Since Brumby's 10/30 legislation came in, there has been strenuous debate amongst hills residents. This shows the depth of concern that many residents feel about the effect this legislation will have on our beautiful environment, climate chance, tourism and quality of life, all while not guaranteeing any of us will be safer from bushfire this coming season, or in future fire seasons.
Debate is welcomed in a democracy, and something that should have happened PRIOR to this legislation coming into play. It would have been preferable if the government had consulted residents and local councils about their views on this legislation, looked at scientific evidence already presented to the Royal Commission, or consulted experts on both sides of the debate. When there is no consultation or debate, no one has had the chance to participate in the democratic process. Democracy is not, as some would have us believe, people being able to make choices about whether they clear their land or not. Democracy is about participation in the decision making process, and this has not happened.
Another example of democracy being totally eroded is the governments announcement that 27 schools in the Dandenongs and Yarra Valley must clear trees and vegetation 15 and 40 metres from designated fire refuges on school grounds. This decision was made with very little fanfare, and again was done without any consultation on any level.
The government has ordered schools remove vegetation and trees and has threatened that their fire refuge status will be “decommissioned” if they do not carry out these orders. Schools, parents and councils have not been consulted prior to this decree, and the government did not consult any known fire science recommendations nor take into account expert evidence presented to the Royal Commission stating trees can diminish fire threats to buildings by reducing wind speed which helps reduce ember attack.
This is a blanket policy that does not take into consideration local conditions. Refuges in schools often have paved areas around them, so ember attack is going to be the main concern here. Some trees that have already been removed or are earmarked for removal are deciduous, and fire retardant. Why hasn’t the government made investments into the improvement of buildings themselves to achieve sound fire refuge status instead of concentrating on vegetation removal?
We all want our children to be safe, but any decisions made by government should be well thought out and consultative. We should be able to trust that the government has made every possible effort to find out whether this is the right thing to do and that it will actually improve our children's safety in a bushfire.
Living with the Bush