Royal commission examining 2019-20 summer bushfires exploring need for national fuel load database

A backburn being conducted by farmers at Butmaroo Station. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
A backburn being conducted by farmers at Butmaroo Station. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The royal commission examining last summer's bushfires is considering calling for a national fuel load database to be set up.

It is also exploring making it easier for land managers to carry out hazard reduction burns.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements released a draft propositions paper on Friday, outlining potential solutions to some of the issues raised during hearings over the past few months.

It said the federal, state and territory governments should agree on a national standard for collecting, tracking and reporting fuel load data.

Governments should also create a national standard for assessing and reporting fuel load management activities, including hazard reduction burns.

The royal commission suggested this work should be led by the CSIRO and could be in partnership with other research institutions or the private sector.

The royal commission will also consider recommending all governments review their laws about vegetation management and hazard reduction, to make it clearer how land managers can carry out burns legally.

Governments should also look to make it faster to get approvals to carry out hazard reductions.

States and territories should also make their fuel load management strategies public and report on their progress, the draft paper said.

The massive blazes last fire season reignited debate over whether enough hazard reduction burning was being carried out across the country.

The National Party, included Deputy Premier John Barilaro, had pushed for more burning and grazing including in national parks to reduce fire hazards.

However firefighters and ecologists have argued the impact of hazard burning was limited in the kind of conditions faced last summer.

It comes after the NSW inquiry into the 2019-20 fires called for more hazard reduction closer to towns and cities.

However the inquiry also found fuel loads at the start of the season were generally similar to average fuel loads since 1990, meaning the scale of the fires was more heavily influenced by weather and the dry conditions than the level of fuel around.

Ideas raised in the royal commission's draft proposition paper will be explored in the final hearing block in late September before the final report is due on October 28.

This story Royal commission exploring need for national fuel load database first appeared on The Canberra Times.