‘Massacre’ is right
I TOTALLY agree with Julien Sanderson’s letter (Mail, July 11) regarding the massacre of trees and bushes along the Wallcliffe Road walk/cycle trail between Prevelly and the Fire Station.
I, too, am horrified at the desecration. What used to be a beautifully peaceful and secluded walk is now like walking along Kwinana Freeway.
What was the aim of this slashing/mulching exercise? If it was to protect us from perverts hiding in bushes, that has certainly been achieved as there are no bushes.
It will be interesting to see if the stunning array of wildflowers along this track return in spring. Shame on whichever so-called authority allowed this to happen.
RE: the letter by Eric Noakes (Mail, July 11). With a great respect for Eric and his opinions, usually highly regarded by the local farming community, it is essential to look at prescribed burning from an open perspective and to strongly consider the results of the catastrophic burn by DEC last November.
We have questions that need to be addressed before we can accept that all must be burnt to prevent a future disaster. Our own boundary trees, which we have kept clean of fuel build up with cool yearly autumn burns, had only five months of leaf litter below. The DEC fire came through this, killed some of the trees entirely and left 25-30 metres of dead wood above the survivors which have re-shooted from their bases.
This prescribed burn destroyed our fences and some farm equipment - we managed to keep it away from our house - and our neighbour’s house was destroyed. The entire area that burnt has dead wood everywhere and is an enormous future fire hazard, in fact more dangerous now than before the prescribed burn.
With all of the loss comes the heartbreak for the people who have lost their homes and the enormous disruption to their lives due to a careless irresponsible act by DEC which, with a form of tunnel vision, was doing its job with an indifference to the realities of a nearby community. We don’t know of one farmer who would light a fire in such conditions.
Learning from this, we need to look at this issue of prescribed burn without a blind faith in people doing what they believe to be the only way because it is what they have always done. Times have changed, Margaret River is now more populated, particularly on the coastline. Do we treat forest control the same as coastal? Question and answers need to be re-assessed before any strategies are adopted.
Jim and Yvonne Ross, Margaret River
ERIC Noakes’ comments in last week’s Mail regarding prescribed burning may well apply to inland forested and developed land, but they have little bearing on fire-risk abatement around our coastal developments. We have coastal heath up to four metres in height which burns unpredictably and, except on exposed sand dunes, regenerates vigorously after fire to the extent that, along with the remaining dead but un-burnt timber, results in a fuel increase, not reduction.
There is empirical evidence supporting this around Gracetown by way of the aftermath of a CALM prescribed burn in autumn 2004 and a wildfire in January 2007. The Ellenbrook block prescribed burn BS520 of last November was, on paper, a success if one overlooks the collateral damage of burnt houses and other infrastructure. The prescribed burnt area of 60 per cent was achieved. In fact it would seem to be more like 80 per cent. What we now have is 700ha of heavily-burnt national park, comprising a 1km wide by 3.5km long mostly bare and seemingly lifeless strip of coastline exposed to wind and water erosion, backed by a mostly blackened woodland to the east and south which extends onto the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, where it becomes a karri forest – the understorey of which did burn without igniting the canopy.
According to the Keelty Report, DEC’s prime purpose in doing this prescribed burn was to minimise the fire risk to Gracetown and other nearby assets. Gracetown certainly needs bushfire protection, but burning such an area of national park a kilometre to the south may at best have caused a fire risk reduction of 10 per cent – not a great result.
Surely, the preparation of a low-fuel buffer around the town, as requested in August 1997 by the town’s progress association in its response to the Ministry of Planning’s release of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge Statement of Planning Policy, would be a better protection measure. While such a buffer has in part been instituted, it is neither wide enough, near enough to nor completely encircling of the town. This should take the form of a 100-metre wide mowed strip which would amount to 25ha of treated area.
Along with the requirement that property owners remove all ember-attack prone combustible material from their lots, these measures should more safely reduce the town’s fire risk by 90 per cent at a much reduced cost to the environment and the state government’s coffers.
John James, Gracetown