Bushfire Risk In Blue Mountains - Urgent Audit Needed

Friday, 21 May 2010

Startling new figures reveal how the Keneally Labor Government has failed to properly protect the lives and property of residents of the Blue Mountains from bushfires, according to the NSW Liberals & Nationals.

Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Melinda Pavey MLC today met with Liberal Candidate for Penrith Stuart Ayres in Glenbrook and said new documents reveal that since 2003, an average of 500 hectares - representing only 0.35% of the entire Blue Mountains Local Government Area - has been burnt each year.

"This miniscule amount represents only a fraction of the level of strategic hazard reduction that should've been carried out every year since 2003," Mrs Pavey said.

"I am calling on the Keneally Labor Government to conduct an immediate audit into the fire risk posed by the lack of hazard reduction across the Blue Mountains.

"Studies of indigenous land management practice, the latest scientific research and the evidence coming from the Victorian Bush Fires Royal Commission, all demonstrate the best way to avoid catastrophic fires is to engage in regular, methodical hazard reduction.

"This is critically important when we have many people living in communities, such as Glenbrook and Blaxland, on the fringe of fire-prone land.

"It is also important to recognise we are custodians of the priceless asset of our World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park, and the only way to prevent a catastrophic fire which would completely destroy its biodiversity, is to prevent the build up of heavy fuel loads.

"I have spoken to seasoned locals, many of whom have years of experience in the Rural Fire Service in the mountains and they are despairing at the lack of burning that has taken place over many years.

"There is no doubt the Government is belatedly playing catch up with frantic attempts to make up for years of neglect and bureaucratic red-tape which has hamstrung our volunteers from doing what they signed up to do - reduce the risk of bush fires.

"Despite this belated activity I am informed that fuel loads in some areas are at an all-time high of 40 tonnes per hectare, which is most worrying in the lead up to next summer and is justification alone for an urgent audit," Mrs Pavey said.

Mr Ayres said regular hazard reduction activities are imperative to protecting communities in the Lower Blue Mountains which border the Blue Mountains National Park.

"Protecting the Lower Mountains environment and families will be one of my priorities if I'm elected as Member for Penrith," Mr Ayres said.