State Govt slammed over fire failure
THE State Government has failed to meet its hazard reduction burning targets as part of a bushfire mitigation operation for four years in a row, in an extraordinary revelation slammed as "gross negligence".
As part of Operation Cool Burn, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services officers can undertake controlled burning across the state, between April and August each year.
However, of the 168 planned burns in 2019, just 117 were completed.
Acting Fire and Emergency Services Minister Leeanne Enoch blamed the low numbers on the weather, claiming "fire seasons are longer, conditions are dryer and we have a shorter window to conduct hazard reduction burns".
But LNP Deputy Leader Tim Mander said the "failure" to properly prepare Queensland for bushfires showed "gross negligence" from the Palaszczuk Government.
"While the Labor Government should be doing more to prepare for bushfires, they've been caught red-handed cutting back on proven bushfire prevention measures," he said.
The figures were revealed in a question on notice, where Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford also said the number of burns and other mitigation activities fluctuated each year because of weather conditions.
"For example, dry conditions experienced in 2018 and 2019 have severely reduced opportunities for hazard reduction burning and in 2018 Operation Cool Burn ended early due to the very active early bushfire season," he said.
For the 329 planned activities for 2019, which included burning, maintenance and community education activities, 240 were completed.
Of the 177 planned burns in 2018, 69 were completed, 131 of the 225 planned burns were undertaken in 2017 while 122 of the 242 planned burns in 2016 were done. Ms Enoch said less time to reduce hazards was something the LNP found difficult to grasp while they argued about the legitimacy of climate change and its real-world impact on rural Queensland.
"The Palaszczuk Government has approved on average 27,463 hazard reduction permits each year since 2015. Our highest year was 28,655 permits - 1300 more than the LNP's highest," she said.
"Last year burns conducted in Queensland's national parks and protected areas covered more than a million hectares. This is the most hectares treated by planned burns in six years."
Adjunct associate professor at James Cook University Dr Noel Preece acknowledged the shorter window, however also said more resources were needed on the ground.
"You need people on the ground at the right time to burn," he said.
"You use the windows to the best advantage … so you have the staff there at the time you need it."