Veg management laws hinder fire response

Queensland bushfire review says re-think needed on veg management


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A raging bushfire burns at Deepwater at the height of last year's disaster.

A raging bushfire burns at Deepwater at the height of last year's disaster.

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The report failed to look at state management of fuel loads, critics say.

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Producers were hamstrung by controversial and confusing vegetation management reforms in the build-up to the raging bushfires that ripped through Queensland last year.

Inspector-General of Emergency Management Iain Mackenzie highlighted the experience of one Central Highlands land owner in his review of the 2018 bushfires.

"One property owner in Central Highlands demonstrated his need to build a break larger than the legislated 10 metres along the fence line, because the breaks on adjacent state land were inadequate to provide appropriate protection," he wrote.

"This approach, while highly practical and undoubtedly effective during these events, was technically in breach of legislation."

More than 520,000 hectares of farmland and national park land was razed during the fires, with 200 separate fires burning across the state at the height of the disaster.

In the aftermath of the fires the Inspector-General of Emergency Management was tasked with reviewing Queensland's preparedness and response.

The office was also tasked with, and has recently released, a report examining the state's response to the February floods.

Mr Mackenzie's bushfire report recommended the state Labor government reassess and clarify how vegetation management laws worked in relation to bushfire mitigation activities undertaken by the state's producers and land owners.

The Palaszczuk government rejected calls for a parliamentary inquiry into Queensland's devastating bushfires.

The Palaszczuk government rejected calls for a parliamentary inquiry into Queensland's devastating bushfires.

The complex nature of the state's vegetation management laws created situations where land owners were not certain if bushfire mitigation activities were illegal or not, his report found.

"Given an increasing risk of intense fires, the framework of legislation relating to vegetation management, bushfire mitigation and hazard reduction, together with mitigation and preparation priorities should be re-assessed," Mr Mackenzie wrote.

Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said the reviews had concluded there was an exceptional response to both the flooding and bushfire disasters.

"It's there in black and white - 'exceptional' - and the way our emergency workers, communities and councils came together is truly worthy of the word," he said.

Acting Emergency Services Commissioner Mike Wassing said Queensland Fire and Emergency Services would be "stronger than ever" following the reviews.

However, AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said the 2018 fires showed the state government's Vegetation Management Act was "impractical, if not impossible" for landholders.

"We have been warning the government of the dangers of these ill-considered, ideologically-dogmatic laws for nearly two years," he said.

Both Mr Guerin and LNP leader Deb Frecklington criticised the bushfire review for not investigating whether the state government's management of state land fuelled the fires.

In the aftermath of the fires last year, landholders said high fuel loads on government land exacerbated risks around Central and North Queensland.

"We know our emergency service workers did an amazing job - that was never in doubt," Ms Frecklington said.

"The report fails to look at whether Labor prepared the state properly before the fortnight of fires devastated Queensland communities.

"We know there were nearly 1000 less hazard reduction burns conducted and attended by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service in 2018 compared to 2015."

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