More questions, not answers from fire report

Almost two years after fires tore through the south-west, the Andrews Labor Government is still trying to figure out how to best manage roadside vegetation, Member for South West Coast Roma Britnell says.

The Community Report into the St Patrick’s Day fires was quietly released this week, but provides no recommendations or actions that will be taken as a result of the fires.

Ms Britnell said the report was more akin to a glossy promotional document and contained little information.

She said she was particularly concerned the government was still trying to figure out how to best manage roadsides.

“It’s just mind boggling that two years later they are still trying to figure this out,” she said.

“Since the fires the government and associated agencies have been continually told about the dangers overgrown roadside grass and overhanging trees and shrubbery.

“There’s no answers after two years. It’s just more questions.”

Ms Britnell said since the St Patrick’s Day fires she has made countless representations to the Minister for Environment, Minister for Roads, Minister for Emergency Services as well as the Emergency Management Commissioner.

She said Emergency Management Victoria had also held public consultation where it was told loudly and clearly roadsides needed to be managed better to reduce fire risk.

“When I saw “How can we best include roadside vegetation management in landscape scale bushfire risk reduction…” written in the report it was a face palm moment,” Ms Britnell said.

“I couldn’t believe they are still asking this question. It’s very clear from the feedback included in the report what people want to see happen on roadsides – simpler rules around roadside vegetation and better co-operation between management agencies.

“The report also says the community sees the primary function of the road as access and egress, not conservation zones. Local Councils can rightfully issue clean up notices to properties to reduce fire risk, but they can’t do anything about roadsides because of the tangle of rules and regulations.

“It’s very clear what needs to happen – the time for talking and consultation is over. It’s time for the relevant Ministers to instruct their bureaucracies to get on with the job and untangle the mess that roadside management has become over time.”

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