Many West Australians were horrified to learn of the latest so-called “controlled” burn in our south which went horribly wrong.
Yet again, another aerial burn, conducted by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions on November 27, ended up being another botch-up; a monumental disaster. Surprise surprise, the wind changed, the blaze became an inferno, and whoosh – 25,000 hectares of pristine national park has been wiped out.
Yet again, those employed by the WA taxpayer to care for our forests and unique biodiversity failed us all. Huge chunks of the Mount Frankland National Park have been destroyed.
How many quolls, quokkas, rare frogs, wallabies, and unique WA plants and insects were razed?
Many West Australians have written to our politicians about similar disastrous botch-ups – saying we don’t like the way these uncontrolled, “controlled” burns are conducted – but are always met with a placatory reply assuring us all is in good hands, that the department knows best.
How very smug and insulting.
The Department of Biodiversity hates admitting its mistakes. We’re always reminded, these burns our entirely for our benefit, because who wants to have their house burned down? Um, nobody does – but are we aiming too high to also want our rare West Australian plants and animals kept alive too?
Conservation biologist Professor Stephen Hopper told The West Australian recently that it’s time for a a serious rethink about how prescribed burns are conducted.
He said there was no denying it was a tough job, and while human life and property were the department’s top priorities, there had to be smaller-scale ways to also protect biodiversity assets.
“Focus on the edge of towns … start developing biodiversity protection burns within the national parks … That would be a nice compromise.”
Premier Mark McGowan, and Environment Minister Reece Whitby, are you listening?
Please insist recognised experts (including meteorological experts) are always on hand deciding where and when to burn. Stop telling us we have to trust the people you employ to handle this. We don’t. We want respected independent scientists to be consulted every time your department decides a new burn is in order.
It’s simply not enough for those at the Department of Biodiversity to tell us after a disastrous new botch-up, “whoops, the wind changed.” It’s their job to know when the wind changes, and if they can’t be sure, they must hold off throwing fire-bombs out of planes.
The Walpole Nornalup National Parks Association is organising a field visit to the razed region on December 13.
It says of the latest devastation: “this fire event was entirely caused by DBCA …the outcomes of the prescribed burn and the ramifications for biodiversity and the environment are devastating and completely and utterly unacceptable. Whilst WNNPA has managed to influence the prescribed fire planning process to incorporate more positive outcomes for biodiversity, there are still too many occasions where we are seeing the negative impacts of the burning program – most notably the catastrophic loss of carbon associated with peat fires.
Says Perup local Bill Smart, who was devastated when rare numbats were wiped out in an inferno when the DBCA botched a blaze down there in May last year: “I find it difficult to reconcile DBCA with what it is doing and what it is supposed to be doing.
“The biggest threat to conserving biodiversity is FIRE.
“Burnt out forests and a state enveloped in smoke is not an ATTRACTION.
“One of the major threats to endangered wildlife is fire; but DBCA incinerates hundreds of thousands of animals every year?
“I often wonder how DBCA employees feel about this. I am sure many are as appalled as I am about the carnage inappropriate fire creates.
“Is it time for DBCA to be split into two sections, one to stay true to its charter and the other to protect people and property?
“Nothing short of an independent inquiry will bring accountability to the people and sustainability to our environment.
“We can do much better, we have the people and resources; sadly our politicians are not up to it.”
Mark McGowan and Reece Whitby, we’re still hoping against hope that you’ll surprise us by taking action to ensure “controlled” burns stop becoming uncontrolled, devastating infernos in our State.
Images: Fire & Biodiversity Western Australia Group