This article is republished as a tribute to Laurie Norton who passed away on Wednesday 18th March 2015. Laurie created the article for the April 2009 edition of the VFFA Magazine.

Laurie was a foundation member of the VFFA and our first treasurer.

When Laurie spoke everybody listened. He was a man of great knowledge and conviction. He will be sadly missed.

A VFFA Profile for Laurie Norton was published in the Winter 2010 edition of the magazine. Click HERE to view the Laurie Norton profile.

People are saddened to read what has been ignored by experts and politicians. I refer to all the enquiries and recommendations that have been brought forwarded over the years since 1939. These so-called experts and representatives of the people just don’t have the ticker to stand up to the intellectual trendies. They do not understand our unique environment; Councils for example are only just starting to realize that perhaps a eucalypt tree is not a good thing to have hanging over your roof?

It amazes me how these trendies talk about the dreadful things that happen in a typical hazard reduction burn but where does human life rate a mention? Dare I say it, but hazard reduction is not always a burn eg: grazing (manicuring) which has the effect of reducing the amount of fire fodder by removal and trampling.

What have these fires cost the community in dollar terms in over the last 20 years?

I suggest that if proper management was restored there would be enough money to look after all the fires and provide a much improved health care system and stop this tragic loss of life. We will leave the subject of efficient water use for another day also.

At a recent meeting it was refreshing to listen to scientists supporting what most locals already know ‐ fuel loads and types of fuel determine fire behaviour ‐ the only component of fire we can control.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) spoke about the unheard of fire behavior around Thredbo late at night which they ended up describing as “a once in a lifetime phenomenon”. I think most fire fighters would describe it as a product of bloody stupidity. Name any timeframe ever that this area would have been locked up for so long without Mother Nature ‐ lightning would have dealt with the situation long ago before these fuel levels were reached, not to mention the combination of drought.

Phenomenon? I don’t think so. If only these people could work with nature ‑ not against it. When I first saw the sub Alpine area as a boy it was so different to what these new management practices have given us.

It is no longer an open pristine alpine area, but a mutilated jungle. The two main issues now are woody weeds and water yield.

If you fix one of these issues you have fixed the other. It is also my understanding that some types of these woody weeds are producing CO2 at a rate that should be of concern.

The expressions used in this part of the world used to be “round them up and move them out”. Now it is “look it up and burnt it out”. On our Western side we have a boundary with NPWS which was all burnt in January 2003 and has had no hazard reduction of any significance since that time.

We were told by a forestry expert that the fuel loads that took so many years to build up would be similar after 18 months due to the intensity (heat) of the 2003 inferno. At the last meeting l attended, the NPWS believe they have no problem for at least 10 years.

Hazard reduction permits have also been almost impossible to obtain because of all the issues that have to be dealt with however it was stated on radio last week (by government of course) that is has never been easier. We will be having a look at what has changed; it would be great if we could deal with the causes instead of the symptoms.

It is time for volunteers to make it clear that they are fed up to the neck with the loss of human life, the destruction of our environment, and putting city water supplies at risk, eg: Canberra 2003, Melbourne 2009.

Why do volunteers have to deal with fires storms, spot fires turning fire flanks into fire fronts just because everybody has to toe the political line? Any Fire Commissioner l have heard speak always acknowledges that without the volunteers there is no rural fire service.

Volunteers certainly have the respect of the Community and deservedly so. Volunteers are in a position to call for changes because the politicians of all persuasions have concentrated on public perception which I believe now borders on public deception.

It is important that we acknowledge how grateful the Snowy River Shire area is for the support we have received over the years from our RFS Fire Control Officer, his Deputy and office staff. We have endured many battles together and have enjoyed a great working relationship with them.

We feel our area has been set up for the best fed fire (fuel wise) of all time. If global warming is a concern then only a change of policy re hazard reduction will protect us from what Victoria has just expenenced.



Round them up and move them out – Lock it up and burnt it out
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