The title of this post is nothing new, it is also the title from chapter 2 of the report on the inquiry into bushfires that was put together by the House of Representatives, Select Committee into the Australian bushfires in 2003.
The committee was chaired by Mr. Gary Nairn MP and the forward was signed off with “For never again can we afford to be A Nation Charred.”
CSIRO Scientist, Mr. Phil Cheney said (Transcript of Evidence, 22 August 2003, p. 38.) “In the areas west of the ACT the forests will, conservatively, take more than 200 years to return to anything like their original condition”.
We are now half way through 2019, some 16 years after the devastating 2003 fires that swept into Canberra and we have learned very little. The fuel loads are worse than ever and we are placing our environment at incredible risk.
This risk also impacts upon our hip pocket as we spend billions on reactive firefighting strategies and aviation services instead of diverting a minuscule amount of money by comparison, on simple improved land management practices that were once widely used by Indigenous Australians and early pioneers.
Experienced firefighters and local knowledge is being ignored
Chapter 2 of “A Nation Charred”, also known as the “Nairn Report” opened with the following:
2.1 The Committee received a large body of evidence criticising the failure of land management practices and policies to prevent severe bushfire damage across all tenures of land. Among the factors most commonly cited as contributing to the severity of recent bushfires were:
- A move in attitude in fire management from practices that mitigate the threat posed by fire to suppression of fire events.
- High fuel loads.
- Inadequate buffer zones protecting assets.
- Inadequate access to fires.
2.2 Criticisms of land management practices and policies were received from representatives of volunteer fire brigades, individuals and organisations with experience in public and private forestry industries and land holders from bushfire affected areas. These criticisms focused primarily on national parks but included reference to state forests and private property.
Fire suppression instead of land management
Chapter 2 also supports the VFFA claims that we are focussing too heavily upon costly suppression activities as the priority, as follows:
2.3 The Committee received repeated claims that the whole approach to the management of bushfires appears to have shifted. One experienced fire fighter told the Committee that there has been:
a gradual but radical shift in the policy of fighting bushfires in NSW over the last few years … The change in policy I refer to is from (1) the protective stance of reducing the amount of fuel which could be a danger in the fire season as the traditional first priority to (2) that of the confronting stance of putting fires out when they occur as the new first priority.
You can read chapter 2 of the Nairn report HERE or click on the download links below”