Cuts to park burnoffs ‘caused bushfires’
The “unprecedented” bushfires that burned through Queensland last week have sparked a political storm, with farmers and the opposition blaming reduced hazard-control burns in national parks for fuelling the fires.
State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said a full parliamentary inquiry was the appropriate forum to examine the impacts that climate change and increased fuel loads were having in national parks.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham refused to commit to an inquiry and said that any suggestion hazardreduction burns in national parks had been reduced were “not true”. “The firebreaks are still being maintained in conservation areas,’’ he said yesterday.
“Last year we had nearly one million hectares burnt in state government-controlled areas. That is up nearly double from the yearly average.’’
But figures released last month showed the number of yearly hazard-reduction burns attended by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services dropped from 3187 in 2015 to 2510 last year and 2241 this year.
Fire Commissioner Katarina Carroll said on Sunday that the earlier-than-expected fire season caught authorities off-guard and stopped them completing scheduled hazard-reduction burns.
Ms Frecklington said the Liberal National Party would seek a parliamentary inquiry on the issue in the new year.
“Concerns have been raised about land-management practices to manage fuel loads, how our national parks are managed and what landholders also want to do to protect their property and livestock,” she said.
“These bushfires have been devastating, but we need to learn lessons about how we can prevent it from happening again. Climate change can’t be an excuse to do nothing. If anything … we should be adapting our response more.”
Agricultural lobby group AgForce backed calls for an inquiry, saying the government’s vegetation-management laws had confused farmers. Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan also supports calls for a commission of inquiry.
The LNP wants the inquiry to consider the recommendations made in a 2014 Queensland Audit Office report into bushfire preparation and preparedness.
A follow-up report released in October found that Queensland Fire and Emergency Services had only partly adopted the recommendations and must do more to “ensure Queensland communities are not exposed to higher levels of risk than they need to be”.