12 February 2021

Government rejects recommendation to widen Namadgi firebreaks

| Dominic Giannini
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Mick Gentleman

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman has tabled the Government’s response to the emergency services inquiry. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Government has rejected the recommendation to widen the fire break between the park and neighbouring rural landholders as the Namadgi National Park regrows, saying it is not possible to do so because of the terrain.

In its official reply to the review of ACT emergency services responses to the 2019-20 bushfire season, tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday (11 February), the government said that it was not possible to maintain and construct the fire breaks along all boundaries “due to terrain, vegetation and rock”.

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Rural landholders in the ACT aired their grievances with the government during the inquiry following the Orroral Valley fire, with the Rural Landholders Association (RLA) chastising the preparation that was undertaken by the Emergency Services Agency ahead of the previous fire season.

“Actions have not met the intent of the [Strategic Bushfire Management Plan] nor sufficiently protected adjacent private farmland,” the submission from the Association said.

“For example, boundary line fire trails are not maintained, so access to the park is not possible except through farms and routine management operations, like back burning and pest control, are not generally undertaken beside farmland by government-employed workers.

“The control burns in [Namadgi National Park] for fire fuel reduction before the fire season had not been undertaken to the extent intended, so the risk reduction qualities of landscape-scale mosaic burning had not been achieved.”

Other fuel management activities in the Namadgi National Park, including hazard reduction burns, physical removal and slashing, were being conducted to reduce the potential impact and fire risk to rural landholders, the government said.

Rural landowner and volunteer firefighter with the ACT Rural Fire Service Steve Angus on the boundary of his property at Namadgi National Park.

Volunteer firefighter Steve Angus wants more Government support for rural landowners. Photo: Michael Weaver.

Almost 30 prescribed, cultural and ecological burns are outlined in the 2020-21 Bushfire Operations Plan.

However, the ACT missed its hazard reduction targets in 2019-20 by almost 50 per cent, significantly lower than the 75 per cent completion rate it had the year before.

The reduction target was impacted by the summer’s fires and the pandemic, the latest annual report from the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) said.

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Only one person was able to travel in a vehicle at any time during the pandemic, halving the available Parks and Conservation staff for around four months.

The review was conducted in the wake of the Orroral Valley fire, the Territory’s worst fire since 2003, which ended up destroying almost 80 per cent of the Namadgi National Park and almost a quarter of the ACT’s total landmass.

Of the 26 recommendations, the ACT Government agreed to two and agreed in principle to a further four, noted 18 and rejected two.

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Capital Retro2:38 pm 16 Feb 21

We were taught about this in school. If you all read it you may understand better why there have been and will be more bushfires for ever. If not, the forests will die. Best not to try and live in them meantime:


Don’t live near grass either. Nor bush. Concrete over the whole country.

Capital Retro5:24 pm 17 Feb 21

I have land in the bush, half is virgin eucalypt forest which was totally burned out in January last year. The regeneration has been like beholding a miracle. The last bushfire that went through the same area was in 1968, mmm, did I mention somewhere else about there being bushfires historically every 50 years?

The other half of the land has been largely cleared with the few remaining eucalypts standing at least 100 metres from the buildings and there are lots of exotic trees in between. The rest is poa and native grass which is slashed and mown when necessary.

Not 100% bushfire proof but neither were large parts of suburban Canberra surrounded by tar and cement in 2003.

I have 1000 acres. 950 burnt out. About half of that is stone dead. The trees will not regenerate. New trees will have to grow, so give it several decades.

Sad to hear your land was burned.

Can you tell us what trees won’t regenerate? Were they natives and, if they were, what kind of natives were they?

Capital Retro7:59 am 23 Feb 21

A lot of dormant seeds would have germinated naturally because of the fire so don’t despair. You will probably also see plant varieties you have never seen before. I’m getting acacias and bracken fern coming up that I have never seen before.

Be careful walking near those dead trees too – they are silent killers when they fall.

The trees will take decades to regrow.

The only despair I feel is caused by climate change deniers.

If the trees on your property were Australian natives then you’ll be enjoying them a lot earlier than that – a few million years of evolution took care of that.


Well, as the Rural Landholders Association doesn’t seem to know what backburning is, their advice should be given appropriate weight.

Perhaps the could create the firebreaks on their side of the boundaries.

Capital Retro10:03 am 15 Feb 21

Plenty of free labour available at the AMC to create and maintain firebreaks.

The government has to understand that bushfire control is a “hands on” function and can’t be replaced by technology, aircraft and media conferences.

And yeah, it’s all too easy to blame climate change for the recent and “unprecedented” fires.

I am also noting that we are now halfway through February and there have been no bushfires in this region due to the normal weather conditions. Grass fires were predicted but none of those either but a few days of hot north-westerly winds could change that. Where are the firebreaks to impede grassfires?

Still confusing local weather with global climate.

There were grassfires in this region this summer. And the destructive Carwoola bushfire in 2017 (which I fought, did you?) started on 17th February. So let’s not count chickens yet.

Capital Retro4:09 pm 15 Feb 21

I haven’t seen any grassfires reported. They certainly weren’t “unprecedented” anyhow.

The 2017 Carwoola bushfire had nothing to do with climate change by the way: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6006031/tradesmen-convicted-for-starting-februarys-carwoola-bushfire/

I did not say there won’t be any grassfires from now on but I can say with certainty that any that if there are, none will be caused by climate change.

Fires are caused by climate change, because it results in more storms and more dry storms, ergo lightning without rain. However, the influence of climate change is primarily to increase the likelihood of ignition because the fuel is dryer. So fires are more likely to start, and when they do start they are likely to spread faster and generally be more severe.

Like all fires the Carwoola fire was exacerbated by climate change. The drought that ended in 2020 didn’t start in 2019.

That you have not seen any grassfires reported does not mean they did not happen. If you were in the RFS you would know about them.

Capital Retro5:29 pm 17 Feb 21

Droughts are part of the Australian climate profile. Once again, you are ignoring history. They have nothing to do with “climate change” nor can “climate change” exacerbate a bushfire.

The RFS that I assist did not attend any grassfires in the past 12 months. But we did a bit of hazzard reduction burning.

Irish Pete – Wasn’t the Carwoola fire started by sparks from an angle grinder? You’re drawing a long bow blaming climate change for that one..!!

It’s all good guys. They can blame climate change again. No need to actually listen to the experts on managing the danger when you have this get out of jail free card.

The experts say it’s climate change.

And that’s hardly a “get out of jail free card” compared to “greenies ate my backburn”.

The experts have just said that the National Parks aren’t being managed properly, and the ACT Government has chosen to ignore all but 2 of the management practices given to them by the experts.

You can screech “climate change” like a good little NPC all you like, but that doesn’t take anything away from the absolute mismanagement of fuel loads and fire hazard in our National Parks.

I don’t know what a NPC is. I’m in the RFS. 17 years.

If you’re saying the ACT Rural Landholder’s Association are experts, that’s surely in jest, as they don’t even know what backburning is.

Certainly in NSW the National Parks are being grossly mismanaged by the LNP Government. The ACT’s major fire last season was started by the ADF. Without their intervention, and their failure to call 000 (which SHOULD be a criminal offence) Namadji National Park would have been fine.

Maybe you should read the article. There was an enquiry into last years fires, by experts. They found that Namadgi is severely lacking in fire management (AKA, being mismanaged by the ACT Gov). They made 26 recommendations. The ACT Government is only taking up 2 of them.

You can go off on all the tangents you want and pretend that because you have been in the RFS that you have some extra weight in this discussion, but you don’t. You keep going on about “Listening to experts”, but seem to continually ignore and deflect when expert opinion differs from yours. The fact is, according to the inquiry, the ACT Government is failing to manage the fire hazard of the National Park, which in turn endangers adjoining privately held land. They are now failing to agree to 24 of 26 recommendations made to them by experts. Same way they ignored all of the ones that came out of the 2003 fires.

Irish Pete,
Do you have a problem with the way the committee acted and the findings?

Seems they took in a large range of information, data and different views to determine a suite of recommendations based on the evidence available. A lot of the collated information came from experts in the area and other reports or submissions from very experienced stakeholders.

Do you have any specific issues with the recommendations themselves?

No, that is a review of the response by the ACT ESA.
You’re not very good at this comprehension thing.

IrishPete – repeat after me:
Man made climate change is not a thing.

Now educate yourself on the various climate changes over the last 50,000 years.

Chewy, the issue under discussion here is whether the recommendations were from experts. Once we’ve settled that it is actually a report written by politicians, we can get on to the question of whether and which of those recommendations have merit.

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