Shire wants 100% of homes bushfire ready

Parts of the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, including Gnarabup, were devastated by fire in 2011.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River is aiming to achieve 100 per cent property compliance this bushfire season to reduce the risk of another fire disaster.

Shire community emergency services manager Brendan Jordan told the Times while the local government had not set any specific controlled burns targets within the district he hoped greater resident care would bolster their fight against a major fire this summer.

He also said the Shire hoped to boost its fire defences by partaking in a WA Local Government Association bushfire mitigation measures project.

“The Shire accepted a $50,000 State Government grant to participate in a bushfire risk management project,” Mr Jordan said.

“The work conducted to date will be absorbed into the report being completed under this project, which aims to provide a longer term plan for bushfire mitigation in the Shire by way of identifying high risk areas and proposing treatment options for land of all tenure.”

As the Times reported in May, despite claims of improved compliance, the Shire still issued 97 infringements and 329 warnings for non-compliance of fuel reduction and firebreak maintenance last financial year.

The Shire’s lofty goal was also announced in the midst of a Department of Parks and Wildlife annual report conceding it failed to execute 90 per cent of its targeted controlled burns in the South West last year.

The agency blamed poor weather for only being able to burn 23,468ha in the 12 months to June 30 despite a 200,000ha target.

A DPaW spokesperson said the department would take “every opportunity to carry out prescribed burns when it was safe to do so”.

“While years of planning go into developing indicative prescribed burn plans, the final decision to conduct a burn can only be made on the day,” the spokesperson said.

“Planned burns only take place if weather conditions are suitable and all other elements of the burn prescription, including the appropriate risk mitigation strategies, have been addressed.”

As the Times reported in July DPaW admitted extra levels of bureaucracy and complex coastal terrain meant only 3 per cent of planned burns in the Blackwood district would take place in the Augusta-Margaret River shire in the next three years.

Just 3273ha was planned to be burned in the “general vicinity” of Margaret River until 2016.

South West MLC Adele Farina said DPaW’s recent prescribed burns record could cost lives.

“With the agency meeting its target for prescribed burns of 200,000ha per year only twice in the last 16 years, coupled with the impact of climate change delivering hotter and drier summers, fuel levels in the South West were already at a dangerously high level,” Ms Farina said.

“Last year’s dismal prescribed burning results will serve to increase the risk of bushfires getting out of control this summer.

“The Barnett Government needs to act immediately to increase funding and resources to the agency to enable it to carry out the maximum prescribed burns possible in the narrow opportunity presenting this year.”