Al­most $1m spent on pre­scribed burns

Pilbara News - - News - Daniel Mercer

De­part­ment of Parks and Wildlife is spend­ing al­most $1 mil­lion a year burn­ing big swaths of the Kim­ber­ley de­spite al­most no one liv­ing in the af­fected ar­eas.

The De­part­ment of Parks and Wildlife re­vealed this week that it shelled out an av­er­age of $835,000 a year to carry out a pre­scribed burn­ing pro­gram, which cov­ered an area big­ger than metropolitan Perth.

Of­fi­cers for the agency car­ried out con­trolled burn­ing mostly by drop­ping in­cen­di­ary de­vices from he­li­copters and planes. An­swers to ques­tions from the

Pil­bara News have shed light on the scale of the de­part­ment’s pre­scribed burn­ing pro­gram in the Kim­ber­ley and the rea­sons for it.

The de­part­ment said it aimed to burn 30 per cent of the 2.7 mil­lion hectares of “con­ser­va­tion suitable land” in the re­gion ev­ery year to achieve a “patch­work mo­saic of burnt and un­burnt habi­tat”.

A spokes­woman said the burn­ing was done in the dry sea­son to re­duce the risks to the area’s unique en­vi­ron­ment from wild­fires in the hot times of the year.

“The Kim­ber­ley is renowned for its aes­thetic beauty and unique bio­di­ver­sity,” she said. “Un­til re­cently, large un­man­aged bush­fires were sig­nif­i­cantly threat­en­ing the re­gion’s nat­u­ral as­sets.

“Aerial burn­ing is com­ple­mented by a ground burn­ing pro­gram, which fo­cuses on the pro­tec­tion of as­sets on the out­skirts of towns and within con­ser­va­tion lands, re­duc­ing the risk for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.”

The an­swers come as the de­part­ment scram­bles to meet its an­nual con­trolled burn­ing pro­gram in the South West for only the sec­ond time since 2004-05.

Sep­a­rate fig­ures pro­vided by the agency show it had burnt 162,182ha across the South West as of May 27 — still al­most 20 per cent short of its an­nual tar­get of 200,000ha.

The per­for­mance is nev­er­the­less an im­prove­ment on last year, when the de­part­ment burnt 147,082ha and comes amid a $20 mil­lion boost to its pre­scribed burn­ing bud­get over four years.

Pic­ture: Lisa Mor­ri­son

Pre­scribed burns by the De­part­ment of Parks and Wildlife in un­pop­u­lated parts of the Kim­ber­ley are cost­ing al­most $1 mil­lion.

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