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Police, Fire and Emergency Management - Native Forest Logging

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 9 September 2021

Tags: Native Forest Logging, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I don't know if you've had a chance to see the latest research from the ANU, about logging and bushfire risks. It was released last month. It found that logging near rural communities should be banned due to bushfire risk. They make it very clear that while weather has a large effect on fires, forests also burned at a very high severity when they were between 10 40 years old. The conclusion from this extensive research is that young forests regenerating after logging are particularly susceptible to very high-severity fire.

You saw the impact I know, as a member for Franklin, of the 2019 fires and you understand the situation in Geeveston and other communities that were impacted. Will you lobby your Cabinet members to recognise the importance of ending logging of native forests around regional communities in Tasmania - everywhere of course - but will you lobby them to understand the increased risk they provide for towns from severe bushfires?

Mrs PETRUSMA - This government is investing a lot - whether it's the Fuel Reduction Program, bushfire preparedness or the Red-Hot Tips Program. I acknowledge that climate change is identified as a key challenge for the emergency management sector. The most recent inter-governmental panel on climate change report signals that the intensity, frequency and duration of fire-weather events will increase. On a national level, AFAC has acknowledged that there will be increasing severity of extreme-weather events. Such events are of ongoing concerns for the TFS, which is why Tasmania is a participant of the AFAC Climate Change Group. Our deputy chief officer is a representative of that group and the State Fire Commission is being briefed regarding the climate future risk for Tasmania and are considering the risk from physical, transitional and legal aspects. This Government is investing a lot of money to ensure bushfire-safe communities and to support our career and volunteers.

Dr WOODRUFF - Are you going to grapple with the substance of my question at all. This is a really critical issue. There are very few things that we can do in terms of adapting to the catastrophic increasing risk of fire for communities in Australia. From 2009 Black Saturday bushfires we have seen the exactly the same finding. It was very clear that industrial-scale clear-fell logging and the regrowth of forests around regional communities placed them at a higher risk. Lives were lost, properties were burned, communities were decimated. We are seeing the same thing happening all around the world. This is very high-quality research from the ANU. It has been updated with more information from the bushfires on the eastern coast las summer.

As the minister for Fire and Emergency Management it is entirely within your purview to make some change and to do something meaningful. Will you advocate on behalf of the science and the research to keep communities and Tasmanians safer by ending clear-fell logging around communities?

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, I would remind that the minister for Resources is currently appearing in another place.

Dr WOODRUFF - That is very interesting but I am talking to the Fire minister.

Mrs PETRUSMA - This Government has committed to our fuel reduction programs and we committed to the Tasmanian Forestry Industry but Sustainable Timber Tasmania is a very essential partner in the delivery of our fuel reduction program, along with the Parks and Wildlife Service that I also have. All three agencies are working very collaboratively together. I know that they had a meeting on Friday just gone as to how they can work to get prepared for the upcoming bushfire season and to make sure that communities at the greatest risk are given the most protection. That is why they are doing a strategic fuel reduction burns, 188 were completed across 35 000 hectares last year in strategic locations to protect Tasmanian communities.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is a drop in the ocean compared to the damage.

Mrs PETRUSMA - We have invested $55 million since 2014 and there is funding ongoing across the forward Estimates. I have the Deputy Chief here who is in charge of the bushfire management so I think we should hear from him as to what is happening in regard to the fuel reduction.

Dr WOODRUFF - How he feels about sending volunteers and paid people into areas, knowing that there is really substantial thing that we could do to make communities safer.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, please allow the officials to answer.

Mrs PETRUSMA - Whether it is in the Parks and Wildlife Service or whether it is in TFS we have invested a lot of money in bushfire reduction; winch capability for crews in the PWS, remote access teams, there has been a whole body of work. We are going to have 160 remote area firefighters by the end of October to be able to go out and help defend our communities. PWS has got about 25 winch capable crews so there is whole body of work that is going around, whether it is to protect the TWWHA, the communities, in bushfire reduction, to better resource our volunteers with personal protective clothing, there is a whole raft of initiatives that are being done to protect Tasmania from bushfires.

Dr WOODRUFF - But none of that changes the reality that this very highly-credentialed research shows that logging should be banned around regional communities because it dramatically increases the risk of fire for the people living there.

Mrs PETRUSMA - I haven't seen that research. I saw the previous research which I believe was disputed by the previous minister but STT is a very important partner in our fuel reduction program.