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$50 million dollar Fuel Breaks - And how did they perform on Feb 7?


fireline final2

A precautionary measure or a political stunt? The jury is out on whether this fuel break is anything more than timber grab?

The question now - Were these $50 million timber hauling exercises useful in protecting human life? Were the other 21 options on the list for government fire proofing investment more sensible, but perhaps less timber beneficial?

Who's asking the questions of government? $50 million for 600 kilometres of cleared forest and not a single reference to their usefulness.

Did the Government choose safety or political pantomime with a timber bonus?

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"Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin said the creation of strategic firebreaks, complemented by fuel reduction burning where possible, would help make towns and other important community assets safer from fire." Government promise - 2007

Burning rainforest

Deep in the heart of Victoria’s Central Highland’s wilderness, a vast fire containment line 270 km long and up to 90 metres wide has dissected forests and National Parks. It cuts through endangered species habitat and pristine ecosystems to allegedly buffer Melbourne’s water catchments against the future threat of a bushfire.



The selling of the logs taken from these forests raises the question whether the control lines are an abuse of the state’s emergency powers to allow the logging industry to access logs that would be otherwise out-of-bounds. There have also been questions asked by fire fighters whether the line itself increases the fire risk.

The final fire breaks are proposed to be permanent and run for 600 kms with widths of 20-60 metres. These highway sized scars traverse mountains and ridges fragmenting National Parks and state forests. Habitat of Nationally listed endangered species such Leadbeaters Possum and the Baw Baw frog have been clearfelled and the logs sold. Both of these actions are in direct breach of Federal and State laws. The bark and other vegetation has been piled into ‘Uluru’ sized mounds to decompose, risking further ignition. Last February, one of these piles was struck by lightning. The fire was so intense, bulldozers and other fire fighting equipment were unable to get near it.



The fact that bush fires spot kilometers ahead of a front questions the effectiveness of using the break to back burn into wet forest. The state’s Environment Minister, Mr Thwaites, has been unable to support this measure as having any scientific basis. However, the logging industry has taken massive volumes of very high quality timber.

In the 2003 bushfires, the illegal logging of the Snowy River National Park saw the Victorian Auditor General investigate the theft of thousands of tonnes of logs from the Park. He was highly critical of the process which allowed this to happen and the clear conflict of interest in hiring a logging company boss to oversee the back-burn line. It appears that the state government is now happy to oversee the very same type of looting operation.

There is no scientific literature that supports back burning in wet forests as these wet forests already contain micro firebreaks like fallen wet logs, luxuriant damp understorey, rainforest gullies and water rich mosses and lichens. These combine to cradle our water catchments. Prescription burning these forests will result in drying out and destroying these very attributes that impede fire.

It has been suggested by the scientific community that the most likely reason why Melbourne’s catchments haven’t burnt yet is due to their vast, undisturbed old growth forests. The bulk of the state’s forests have been logged over the last century, transforming them from moisture-rich, diverse, old growth forests to fuel heavy, thickly regenerating tree crops of the same age and height. This is turning our forests into a tinder-box which makes them even more fire-prone.

Burning breaks

And after 4 years -Still NO offsets despite the promises

"Any impacts on native vegetation will be addressed according to the Native Vegetation Framework, which may require vegetation removal to be offset through other DSE activities." John Thwaites - Environment Minister, 2007.