Correspondence re
A Moratorium
on Prescribed Burning

 

 with Cape Liptrap photos


The following is an excerpt from the REPORT OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION TO INQUIRE INTO The Causes of and Measures Taken to Prevent the Bush Fires of January, 1939... (pp 10-13)

The causes, of the fires under discussion are set out as follows :—

(a) Dry Season and Dry Forests.— Further elaboration is unnecessary.

(b) The Condition of the Forests.— When the early settlers came to what is now this State, they found for the greater part a clean forest. Apparently for many years before their arrival, the forest had not been scourged by fire. They were in their natural state. Their canopies had prevented the growth of scrub and bracken to any wide extent. They were open and traversible by men, beasts and wagons. Compared with their present condition, they were safe. But the white men introduce fire to the forests. They burned the floor to promote the growth of grass and to clear it of scrub which had grown where, for whatever reason, the balance of nature had broken down. The fire stimulated grass growth, but it encouraged scrub growth far more. Thus was begun the cycle of destruction which can not be arrested in our day. The scrub grew and flourished, fire was used to clear it, the scrub grew faster and thicker, bush fires, caused by the careless or designing hand of man, ravaged the forests; the canopy was impaired, more scrub grew and prospered, and again the cleansing agent, fire, was used. And so today, in places where our forefathers rode, driving their herds and flocks before them, the wombat and wallaby are hard put to it to find passage through the bush.


From: Anne Terrell <promojas@dcsi.net.au>

Subject: Re: Planned burn at Cape Liptrap Coastal Park

Date: 10 March 2014 8:58:14 pm AEDT

To: Geoff.Pike@depi.vic.gov.au

Cc: Grange.Jephcott@dse.vic.gov.au

peter.ryan@parliament.vic.gov.au

Dear Geoff,
Thank you for outlining the Agenda for Tuesdays meeting and, however unintentionally, emphasising the need for far more research and planning for future fire management before any more planned fires.
I am surprised that there has been no fuel load assessment for complex vegetation of Second Creek catchment and the wet forest and swamp etc. planned to be burned behind Walkerville North Camping Ground. 

 I am disappointed that you have not responded, as yet, to the offer of involvement in research by Dr Marianne Horak and Dr Tim Edwards but pleased you recognise the need for additional comprehensive assessment. 

I am looking forward to receiving a comprehensive fire history, especially of fires lit and extinguished in and around the Coastal Park over the last 20 years in particular. We have additional data that we are pleased to share upon request. 

 I and many others look forward to receiving answers in writing in regard to the other specific issues raised in correspondence over the last six weeks.  

The lack of research to date, especially on fuel loads that you highlight in this letter, underscores the need for Moratorium on these proposed burns until research is collated and/or undertaken. 
This is especially in regard to the nature and flammability of the fuels and existing plants.

 I am not sure you are aware that the burning of bracken, such as that scattered in the understorey of the messmate forest adjacent to the Walkerville Estate, will increase its dominance and heighten the fire risk;

‘Old, dead fronds often remain in the stand and form dense mulch on the ground, inhibiting the germination and growth of other plants, including pasture species. In dense undisturbed bracken stands, the canopy can crowd out and shade other species and dominate an area.  Bracken regenerates rapidly after fire and may dominate recently burned areas.’

(Bracken Fern article from DPI NSW)

http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/weeds/profiles/bracken-fern

If the flammable fuel loads of Second Creek in tons of dry fuel loads per hectare are less than adjacent farmland the proposed prescribed burning can be safely postponed. 
The focus on addressing fire risk issues, like the lack of firefighting facilities at Bear Gully ground etc., could be addressed in the interim. 

Your correspondence also raises additional questions that you could either provide written replies to or seek to be addressed during the proposed moratorium;

The only references we have found for these proposed planned burns are from the notices you have posted.  The Bushfire Information line could not provide us with any references to these planned burns,

Yours Sincerely
Anne Terrell

cc. Grange Jephcott, Peter Ryan  & Community 

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From: Geoff.Pike@depi.vic.gov.au Subject: Planned burn at Cape Liptrap Coastal Park
Date: 9 March 2014 1:35:52 pm AEDT
To: Anne Terrell
Dear Anne, Thank you for your response. Some of the issues you have raised will be discussed at the site gathering on Tuesday afternoon and there will be a summary of the conversations assembled for those who are unable to attend to view at a later time. Jenni O'Sullivan is facilitating the gathering and has been provided with an outline of proceedings which includes:
• introductions of community members and Parks Vic, DEPI, Municipal and CFA representatives;
• geography, fire history, ecology and land management of the bush block in Cape Liptrap Coastal Park (CLCP);
• intent of the planned burn;
• site inspection including assessment of fuel hazard, determination of fuel moisture content, how fire spreads, methods of mitigating fuel hazard, sequence of burning and what to expect prior, during and after a planned burn;
• Q and A session about the planned burn.
Management of other locations in the CLCP is not part of the agenda for this gathering. This could be the subject of a future gathering at Bear Gully.
Again, thank you for your interest and I look forward to meeting with you on Tuesday afternoon.
Yours Sincerely, Geoff Pike

Geoff PIKE | District Manager - South Gippsland District | Traralgon

Regional Services | Department of Environment and Primary Industries

71 Hotham St, Traralgon, Victoria 3844

M: 0409 011 520 | T: 03 5172 2111 | F: 03 5172 2102 | R: 730 5600 | E:geoff.pike@depi.vic.gov.au | www.depi.vic.gov.au

<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

From:        Anne Terrell <promojas@dcsi.net.au>
To:        Geoff.Pike@dse.vic.gov.au,
Cc:        peter.ryan@parliament.vic.gov.au
Date:        06/03/2014 01:31 PM
Subject:        Moriatorium on  Planned Burns - Cape Liptrap Coastal Park

Dear Geoff,
               I and many others still need written responses to our questions that we were directed to write to you  by Grange Jephcott. Many, due to work and family commitments etc. are not in a position to attend this meeting and others are concerned that it may needlessly generate community conflict. We would prefer disputed facts to be determined by research rather than  argument.
Regardless of whether this planned burn is undertaken this year or not, there is the significant local issue of capacity to detect and respond to fires rapidly and capacity to deal with escapes from prescribed burns of this size and complexity.  There is also concern to for this fire’s impact on the vineyard adjacent to the area proposed to be burned – an issue that also must be addressed in writing. Given the number of recent local 'escapes' of prescribed burns and  the breakdown in communication of this burn when it almost proceeded last year there are separate issues for the local community. These issues are not relevant to others who support research proposed but do not live locally.
A good start for locals and others would be to provide the dead timber and other fuel load research for the area proposed to be burned, Second Creek Catchment, and the measurable objectives of this prescribed burn. This is especially since the fuel loads from the paddocks and pasture land to the north may well be significantly higher and more flammable.  
See page 3 http://www.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Documents/Document-files/Exhibits/WIT-3004-028-0099

Phalaris

Introduced

27.5 t/ha

Wild Oats

Introduced

17.7 t/ha

Kangaroo grass

Native

2.9 t/ha

Spear grass and Wallaby grass mixture

Native

2.6 t/ha

Have you an agenda for this meeting? Will there be recorded minutes? Are you prepared to discuss postponing the proposed burn to undertaking research into natural capacity of the bushland in this Coastal Park to reduce flammable fuels?
This research proposition has the support of  Dr James Bowler AM,  Dr Tim Flannery and  Dr Marianne Horak, from CSIRO and possibly more than 700 others to date. (Have you provided Dr James Bowler AM with the information he has requested?)
I have included correspondence from Dr Tim Flannery supporting this proposed research and Dr Marianne Horak, from CSIRO who has offered to oversee it.  As you will note from the correspondence you have received to date, this proposed research has widespread support.
We would welcome your support too and participation in this research, especially outside the fire season. It is likely that this area of bush has capacity to reduce its own fuel loads. If determined by scientific research this would free resources for rapid detection and response to any future fires - management the whole community, I am sure, would support.
A good start for this process would be the upgrading of firefighting facilities and staffing of the Bear Gully camping ground which  has open fire places to the same standard of the Walkerville North Camping Ground, an issue raised at previous meetings hosted by Jenny O'Sullivan in 2013. Is this an issue you can undertake to organise to be addressed?
Yours Sincerely
Anne Terrell
cc Peter Ryan MP
     Marylands Wilson
      Community
Attached: A selection from letters received supporting Moratorium on Burning and Research for Cape Liptrap Coastal Reserve in March 2014