GIPPSLAND FIRES

Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (09:43): I rise to extend my heartfelt thanks on behalf of a grateful community to the wonderful volunteers from the CFA who have done extraordinary work over the last couple of days protecting life, property and townships after the fires near Loch Sport and Briagolong. They were ably supported by Forest Fire Management Victoria firefighters along with the police and many emergency services agencies who did their best in difficult circumstances to deal with these early season fires. Their combined efforts, along with the very welcome rain that arrived yesterday, helped avert a serious threat, especially in Loch Sport, where the fire licked at the very edge of town.

I also want to praise the people of Loch Sport as well as Seacombe, Golden Beach and Paradise Beach and surrounding areas, who kept themselves informed, supported each other and got through what was a scary couple of days. I also know there is already anger about the Loch Sport fire and the potential consequences it could have brought. Loch Sport locals have long been concerned about the fire threat in their town given there is only one road in and out, and the community is surrounded on each end by coastal and banksia heathland in national parks. Nearly four years ago in the wake of the Black Summer fires, the community called a public meeting to push for better fuel reduction burning and firebreaks, especially on the entrance to town. Six months later the area was mulched, which was great, and a small planned burn did go ahead last financial year, but another large burn did not. This is a small part of the failure of the Labor government’s so-called Safer Together fire management strategy, which has seen the area of fuel reduction burning or treatment plummet in the past nine years. This is not good enough – we need to do better.

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