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By Dr. Christine Finlay, (PhD, Bushfire Management, UNSW; BA Hons, Disaster Management, JCUNQ; BA UNSW)

In my PhD, I find that fires in buildings were common news events, but until the 1920s stories on bushfires were rare.

This change to bushfires regularly making the news followed new, no-burn government policy with ever-tightening restrictions on hazard reductions.

After the no-burn policy’s introduction, the findings of coronial inquiries based on evidence from the then Department of Bushfire Services gave rise to abandoning the strongest chances of putting out fires when they are at low intensity (dawn or at night). Now it is standard procedure to concentrate attacks when flames are too hot to extinguish.

Bushfires have burnt increasingly hotter and more frequently ever since. With increasingly serious wildfires to fight, funding to bushfire services grew. At its 1949 inception, total funds for the NSW Department of Bushfire Services amounted to a few hundred thousand pounds for a handful of staff.

Lobbying from former Rural Fire Services Commissioner Phil Koperberg saw annual funding rise from about $50million in 1994/5 to $69million in 1995/6 to $179.2million in 2001/2.

New legislation in 1997 gave more power over hazard reduction to other bureaucratic players, including the Environment Protection Authority, the then Department of Land and Water Conservation and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

This made it more difficult for volunteer firefighters to hazard reduce than ever before.

Under Koperberg’s protegee, Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, funding this year is about $343 million topped up by a blank cheque arrangement with the Federal Government, which pays for firefighting once a state of emergency is likely. NSW’s 2012-13 bushfire season’s blank cheque cost about $90 million under s.44 of the Rural Fires Act.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons has repeatedly said NSW is adequately protected, then worsening fires follow. Yet in past decades, with a smaller population and more bush, NSW was kept safe on a shoestring budget.

Australian Government has a statutory obligation to rigorously examine whether bushfire operations are effective in preventing the escalating calamities.

Coroners must look into duty of care, breach of statutory duty and if the event was foreseeable and should consider if criminal charges should follow.

Highly Paid and Powerful Hierarchies Control Bushfires

There are paid bushfire services in all states and the territories. In NSW for example, bushfires presented the chance for former motor mechanic, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons to earn around $400,000 pa + benefits. Bushfires were also the means to a handsome salary for Fitzsimmons’s 2IC, Rob Rogers, a former supervising security officer. Such opportunities draw from different funding models in states and territories. In NSW, insurance companies pay about 74% of the Rural Fire Service budget.

The Australian taxpayer also pays extra money once a s.44 is declared under the Rural Fires Act 1997 (NSW). Section 44s are declared with the justification that fires have the potential to become firestorms. In the 2014-2015 bushfire season at times there were 100 firefighting aircraft deployed under a s.44 in NSW. It was only when there was a weather change that the fires went out. NSW’s 2013-14 RFS budget is around $343 million. (Note, the NT manages bushfires using Aboriginal knowledge so is the exception in the use of business models).

As well as fighting fires, bushfire services also have a large number of staff administering building and subdividing in bushfire prone areas. Bushfire services have two different methods for calculating flame intensity on the same terrain – one claims flame intensity will be lower for fighting fires and one claims flame intensity will be much higher for building or subdividing. A large body of evidence gathered since the 1950s contradicts both methods of risk estimate (see references [i] below). For the firefighting sector, underestimating risk expands business for bushfire services and their powerbases. For the development/building sector, overestimating risk expands business for bushfire services and their powerbases. The building code endangers some while forcing others to spend unnecessary amounts of money protecting their homes with steel shutters, fireproof glass and stainless steel or bronze flyscreens etc etc… In firefghting, downplaying risk leaves Australians at the mercy of firestorms with million dollar operations where only a weather change ends the catastrophe.

Bushfire service heads set up the multi-$million public company, the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in 2003. The company is funded by Federal money and received $14 million for the 2014-15 financial year (see references [ii] below). The company’s chair was RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons in 2013. NAFC is currently lobbying Federal Government for more funding by citing the growth of bushfire destruction. NAFC states its aims as coordinating interstate and territory aerial firefighting.

Aerial contractors must have NAFC accept them as tenders. NAFC and other bushfire service power bases also control bushfire research funding. RFS Commissioner Phil Koperberg and Country Fire Authority Chairman Len Foster set up NAFC in 2003 and it is located on the same floor and next door to the Natural Hazards and Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority (AFAC) at 340 Albert Street, Melbourne. NAFC paid AFAC support wages of $725,531 in its 2013 financial year. NAFC also received $9,082,398 for supply agreement disbursements and $339,000 from its “members” in 2013. There is no explanation of who these members are on its website.

Bushfire service heads also set up another multi-$million public company, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority (AFAC). RFS Commissioner Phil Koperberg and Country Fire Authority Chairman Len Foster set up the public company in 2001. Australians paid the company $3,528,787 last financial year (see references [iii] below). AFAC states its aims as administering emergencies/disasters. As well as money from the Federal Government through NAFC, AFAC is also funded by member subscriptions and “trading transactions”. It has bushfire heads and other emergency management heads on its council.

Richard Alder now of NAFC, on secondment from the Victorian Country Fire Authority, set up the original Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in 2001. This centre controlled bushfire research funding and direction. At the outset, AFAC decided the CRC’s funding. The CRC’s office was next door and on the same floor as NAFC and AFAC at 340 Albert Street, Melbourne. The CRC has been restructured to become the $230 million federally funded Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. Bushfire services, AFAC and NAFC control the new research centre’s funding, which is still in its 340 Albert Street office next door to AFAC and NAFC.

Fire Protection Association Australia (FPAA) controls consultants assessing bushfire risks in Development Applications for building and subdividing in bushfire prone areas. The FPAA charges its members upwards from about $600 pa to work as consultants doing bushfire risk assessments. Membership also entails public liability insurance and completion of courses run by various tertiary institutions and complying with bushfire service guidelines. The University of Western Sydney’s Graduate Diploma in Design for Bushfires costs about $10,000. The University of Western Sydney awarded Phil Koperberg an honorary doctorate (PhD) in 2003. Bushfire Risk Consultants administer guidelines for bushfire risk that calculate risks as much higher than the risks firefighting agencies claim when fighting fires. Bushfire service staff administer Development Applications and bushfirefighting under contradictory guidelines. A large body of evidence gathered since the 1950s contradicts these guidelines (see references [iv] below). The FPAA was established in 1925.

Bushfire services control funding of university departments and CSIRO in areas including Agriculture, Environmental Science, Botany, Bushfire Science, Social Science, Forestry and Emergency Response.

Private contractors such as Chubb Australasia, Erickson Aircranes and Fire and Safety Australia rely on AFAC, NAFC and the bushfire services to accept their tenders(see references [v] below). This puts bushfire service hierarchy in control by providing handsome incomes – the worse the fires the more income.

The Australian Government Bushfire Advisory Committee. Former CFA Chairman Len Foster set up this body and was previously one of its chairs. It advises on bushfires, research funding and directions (see references [vi] below).

Bushfire Recovery Committees, such as the Blue Mountains Bushfire Recovery Committee, chaired until recently by former RFS Commissioner Phil Koperberg with $ 12.8 million in federal funding. These committees state their aims as helping victim and community recovery.

The Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA) created in 2013 by the founder of the NSW Rural Fire Service, Phil Koperberg. Phil Koperberg is CAVFA Executive Director. CAFVA states its aims as a body to unite volunteer firefighters. BUT CAVFA refuses to allow membership to the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA), which was set up to protect volunteers from retribution for going public that the firestorm crisis can be ended cheaply. CAVFA is currently lobbying Federal Government for input into the control of bushfire research funding and direction.

The Independent Hazard Reduction Audit Committee – In 2011 in NSW, the new Coalition Government agreed to set up an independent committee to prioritise areas for hazard reduction, in consultation with volunteer firefighters. However the committee only allowed one volunteer to participate. The rest of the purportedly independent committee consists of emergency service paid hierarchy and two academics funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre and the RFS. The committee’s panel is:

  • Mr Les Tree, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry for Police and Emergency Services (Chair).
  • Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, NSW Rural Fire Service.
  • Mr Brian McKinlay, President, NSW Rural Fire Service Association.
  • Professor Ross Bradstock, Director, Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires, University of Wollongong. In 2007, Professor Bradstock gained control of over $1.25 million over five years to establish the Centre. The NSW RFS paid half of this $1.25 million. Bradstock was also made Professor of Bushfire Management in 2007. In 2012-13, the RFS contributed about $1 million to university research on bushfires, which included the above grant to the University of Wollongong. Bradstock’s Centre also receives funding through the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.
  • Dr Kevin Tolhurst, Department of Forest Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne. Like Professor Bradstock, bushfire services have continually funded Dr Tolhurst. He was co developer of a mathematical formula used in Australian Standard 3959-2009 to calculate flame potential for building and subdividing in bushfire prone areas. Dr Tolhurst’s formula uses highly complex calculus and takes several pages to calculate. The formula adds assumptions to redo a scientifically tested and proven formula that was easy to do. Tolhurst’s calculation for flame intensity differs to risk models of firefighting arms of the paid bushfire services where risk is said to be much lower. Even though he advises on both building and firefighting standards, Dr Tolhurst does not apparently see a problem in the discrepancy between the two forms of risk calculation. Dr Tolhurst’s formula replaced an easy to use equation developed from laboratory tests measuring the relationship between flame intensity, fuel load and fire’s rate of spread. To read about what people face building or subdividing in bushfire prone areas please click “Bushfire building codes burning your cash” on the top left menu bar.
  • Mr Brian Williams, President, Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (Sole Volunteer).

The Nature Conservation Council, which received $115, 485 from the RFS in 2012-13 and $111,796 in 2011-12.

References

[i] See McArthy, GJ; Tolhurst, KG & Chatto, K (1999) Overall Hazard Guide 3rd edn Natural Resources and Environment page 13; Gould, JS, McCaw, WL, Cheney, NP, Ellis, PF & Matthews, S (2007) Field Guide Fuel Assessment and Fire Behaviour Prediction in Dry Eucalypt Forest Australia: Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Department of Environment & Conservation, Western Australia; CSIRO (2003) submission to A Nation Charred: Inquiry into the Recent Australian Bushfires Canberra: Parliament of Australia; Cheney, Phil & Sullivan, Andrew (2008) GRASSFIRES Fuel, weather and fire behaviour 2n edn. China; CSIRO Publishing & Gould, JS; McCaw, Wl; Cheney, N, Peter; Ellis, PF; Knight, IK & Sullivan, Andrew, L (2008) Project Vesta Fire in Dry Forest Fuel Structure Fuel Dynamics and Fire Behaviour CSIRO Publishing Retrieved January 31 2014 from http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/5993.htm

[ii] See National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) (2013) Annual Report Retrieved May 12 2014 from http://www.nafc.org.au/portal/DesktopModules/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=294

[iii] See Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Council (n.d.)Retrieved May 12 2014 from http://www.bnhcrc.com.au/

[iv] See McArthy, GJ; Tolhurst, KG & Chatto, K (1999) Overall Hazard Guide 3rd edn Natural Resources and Environment page 13; Gould, JS, McCaw, WL, Cheney, NP, Ellis, PF & Matthews, S (2007) Field Guide Fuel Assessment and Fire Behaviour Prediction in Dry Eucalypt Forest Australia: Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Department of Environment & Conservation, Western Australia; CSIRO (2003) submission to A Nation Charred: Inquiry into the Recent Australian Bushfires Canberra: Parliament of Australia; Cheney, Phil & Sullivan, Andrew (2008) GRASSFIRES Fuel, weather and fire behaviour 2n edn. China; CSIRO Publishing & Gould, JS; McCaw, Wl; Cheney, N, Peter; Ellis, PF; Knight, IK & Sullivan, Andrew, L (2008) Project Vesta Fire in Dry Forest Fuel Structure Fuel Dynamics and Fire Behaviour CSIRO Publishing Retrieved January 31 2014 from http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/5993.htm

[v] See Fire and Safety Australia (n.d.) Retrieved May 12 2014 from http://www.fireandsafetyaustralia.com.au/

[vi] Bushfire CRC (n.d.) Website Retrieved May 12 2014 from http://www.bushfirecrc.com/about/governing-board

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4 thoughts on “Catastrophic Fuel Loads, More Bad Fires, More Business

  • September 19, 2015 at 8:37 am
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    Mr David Elliott stated: The NSW Rural Fire Service budget for the next financial year is $361 million, which is an increase of 8.6 per cent—that is a $29 million increase on the previous year’s allocation in real terms.
    Source: General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6, Friday 4 September 2015, Examination of proposed expenditure for the portfolio areas Corrections, Emergency Services, Veterans Affairs.

  • September 20, 2015 at 11:30 am
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    SNOWY POST WAR SCIENCE REWARDED FOR POLICY FAILURE
    The Sydney fires around about 3000 kilometres of suburban bush interface in 1994 was a real leg up for the RFS budget. Bushfire was on the doorstep of many homes among the gumtrees. The national park expansion going ahead a pace since Neville Wrans government, Bob Carr his environmental Minister pork barrelling grazing forestry crown lease for swinging votes with the city bushwalking mob. Wiped away were the obligations for fuel, fire risk management weeding and pest animal suppression provided by ‘in kind’ contributions from so called exploitive crown land lessees. These land management obligations for public lands just conveniently fell off the wagon in national park wilderness conversions. Commissioned Science fixed that by precautionary principle, subjective theory and conjecture. The green hue of course with a black and red heart future vision.

    “Lobbying from former Rural Fire Services Commissioner Phil Koperberg saw annual funding rise from about $50million in 1994/5 to $69million in 1995/6 to $179.2million in 2001/2.” National park empire 1M ha preWran 4.5M after, 8M post Carr and Dunphy fund land grab $45M park budget 1995, $309M pa in 2009 policing no burn, no graze bonfire building at the pleasure of bushwalkers, labor faithful receiving government grants for paved and hacked tracks through the over grown wilderness. Laundered as employment stimulus and thanks for your vote.

    Now moving on to RFS $361M plus the Section 44 extra canteen funding, media photo opportunity among the melted and charred houses incinerated bush and weeping people with and without Australian accents. Federation houses in the Blue Mountains recently burnt. The 2003 “Nation Charred” report Chaired by Garry Nairn Federal MP Eden Monaro was declared a “political witch hunt” and the then Labor Governments in NSW, ACT and Victoria agencies boycotted making contributions to the alps and Canberra inferno enquiries. In another country this would be declared an act of anarchy and unacceptable disobedience.

    The Bushfire Royal Commission into the Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria had to wait until another tragedy in 2009. This followed an excellent analytical and thorough Victorian Parliamentary enquiry tabled in winter 2008. Too late for the 173 people that died in the February 2009 inferno even though mechanical hazard reduction still could have taken place if the tree preservation orders of local government were not so obstructive. Many more people died of trauma and heartbreak. The biodiversity and infrastructure loss was unspeakable. The Australian people donated about $93M to help. Does anyone know where that all went?

    Someone said people were “under insured!” Those still living in caravans possibly wondered how they could have paid the premiums as they were denied basic rights to hazard reduce by grazing, selective clearing, cool burning, cost recovery conservation selling saw logs or firewood as a more meaningful insurance than building glass skyscrapers full of brokers inner city that will decide if you qualify for a claim when inflation catches up with investments in 10 years time. Get the tinder out of the roadsides and escape routes even could have been achieved July 2008-February 2009.

    The policy failure rewarded the policy makers with more state and federal money to buy more red trucks and aeroplanes to sit on the football oval and airstrip on standby. The 92 bulldozers creating a mineral earth fire break around Melbourne water and the 100000 hectare backburn of 2006 followed by the 2007 Gippsland flood disaster. The 150Gl desal unit ready for the next fiasco in the dysfunctional regrowth water catchment policy recommendations by Soil Con NSW and Victoria. Staff mixed up with the so called environmental movement and bunny boffins making careers on rabbit plague impact and blaming sheep for over grazing to enhance research funding and soil con restoration programs. Wool and meat paid research levies but rabbits did not. Enter the scene Australian conservation foundation and popstar polly peter garett (once ACF executive no burner, no grazer, no logger, no fire wood collection, gas fracker coal miner) singing for 2009 fire victims while closing down CSIRO research groups trashing their library so they could not contribute to the Bushfire Royal Commission evidence. What a coincidence another official restructure delivering pseudo peer reviewed science. What happened to CSIRO Cloud Physics at the beginning of Hawkes mineral boom? particulate pollution leading to rainfall inhibition and more bushfire risk in the mountains of mulch and over growth intent on soil conservation until the man made fire one summer extreme weather conditions.

    Sydney water has the Botany 90Gl desal unit there free wheeling costing Sydney people $1+M a month for when a red steer goes through the 2+M hectare Sydney Water Special bonfire. 5 million people might have drinking water when it all burns and Warragamba dam fills with soot and sheet erosion.

    So how did this stupidity all happen? It is hard to know where it all started with townie experts. Australia Federated the states and colonies in 1901. 1788 to then mostly land was managed by the people continuing Aboriginal cool fire developed over 60000 years in a mostly large animal prepared vegetation and where more fire was required once the giant wombat and kangaroo died out, more after the arrival of the dingo killed off the remaining wildlife abundance. Multicultural Australia cool burnt, removed the dingo recovered the wildlife and restored a big animal presence with sheep, cattle, horses in particular however goats, donkey, camel, water buffalo enhanced the center and top end ecologies variously.

    The first head of the Federal Forestry Bureau from about 1922 post world war (1914-18) Charles Lane Poole was a British emigrant trained in Nancy France Forestry School where they produced “no burners as rainforest would return” to produce biodiversity and potable water was the belief. Graduates employed all around the Commonwealth. Charles and his wife mixed with the Canberra influential and trained up 80+ no burners in the Yarralumla Forestry school by 1945. Complete with arboretum full of experimental exotic trees to the west of Canberra, the reason to obstruct cool burning exercises for the first time in 60000 years. Suppress lightening strikes and pour scorn on sheep raising and summer grazing in the high country. Many more experts from Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney joined the university bushwalking, ski and surf clubs. Cobbled together political lobby groups from judiciary, architects, town planners, water engineers, soil con staff cavorting together on the ski slopes after stressful weeks in bureaucracy dreaming up ways to minimize work maximize indecision and doing nothing for their wilderness claims.

    While stockmen were away at another war (1939-45) fighting to retain human rights and democratic processes, the American environmental following entrenched themselves in the Snowy Scheme 1949-1974 were Sydney water and American engineers jumping into bed with the global no burners, no grazers, expanding national park empires dehabited for commercial water harvest off locked up land set to burn. This was said good for the environment saved from the red necks cool burning, grazing, chasing rabbits, selectively thinning a fire safe open forest yielding sweet clean water.

    Government reports were doctored, media spin became an art form, “science” waded in as the independent arbitrator exclusive government advisors. The most flammable drought and fire prone nation in the world locked up by experts from maritime Europe and the alps of Sierra Nevada were sheep and horses evolved protecting the Sequoia forests from inferno. All carefully edited out and massaged as the Snowy Scheme displaced communities drowned under 16 dams. The beautiful high country draped in power lines ripped up by roads. Ski resorts popped up for the green network to plot more exclusive wilderness land claims. The clique did the science to legitimize no burn, no graze, no dingo removal to deliver the no graze policies. Mulch the mountains in flammable waste and mindless aggressive scrub. 1986 Soil Cons Roger Good Masters Thesis put an end to no cool fire because Snowy Hume brigade “did not keep records 1951-1982” of fire history. Alec Costin had Roger and a wing of PhDs in Victoria produce definitive science against grazing for hazard reduction, water, food and biodiversity security. NSW was said to have set a precedence in 1944 during the war committee of 3 Sam Clayton Soil Con NSW (Costins boss), Mylo Dunphy (architect) Sydney Bushwalking club and Bill McKell (boiler maker) would be Labor premier later governor general, terminated grazing above the tree line. Sold out Snowy communities pork barreled for Riverina irrigators votes. Little did the irrigators know what lay ahead reformed out of the water not happening post alps inferno. Burn down the alps and no more irrigation water.

    Poole began “no burn policies” for the Hume Weir catchment in the 1930s so the 1939 heat wave fires were significant impact for the 1944 lock out blamed on grazing and stockmen’s fires not the lack of sufficient hazard reduction frustrated by Poole and other academics like Turner (Botanist) migrating here in 1938. 2003-9 alpine inferno were rippers compared to even 1939 were grazing and cool burning history and memory variously allowed regeneration. 2002-9 burnt even the 3000+ year old alpine bogs off the sides of the hills and recovery patchy indeed. Ancient snow gum, alpine ash, mountain plum pine, regeneration zero to deformed. Many things consigned to the species obituary list. Buried in a labyrinth of official denial and omission. Secrecy of public lock out “for fire rehabilitation” transplanting material from the remaining cattle runs and Brumby runs grazed green fire safe to the destocked incinerated offerings mulched and cooked by unprecedented fuel loads. Enquiry “terms of reference” protected the guilty and the negligent. Bad policy advice rewarded by fire rehabilitation grants, captive breeding programs, more catchment management assessments perpetuating and even consolidating mismanagement.

    Throw more public money at the products of bad governance. The Australian people fed more misleading media about bushfire. Gullible urban and migrant populations taken advantage of coerced into supporting the industry of policy failure rewarded by more public expenditure.

    As the bonfire empire grows higher, spreads wider grazing by hooved animals vilified, selective logging and other non smoke hazard reductions are declared the enemy of Australia we will see more ruin suffering and loss of native Australia. In NSW the forestry of native forests closed down by the committee of 2 working as environmental lobbyists and the exotic trees of Poole planted on dog country extending the bushfire risk even further. The water crisis building. The official denial deeper and deeper in deceit and ignorance. The mighty dollar rewarding policy failure. The Australian people brainwashed into believing there is no avoiding chaos and anarchy resulting from man made climate change when the forests are incinerated, the soil blown off and there will be no regeneration from the baked glass across the landscape. How did it happen?

    Bushmen were painted the enemy of Australia and there were no votes in listening to them. No university positions made available for people not playing “the game.” The latest gimmick is to get rid of the Snowy Brumbies because their grazed green runs defied climate changing effects of management policy changes saved the Upper Murrumbidgee for Canberra’s new water supply removed off irrigators by various political maneuvers. The Brumby cannot be witnessed to endorse biodiversity or water security by their green fire safe runs. If there is no reference there is no evidence. In Victoria they outlawed grazing trials because that also threatened the bushwalkers bonfire empire. “Science” outlawed. The cover up more desperate and Australia rapidly turning into a police state where public assets do not get a mention on the assets protection list in bushfire incident.

    Australia how many warnings will you keep ignoring until we are all thirsty, hungry and destitute.

    Noeline Franklin
    Author of many bushfire submissions on behalf of our loyal bushmen that have fought the wars for human rights and democratic processes, built Australia with their horses, bullocks, camel, donkey, sheep, cross cut saw. Some have passed on made destitute by greed and corruption. These people made Australia fire safe on a box of matches and a set of horse shoes. What about the bonfire liability in NSW building at about $1+ Billion annually. That would build nice aged care facilities, schools, hospitals, country roads………

  • November 28, 2015 at 10:35 am
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    This comment was received and it relates to fund raising activities by an association similar to ours.
    We have published this comment because we feel that this form of fund raising in not appropriate.
    Read the comment (below) and we will let you form your own opinions.

    “I am CONTINUALLY receiving phone calls from ****, asking for donations. I’ve never had anything to do with you…and I have a silent phone number.
    I TRULY APPRECIATE YOUR WONDERFUL WORK..but im a pensioner…I have my own charities..and I always give anyway…to appeals for victims of bushfires.
    I cannot give more…and I really resent these calls and intrusion upon my privacy”.

  • November 30, 2015 at 9:07 am
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    Do we really believe we know enough about the environment of 60000 years ago to think this is what we should be aiming for as an ideal for hazard reduction in the present era. Apart from the fact that climate was completely different in that epoch surely you are not saying that present day cloven hoofed animals such as cattle, goats and sheep will have the same affect on the environment as soft padded diprotodons and giant kangaroos of the past?

    And are you also indicating that the top end was better off with feral water buffalo everywhere. If you had seen what it was like in 1980 when I visited the top end compared to now maybe you would have a better understanding of why they were removed.

    It is all well and good to quote from the Nairn Enquiry 2003 (a very unbalanced, unscientific report). Perhaps you should also read the COAG “National Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and Management” 2004 to see how a report should be done and with balance at looking at both sides of an argument.

    Once again the argument about mimicking the Aboriginal burning regime raises its head. What proof other than colonial anecdotal evidence do we have. We simply do not know enough about Aboriginal fire practices. It does not mean we should ignore them but to have blanket statements that this will be a cure all is wrong. What is needed is sound science to test the theories and hypothesis.

    Commentators who base arguments on selected observations of early explorers and settlers do not look at in what context these comments were made.

    Finally Brumby and Cattle Grazing is not an answer to the hazard reduction issues in National Parks. They are and will always be alien to those environs and need to removed at all costs and a more sensible and constructive debate on how we manage hazard reduction should be entered into relying on sound, properly researched ideas not emotional ideals and political agendas.

    Thanks
    Stephen Snow
    Senior Deputy Captain
    Volunteer Fire Fighter 29 years

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