ burning to reduce the fire load.

“People are saying that they think they should be able to back burn and burn for safety.

“Queensland has never seen fires as devastating as this before and part of it is those strict rulings.

“You’re not allowed to back burn, the clearing of vegetation and all the rest of it.

“Before white people arrived in Australia, Indigenous people used to burn off to regenerate and keep fires under control.”

Katter’s Australian Party MPs have also joined the chorus, calling for landholders to be given greater flexibility to clear land for firebreaks.

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said he was concerned existing provisions in State Government legislation did not go far enough in giving landholders adequate flexibility to construct proper firebreaks which could potentially save their properties.

“I have received feedback from those on the ground who say the restrictions placed on landholders clearing remnant vegetation since the new vegetation management laws were introduced only exacerbated the bushfires,” Mr Dametto said.

“The least the State Government could do is give these landholders more flexibility to construct firebreaks suitable for their properties without getting bogged down in red and green tape through permits or needing to conform to some pre-determined bureaucratic restriction.”

KAP State leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter currently has the Vegetation Management (Clearing for Relevant Purposes) Amendment Bill before parliament.

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