Based on recommendations of a review led by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management, the Victorian Government has adopted a new approach to fuel management and bushfire risk reduction. This approach focuses on how effective actions are in reducing risk, not just the number of hectares burnt or modified. It also means thinking about both public and private land, with closer cooperation between CFA, Parks Victoria, DELWP, councils and land owners to help protect the things that matter most to our communities.
New bushfire management strategies for Barwon South West region are being developed. This process will help determine where risk reduction activity such as planned burning takes place, as well as how often and how much land is burnt or modified. During phase one, the community told us the most important things to protect and preserve are: human life, human health and well-being, the natural environment, Aboriginal cultural heritage, critical infrastructure, private property and regional economies. Our community also told us roadside vegetation was of special interest and we have been working on a pilot project with experts from the University of Melbourne to better understand how roadside vegetation management affects bushfire risk.
With the assistance of fire scientists, and input from the community and partner agencies, we have developed a range of management strategies. Each of these strategies have different impacts on the things the community has said are important.
Understanding our strategies
Some of our potential management strategies show different results for human life and private property. This is because we use a combination of measures including house losses, level of protection for townships and rates of slowing the spread of fire within the forest to model the predicted outcomes.
With respect to Aboriginal cultural heritage, we currently do not have a measure we can successfully model over a thirty to forty-year cycle, so it is not represented in the consequence tables. However, we have recently met with Traditional Owners to identify a measure we can pilot in future studies and we are working with Melbourne University to try and achieve this.
With respect to the South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, some potential management strategies provide better comparative levels of protection for it than human life and private property because those strategies result in greater areas of older forest which provides more food than younger forest. We have modelled strategies with this particular species in mind because it is in danger of becoming extinct and our region is its only habitat in South Eastern Australia.
Phase 2: Results
Our planning process has been informed by collaborative work previously done with Colac Otway, Surf Coast and Corangamite shires, and with the Western Borders Stakeholder Reference Group. We have built on the values and objectives established through previous processes and our engagement strategy has tested what we already know; encompassing new ideas from a wider range of stakeholders across the region and considering the different grassland and forested landscapes.
Responsive to the concerns of our communities, DELWP is working with the University of Melbourne to conduct predictive fire modelling to understand the effects of reducing roadside fuel loads, and what that might mean for private land, critical infrastructure assets, habitat, and townships and smaller settlements. In this pilot work, we are focusing on ignition risk, strategic fire breaks for fire agencies; and access and egress.
There are other stakeholder and community engagement activities underway. We have held workshops with stakeholders from Landcare, local government, fire and land management agencies, Regional Roads Victoria, Vision Australia, Regional Development Victoria, Aboriginal Victoria and Birdlife Australia.
We also engaged an independent social researcher who conducted a postal survey of households and several focus groups in the rural parts of the far west of the region. The postal survey received more than six hundred responses.
The Engage Victoria website is one opportunity for the community to have input into the planning process. The Barwon South West Engagement Summary provides a quantitative and qualitative report of the community feedback received through all of our engagement activities.
You can also download or read the full in our Document Library.
This infographic outlines what we heard through the phase two Engage Victoria survey.
Phase 1: Results
Below is a summary of what we heard during Phase 1 of our engagement, which sought feedback on regional objectives. You can also download or read the full Barwon Southwest Engagement Summary report in our Document Library.