Start of Bushfire Royal Commission

Friday 17 Apr 2020

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the formal start of proceedings of the Bushfire Royal Commission and has reiterated its call for Australia’s forestry assets such as timber plantations to be considered critical infrastructure which must be a firefighting and mitigation priority.

This week the Bushfire Royal Commission began its formal proceedings with a ceremonial hearing. Due to social distancing requirements because of the CoVid-19 pandemic the hearing wasn’t open to the public but was live streamed. A recording of the hearing can be viewed here.

The acting Chief Executive Officer of AFPA Victor Violante has welcomed the start of the hearings. “The Royal Commission provides the opportunity for Australians to find out why the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires were so catastrophic, and what needs to be done to limit the impact of such events in the future,” he said.

AFPA has also called on the Royal Commission to recognise the importance of Australia’s forestry assets such as timber plantations, timber-producing native forests, and processing facilities, as the recent fires highlighted the enormous economic impact on regional communities from the loss of such assets.

“While saving lives must be the priority for firefighting resources, we must also redefine critical infrastructure to include key economic assets such as timber plantations because they are the economic backbone of many regional communities, and they can take decades to recover. This should apply not just to the deployment of fire mitigation and suppression resources, but also recovery funding and timber salvaging operations.”

AFPA is also urging the Royal Commission to examine the need for a whole-of-landscape approach to bushfire mitigation and land management. “With the Royal Commission’s terms of reference including ‘the preparedness and resilience responsibilities, which includes land management and hazard reduction measures’, this is an opportunity to ensure Australia has a coordinated, whole-of-landscape approach to land management and more aggressive fuel reduction that includes mechanical fuel reduction alongside prescribed burns in the future.”

“Currently there are multiple approaches to fuel reduction by multiple land managers and agencies across different land tenures, and that hasn’t worked,” Mr Violante said. “We need a whole-of-landscape approach which should include using mechanical fuel reduction techniques, which have proved highly effective in other bushfire prone countries,” Mr Violante concluded.

AFPA has prepared this report Using Fire and Machines to Better Fire-Proof Our Country Towns, which makes the case for mechanical fuel reduction.

If you want to make a submission to the Royal Commission you can do so here.

Submissions close on 28 April 2020.

Source: AFPA

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