HOT TOPIC: Rural Fire Brigade Group deputy group officer Alan Payne said there must be changes to how authorities manage vegetation on crown land.
HOT TOPIC: Rural Fire Brigade Group deputy group officer Alan Payne said there must be changes to how authorities manage vegetation on crown land. Michael Nolan

Should we open crown land for grazing and more burn-offs?

QUEENSLAND'S vegetation management laws are under scrutiny again, with Member for Maranoa David Littleproud launching a parliamentary inquiry to understand what effect they had on the latest run of bushfires.

"We need to have a real look at the impact of the Queensland Labor Government's native vegetation management land management practices," he said. "The idea a farmer is too scared to make a proper firebreak is a joke.

"We need an easy process so this can be done to protect us from fires."

Mr Littleproud said prompt responses from departments to landholders were vital.

"The absence of proper firebreaks on both public and private land is just dumb," he said.

Changes to the Queensland Vegetation Management Act under the Beattie/Bligh governments locked up a significant area of crown land and prevented graziers using it to feed animals.

At the same time, it put extra restrictions on the amount and type of forest country landholders could clear.

While successive governments watered down the changes, there is a strong feeling in some sections of the grazing community that restrictions around running stock on crown land should be lifted.

Rural Fire Brigade Group deputy group officer Alan Payne carries those concerns.

"There are two factors at play," he said

"We definitely have an increased fuel load and one of the problems is the lack of controlled burns at the right time of the year.

"Grazing is another way of getting that fuel out of the way."

 

Parents ahve been advised Karara State School will close today while a bushfire remains active in the area. A waterbomber was sent to the fire yesterday afternoon as residents were told to prepare to leave. The fire has since been downgraded to advice level. Crews will return to the scene today.
After a horror fortnight of fire, the Federal Government has called a parliamentary inquiry to see what role the Queensland vegetation management laws played in fuelling the destruction. Contributed

Ideally, Mr Payne would like to see a return to indigenous burning methods, with certain types of country burnt at certain times of year.

This is based on weather conditions and firm calender dates, as opposed to waiting for fuel loads to build up.

"We tend to leave our burning program too late," Mr Payne said.

"We've let the fuel load build up to horrendous levels.

"There should be a regular cold burn. This is with a flame height of no more than half a metre. That gets rid of the fine fuels and surface fuels. Without those two types of fuel you cannot get a bushfire."

Mr Payne said the Australian ecosystem was super charged by fire, with varieties of box gum and wattle seeds needing a hot burn-off to germinate.

He pointed to the Karara fire as one fuelled by a forest of wattle that would not have been as thick if there was a regular cold burn in the area.

The Condamine Headwaters Landcare soil expert Helen Lewis agreed that something had to change, but she's not convinced the government should fight fire with fire.

Mrs Lewis said preventing farmers from running stock on crown land created a desert of trees and dead grass.

"Yes, the fires have opened the can of worms that is vegetation management laws but there is a opportunity there to talk about managing fuel load," she said.

"Grazing is a huge opportunity to manage fuel load in national parks.

"The national parks are over-rested, there is nothing cycling the carbon and there is a build-up of leaf litter and dead grasses

"With fires, the carbon is escaping into the atmosphere and not going back to the soil.

"Fire is a crude tool to the use, but it is a tool."

Rather than change the laws, Mrs Lewis said the government should look at management practices across the fire services and Queensland Parks and Wildlife.